July 8, 2016
We are going to see what happens to a person’s thoughts/beliefs when they are presented with a constant barrage of certain type of information by the mainstream media.
In his groundbreaking book, Thinking, Fast And Slow, Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman takes a gander at some research conducted by his colleagues Slovic, Lichtenstein, and a former student Fischhoff.
Kahneman goes on to cover the landmark research conducted by the above individuals in relation to “public perceptions of risks, including a survey that has become the standard example of an availability bias.”
Quick side bar.
For clarification purposes, in plain-speak, an availability bias is when individuals are influenced by circumstances/events/ideas that have taken place more recently due to availability – such as a report in the media being widespread and ubiquitous. This therein skews the actual decision making process of individuals.
Continuing on, Slovic, Lichtenstein & Fischhoff “asked participants in their survey to consider pairs of causes of death: diabetes and asthma, or stroke and accidents. For each pair, the subjects indicated the more frequent cause and estimated the ratio of the two frequencies. The judgments were compared to health statistics of the time. Here’s a sample of their findings:
-Stroke cause almost twice as many deaths as all accidents combined, but 80% of respondents judged accidental death to be more likely.
– Tornadoes were seen as more frequent killers than asthma, although the latter cause 20 times more deaths.
-Death by lightning was judged less likely than death from botulism even though it is 52 times more frequent.
-Death by disease is 18 times as likely as accidental death, but the two were judged about equally likely.
-Death by accidents was judged to be more than 300 times more likely than death by diabetes, but the true ratio was 1:4
The lesson is clear: estimates of causes of death are warped by media coverage. The coverage is itself biased towards novelty and poignancy.”[Emphasis Added]
Kahneman carries on:
“Unusual events (such as botulism) attack disproportionate attention and are consequently perceived as less unusual than they really are. The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.” [Emphasis Added]
As the cited examples above showcase, people’s reality structure can be overwhelming warped – especially when coupled with fears – by how much coverage a certain subject gets by the mainstream media.
Could that also apply to the disconcerting topic of terrorism? Quite so.
Since 9/11, terrorism in its many shapes and forms, has become an omnipresent issue throughout society. Has that that threat of terrorism been overstated? Let’s find out.
In fact, years ago it was found that ” the leading cause of deaths for Americans traveling abroad is not terrorism, or murder … or even crime of any type.
It’s car crashes.
With the exception of the Philippines, more Americans died from road crashes in all of the 160 countries surveyed than from homicides.
The U.S. Department of State reports that only 17 U.S. citizens were killed worldwide as a result of terrorism in 2011. That figure includes deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and all other theaters of war.
In contrast, the American agency which tracks health-related issues – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – rounds up the most prevalent causes of death in the United States:
Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means (keep in mind that – from here to the end of the piece – we are consistently and substantially understating the risk of other causes of death as compared to terrorism, because we are comparing deaths from various causes within the United States against deaths from terrorism worldwide):
– You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
– You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
A November, 2010, document from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that, when in hospital, one in seven beneficiaries of Medicare (the government-sponsored health-care programme for those aged 65 years and older) have complications from medical errors, which contribute to about 180 000 deaths of patients per year.
That’s just Medicare beneficiaries, not the entire American public. Scientific American noted in 2009:
Preventable medical mistakes and infections are responsible for about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to an investigation by the Hearst media corporation.
But let’s use the lower – 100,000 – figure. That still means that you are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than terrorism.”
Let’s ask the question again: has the threat of terrorism been overstated?
What do you think?
Given that we have learned that that are many more greater threats to our lively hoods, not only should society not be as fearful regarding terrorism propaganda that the mainstream media exacerbates, but the real problems we should be concerned about – like for instance the likelihood of dying from medical mistakes – are severely underreported.
This is quite disconcerting given how many people over estimate the quality of health in the united states, even though its nowhere near the top country in health in the world.
What the above information shows is that if the individual is not careful, not only will their view of the world be quite distorted, but the information that they should be looking into will be completely overlooked.
Let this be a word of caution for those who are quick to trust the mainstream media – or any other media for that matter including this one.
Always, always, always verify the information, and make sure not to attach emotion to it.
Sift through it, cross-check, use various sources, and don’t fall for the fear porn.
Be open-minded, but skeptical.
Remember, we’re responsible for what goes in our minds. Let make sure its quality information.
 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast And Slow, pg. 138.
 Ibid., pg 138.
 GlobalResearch, The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs To Hear, May 19, 2014.