Sunday, October 11, 2009

Be Afraid

I like reading nonfiction, not only because I learn interesting things but because it makes me feel my brain isn't atrophying. See -- I'm smart! I can read big words even. Sadly, this helps me clear many books that otherwise would not survive my terrifyingly short attention span.

The Science of Fear, by Daniel Gardner, provides a fresh description of how our unconscious rates fear and worries, and how little control our conscious and rational mind has over this. The first chapters describe how this fear setting is reached, and the later chapters cover how this results in a bad estimate of danger from various modern problems (cancer, terrorism, pornography, etc.). Gardner makes a distinction between your mind and your gut, or conscious and unconscious decision making, and shows how gut tends to win, with mind frantically coming up with reasons to match gut's opinion. Even knowing how gut makes these decisions (familiarity, affection, etc.) usually doesn't offset its influence. And modern times, with its variety of sensation-seeking media outlets, provides all sorts of bad data to our naive but influential gut.

I liked this book because it said what I like to hear (and the book discusses how much that has helped me decide it is true) and because it goes into detail on how particular menaces loom larger than their numbers justify. But it is rather repetitive; if you read an excerpt or skim a few chapters you'll get the gist. B

Heh heh. Funny internet note -- the book jacket refers me to for more info, but that goes to a pop singer's website. Danger Dan is CANADIAN --

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