Afraid of the Wrong Things

Around the world, people are grappling with the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do our minds process that risk, and why do some of us process it so differently? This week, we talk with psychologist Paul Slovic about the disconnect between our own assessments of risk and the dangers we face in our everyday lives. 

Additional Resources:

How Safe is Safe Enough?  A Psychometric Study of Attitudes Towards Technological Risks and Benefits”, by Baruch Fischoff, Paul Slovic and Sarah Lichtenstein in Policy-Sciences, l978

Risk as Feelings” by George Loewenstein, Elke Weber,  Christopher Hsee and Ned Welch, in Psychological Bulletin, March 2001

How Personality and Policy Predict Pandemic Behavior: Understanding Sheltering-in-place in 55 Countries at the Onset of COVID-19” by Friedrich Gotz, Andres Gvirtz, Jon Jachimowicz, and Adam Galinsky,   in American Psychologist, 2020

Money, Kisses, and Electric Shocks: On the Affective Psychology of Risk,” by Yuval Rottenstreich and Christopher Hsee in Psychological Science, 1999

“The Importance of Prior Probabilities in Coronavirus Testing” by Paul Slovic in, May 20, 2020 

The more who die, the less we care: Psychic Numbing and Genocide” 

By Paul Slovic and Daniel Vastfjall  in, September 2015

If I look at the mass I will never act: Psychic numbing and genocide by Paul Slovic, Judgment and Decision Making Vol. 2, No. 2 April 2006

Insensitivity to the Value of Human Life: A Study of Psychophysical Numbing,” by Paul Slovic and James Friedrich in Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, May 1997

Compassion Fade: Affect and Charity are Greatest for a Single Child in Need,” by Daniel Västfjäll, Paul Slovic, Marcus Mayorga, Ellen Peters in PLOS/one 2014

Judgment and Decision Making,” by Baruch FIschoff and Stephen B. Broomell, Annual Review of Psychology 2020.

Public Understanding of Ebola Risks: Mastering an Unfamiliar Threat,” by Baruch FIschoff, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Dana Rose Garfin, E. Alison Holman, and Roxane Cohen Silver, in in Risk Analysis, 2018


Subscribe to the Hidden Brain Podcast on your favorite podcast player so you never miss an episode.

google podcast subscribe
spotify podcast subscribe


Go behind the scenes, see what Shankar is reading and find more useful resources and links.