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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Dangers of Our 'Inconvenient Mind' (at Risk: Reason and Reality)

cross-sharing something that interested me
David Ropeik on March 20, 2012, 9:00 AM at his blog Risk: Reason and Reality

Here’s some bad news for those of you who like to think you can think rationally about risk. You can’t. You know all those thoughtfully considered views you have about nuclear power or genetically modified food or climate change? They are really no more than a jumble of facts, and how you feel about those facts. That’s right. They’re just your opinions. Which is bad news, because no matter how right you feel, you might be wrong. And being wrong about risk is risky, to you AND to others.

Ever-growing mountains of research on human cognition make inescapably clear that your brain is only the organ with which you think you think. It is first and foremost a survival machine, and it uses instinct first and reason second when judging whether something is dangerous. This is generally good for survival, since thinking takes more effort, and time, and a slower response to risk could mean you end up dead. So the human brain has evolved to feel first and reason second.


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