Chapter 11: Risk Intuition

“It’s as if we incarcerated every petty criminal with zeal, while inviting mass murderers into our bedrooms.”
~K. C. Cole,
The Universe and the Teacup_, 1998_

Time for one more chance to let your intuition point you to truth.

  1. The terror of September 11, 2001, claimed two thirds as many lives in one day as the Continental Army lost (4,435) in the entire Revolutionary War. In all of the 1990s, how many people were killed by other terrorist acts worldwide? How many in the year 2000? (Terrorism includes such acts as the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen, bombings in Northern Ireland, and lethal acts in undeclared wars.
  2. In the United States, which more frequently causes death? What’s your hunch?
    • All types of accidents, or strokes?
    • Motor vehicle accidents (car, truck, and bus combined), or cancer of the digestive system?
    • Homicide, or diabetes?
    • Commercial air crashes, or rail-crossing accidents?
  3. Which country has more people?
    • Australia or Burma?
    • Iraq or Tanzania?
    • Mexico or Brazil?
  4. In recorded history (since 1876), about how many people have died, worldwide, from unprovoked attacks by great white sharks?…

Chapter Contents

Perceived versus Actual Risk
What Influences Our Intuitions About Risk?
Biological predisposition
The availability heuristic
Lack of control
Thinking Smarter About Risk
Assessing costs and benefits
Communicating risk
Risks as feelings