Risk

Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't -- and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger

Publisher: Emblem Editions
In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, Gardner explores a new way of thinking about the decisions we make.

We are the safest and healthiest human beings who ever lived, and yet irrational fear is growing, with deadly consequences — such as the 1,595 Americans killed when they made the mistake of switching from planes to cars after September 11. In part, this irrationality is caused by those — politicians, activists, and the media — who promote fear for their own gain. Culture also matters. But a more fundamental cause is human psychology.

Working with risk science pioneer Paul Slovic, author Dan Gardner sets out to explain in a compulsively readable fashion just what that statement above means as to how we make decisions and run our lives. We learn that the brain has not one but two systems to analyze risk. One is primitive, unconscious, and intuitive. The other is conscious and rational. The two systems often agree, but occasionally they come to very different conclusions. When that happens, we can find ourselves worrying about what the statistics tell us is a trivial threat — terrorism, child abduction, cancer caused by chemical pollution — or shrugging off serious risks like obesity and smoking.

Gladwell told us about “the black box” of our brains; Gardner takes us inside, helping us to understand how to deconstruct the information we’re bombarded with and respond more logically and adaptively to our world. Risk is cutting-edge reading.

READ AN EXCERPT

Risk and fear are hot topics among sociologists, who have come to a broad consensus that those of us living in modern countries worry more than previous generations. Some say we live in a culture of fear. Terrorists, Internet stalkers, crystal meth, avian flu, genetically modified organisms, contaminated food: New threats...
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PRAISE FOR

"An overdue rational antidote to those of us who fear becoming a victim of the next terrorist attack, a fiery plane crash or some exotic killer disease." — The Ottawa Citizen

"Entertaining....A breath of fresh air and common sense." — Publishers Weekly

"Compelling ... an invaluable resource for anyone who aspires to think clearly" The Guardian, UK

"A fascinating insight into the peculiar and devastating nature of human fear" — Sunday Telegraph, UK

“An excellent work… his take on terrorism in the book’s penultimate chapter is refreshing ... a cheery corrective to modern paranoia.” — The Economist

“A beautifully observed study.” — The Observer, UK

“Terrific… As a writer, he’s exceptionally good.” — The Evening Standard, UK