Friday, February 24, 2017

Perceptions and the reality

• Strokes cause almost twice as many deaths as all accidents combined, but 80% of respondents judged accidental death to be more likely. • Tornadoes were seen as more frequent killers than asthma, although the latter cause 20 times more deaths. • Death by lightning was judged less likely than death from botulism even though it is 52 times more frequent. • Death by disease is 18 times as likely as accidental death, but the two were judged about equally likely. • Death by accidents was judged to be more than 300 times more likely than death by diabetes, but the true ratio is 1:4 The lesson is clear: estimates of causes of death are warped by media coverage. The coverage is itself biased toward novelty and poignancy. The media do not just shape what the public is interested in, but also are shaped by it. Editors cannot ignore the public’s demands that certain topics and viewpoints receive extensive coverage. Unusual events (such as botulism) attract disproportionate attention and are consequently perceived as less unusual than they really are. The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectation about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 138

<idle musing>
Especially in today's political climate it is important to be aware of these facts. Both sides are guilty of emphasizing things, making them appear bigger than they are. The difficulty is checking the facts to see which ones are being goosed and which ones are real.&thinsp. .

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do that aside from researching the statements. : (
</idle musing>

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