We Feel First, Think Second. So How to Manage Risk?


David Ropeik, a writer and risk consultant, argues in an op-ed this morning that we will never be able to make risk perception perfectly rational, because we simply aren’t wired to perceive risk by reason alone. “Human-made risks will always worry us more than natural ones,” he writes. “Risks that are imposed on us will always concern us more than risks we choose to take. Risks to kids will always be scarier.”

But we can, he adds, “start to close the risk perception gap and minimize its dangers by applying what we’ve learned about why it occurs. Readers can share their thoughts on what those might be — or their counter-arguments — in the comments section below.

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    CBT can not train out of us the instincts that drive basic cognition, especially those components most dedicated to survival. Some of this is rooted in the very physical and chemical realities of the brain itself. Perhaps the most important psychologist alive today, Daniel Kahneman, is quite pessimistic about our ability to overcome these instincts and achieve ‘rational’ empiricism. further, my piece does not propose that individuals be ‘given leeway’ for decision making that is not in their, or society’s, best interests. Rather, it argues for an understanding of why such mistakes occur, and the search for policy that can minimize them.


    Interesting article. I do however think that the thrust of this piece is too heavily placing the onus on the scientific community to educate the masses which is unfair. It may be true to a degree that the scientific community needs to find better ways to engage with the community at large, but there remains an onus upon the individual to better recognize the hangovers from our evolutionary past and use methodologies to apply rational thought to any given problem. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one such methodology. CBT coupled with an understanding of the scientific process and therefore the inherent need for empiricism would surely be a good way forward. This provides the tools for people to manage their emotions and bring decision making back to a more logical outcome. Employment of these methods by the masses can only come from education and therefore the deficit model in my opinion stands. While we have politicians and government departments who can ignore empirical data in lieu of their own wont’s and that of lobby groups such (big business/religious bodies) the rationale that individuals should given more leeway for poor decision making presented in this article is in my view, a dangerous one…

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