As complex and advanced as the human psyche is, it’s remarkable how
often and how easily our minds can be tricked. One key example of this
phenomenon is our
perception of risk versus
actual risk. We are more fearful of things that are statistically unlikely than we
are of dangers that lurk around us every day. Overall, we’d live
much safer lives if we could differentiate more clearly between real and
perceived risks, and plan accordingly to stay safe. Here are a few more
examples of how often we confuse the two.
Tornadoes versus Flash Floods
Both tornadoes and floods are admittedly dangerous, but tornado deaths
have dropped dramatically due to early warnings, while flood deaths remain
about the same. In 2016,
flood skilled nearly 10 times more people in the U.S. than tornadoes. Yet the same person who runs to the storm
shelter at the first sign of wind will willingly drive into a flooded
street, despite all warnings not to do so.
Shark Attacks versus Sunburn
You should always exercise care by the beach, especially if shark attacks
have been reported in your area. However, your odds of getting killed
by a shark are
1 in 3.7 million. On the other hand, 86 percent of skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet
sunlight, and getting sunburned once every two years can
triple your chances of getting skin cancer. In other words, sunbathing is more
dangerous by the numbers than a shark attack! Why, then, will we stay
out of the water but not use sunscreen?
Flying versus Driving
We tend to be more afraid of dramatic accidents than of common ones. Many
people would rather drive than fly because they are afraid of plane crashes,
yet by the numbers, far more people die in car crashes than in airplane
crashes. In fact,
Psychology Today estimates that due to reduced flight travel after 9/11, as many as 1,000 more people
died on the roads that wouldn’t have died had they flown in planes.
In addition to the examples above, the difference between real and perceived
risk plays a role in how we approach healthcare, as we’ll see in part 2.
This post offers some surprising statistics regarding medical mistakes that you
might not have realized, for instance.
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering due to medical error or
malpractice, consult our
Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys to see how we can help.