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Fear Factor

I was going through my list of science blogs today and a rather interesting article called “What You Don’t Know Can Kill You” popped up in my feed. The article goes in to detail how the human brain works when it comes to identifying when and when not to be afraid. They touch on one case in particular. We are all familiar with everything that happened in Japan some months ago. As a part of the aftermath, researchers noticed that Potassium Iodide pills, which protects human thyroids from radioactive iodine, were being bought up at an abnormal rate in the United States. Only residents within a 10-mile radius of  the predicaments were cautioned to take the pills, so why were people who live more than 5,000 miles away popping them they’re Sweet Tarts or something? Am I the only one who thinks that this is utterly ridiculous?

The scientific studies revealed in the article showed that over the years as more risks become conscious we as humans are becoming more fearful as a result, whether the fear is logical or not. Thus the human brain is having a hard time accessing true risk because its amygdala, the emotional side, is working milliseconds faster than its neocortex, the thinking side, making you afraid of something based on emotion and not logic. For example, if you’re afraid to die you could automatically be afraid of sharks because they can kill you. Even after knowing that the chances of death by shark is relatively low you could still be fearful due to the emotional clamp causing poor risk perception. One of my greatest’s fears is indeed death by shark and even after knowing the facts I’m still afraid of them, but in reality it’s a stupid fear because I hate the beach in the first place so logically I’ll never have to deal a shark.

In the article, scientists later question why humans seem fearful of rare possibilities rather than things that are more common such as unsafe sex. Sex, unlike swimming with sharks, is something the majority of the human race will take part in during some point of their life. The fact that the number of people contracting sexual transmitted diseases are rising shows that people are not taking percaution because they aren’t afraid of getting them. Researchers believe that because of this inability to access logical fears the world is slowly becoming a more dangerous place to live in.

This article definitely made me rethink my current fears and will help me rethink my future ones. What do you guys think?

  • Is this article going somewhere or is a bunch of crap?
  • Are your fears logical or do you now think that they are a bit silly?
  • Is the world actually becoming more dangerous and could this be the cause? If not, why and what is the cause?
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