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Quiz: What Should You Really Fear?

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Old 07-08-2008
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Quiz: What Should You Really Fear?
In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki told us to go with the flow. In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell advised that we trust our gut. In The Science of Fear, Canadian journalist Dan Gardner warns us to start second-guessing both the media-driven popular consensus and our instincts. Fatally bad decision-making occurs when the gut — the subconscious mechanism of self-preservation that got us through the pre-CNN epochs — identifies a media-amplified image, story, or statistic as a clear and present danger. The resulting inchoate sense of foreboding causes us to grossly overestimate the danger of highly unlikely threats (West Nile virus, terrorist attacks, abduction, plane crashes, shark attacks) and underestimate far more serious, if mundane, threats (car accidents). Our best defense against the media's (mostly) well-intentioned Chicken Littles? Do the math, Gardner tells us, and turn off the television.
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