Think before you leap

Dan Gardner, author, RISK: the science and politics of fear.

Why do we so often get risk wrong?

The answer begins with the brain.

A fundamental insight of modern psychology is that our judgements are the product of not one mind, but two. There is the conscious mind, of course – the mind that ponders these words and understands how irrational it is to abandon planes for cars in the name of safety. The conscious mind perceives itself to be in sole control, but this is a cognitive illusion.

Most of the work done by the brain occurs beneath the level of consciousness and this unconscious mind is heavily involved in making judgements. The conclusions that issue from this mind do not emerge as articulate thoughts, however. We experience them instead as feelings and intuitions – something just seems right, for reasons we cannot express.

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