The Science of Fear

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Why are we sometimes afraid of things that we know we shouldn’t be? Using academic research and everyday experience, Daniel Gardner answers this question in The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn’t – and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger.


Daniel Gardner

Comments [10]


The point was made that because life expectancy is up and infant mortality is down, we should have less to fear. But maybe as we see the underlying cost of all of this human achievement, that causes more fear...fear that we are using up resources faster than they can be replaced and the messes we now make of our air, water, soil and all other life on the planet are becoming increasingly complex and may be beyond our ability to resolve it.

Regarding the decisions people made to drive rather than fly after 9/11: How many opted for driving just to avoid standing in a 2 to 3 hour line to get through security to take a 1 hour flight?? If a place was withing a day's drive, it was generally just easier to drive. I don't think fear was the prime motivator.

Aug. 07 2008 03:25 PM
7 years a listener from Ossining

"Numbers are not Intuitive" One wonders if Autism (strong with Numbers, weak on Emotions) is the result of some evolutionary force trying to succeed, but not quite making it.

I definitely agree that Gardner has a line on the typical shopper/voter and with good self knowledge maybe people could make better decisions.

Aug. 06 2008 02:17 PM
tom from nyc

The gov'nt utilizes the Fear factor today: OSAMA Bin Laden'd driver's conviction being issued the same day as the anthrax case

Aug. 06 2008 01:58 PM
Mike in Manhattan from Inwood, NYC

Evolutionary psychology is interesting but of all branches of social sciences, it is most prone to ad hoc this case seeing a phenomenon and working back to a quick and simple ad hoc answer, couched in evolutionary terms. This guy's answer about the origin of a snake phobia is a prime example.

Aug. 06 2008 01:51 PM
j from nyc

numbers are UNemmotional? seriously? i think everyone understands $4/gallon gas. and my father didn't have to be a statistician for me to figure that one out.
and why you're at it, why don't you explain the irrational fear of the IRS that many people have, your salary, and why so many people feel cheated when they look at the economy nowadays. very emotional stuff, and even capuchin monkeys understand fairness and equity. crows can do basic counting and understand deception. you're just not accounting for all of the available data.

Aug. 06 2008 01:50 PM
Hugh from Crown Heights

Daniel Gardner's claims in part rest on some assumptions regarding evolutionary psychology, a lot of which was been quite conclusively debunked in recent years (particularly since the discovery that the human genome is vastly smaller than initially supposed).

So Gardner's descriptive accounts must be distinguished from his just-so stories that purport to be explanations.

Aug. 06 2008 01:48 PM
tanya from ny

Can Mr. Gardner speak about the role of the amygdala? I know someone who has debilitating PTSD mixed with OCD which expresses itself in a fear that the "devil" is going to harm her if she does certain everyday things. She is convinced her amygdala has gone haywire and knows rationally that her fears are unfounded. Any comments or guidance here on where to go for help?

Aug. 06 2008 01:39 PM
norman from nyc

What does cognitive psychology tell us about the way we follow leaders, as a result of our fear?

Aug. 06 2008 01:37 PM
Kent from North Bergen

When you started this segment you commented that after 9/11 more people opted for driving instead of flying. You also if I am correct stated that 500 plus people died in accidents and no one died in a plane crash. A few weeks after 9/11 an American Airline flight 587 crashed in Queens killing all aboard.

Aug. 06 2008 01:35 PM
Patrick from Brooklyn

While thumbing through the dictionary I came across the word philophobia, which means fear of love. How can you explain a fear of love?

Aug. 06 2008 01:33 PM

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