Neglect of Probability

This is an example from the Yale Law Journal

An airplane, carrying people from New York to California, has recently crashed. Although the source of the problem is unknown, many people suspect terrorism. In the following weeks, many people who would otherwise fly are taking trains or staying home. Some of those same people acknowledge that the statistical risk is exceedingly small. Nonetheless, they refuse to fly, in part because they do not want to experience the anxiety that would come from flying.

This is a good example of where Probability is completed ignored and where human emotions, especially fear, influences your behaviour strongly.

Another favorite example of mine is Dog bites. Some of us are afraid of dogs because we are afraid that they would bite.

You have a 1 in 112,400 chance5 of dying from a dog bite or strike

  • You are at more risk of dying from:
    • Cataclysmic storm: 1 in 66,335
    • Contact with hornets, wasps and bees: 1 in 63,225
    • Air and space transport incidents: 1 in 9,821
    • Firearm discharge: 1 in 6,905
    • Choking from inhalation and ingestion of food: 1 in 3,461
    • Heart disease and cancer: 1 in 7

Again, the imagery in our head somehow makes Dogs more scarier than a bee stinging us.