Almost everyone knows auto accidents kill far more people than airline crashes, yet the incidence of aerophobia (fear of flying) is disproportionately high. Likewise, fear of sharks still inspires the occasional toothsome Hollywood thriller decades after Jaws, despite the low number of attacks (only 25 Americans killed in 50 years). In dissecting risks such as the above, along with those associated with phenomena ranging from heart attacks to online gambling, Croston, a San Diego–based biotech research scientist, emphases that brute emotion usually trumps bare statistics when people weigh any given threat. Much of skewed risk perception dates back to our ancient ancestors and their adrenaline-fueled reactions to predators. Our brains simply haven’t caught up to such contemporary dangers as giving speeches and financial meltdowns. After examining our forebears’ influence, Croston analyzes why mankind is incongruously slow in addressing climate change and demonstrates how the pursuit of love and sex provoke extreme risk taking. Lucid and full of fascinating examples, Croston’s work sheds much-needed light on the psychological underpinnings of our contradictory attitudes toward danger. --Carl Hays
"A tour de force on the topic of why we take the chances we do and avoid the ones we don't. You'll never look at your life's risks the same way again."
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- Aaron Klein, CEO of Riskalyze
"Beautifully researched and explained, The Real Story of Risk presents an understanding of why we do the things we do. Croston masterfully shows us why we choose short-term thinking over long-term, why we prefer willful ignorance over informed logic, and why we'd rather die than speak to a group of people. This fascinating book provides insight into our muddled human nature and answers how to overcome it and live more sustainably."
- Eric Corey Freed, Founding principal of organicARCHITECT and coauthor of Green$ense for the Home
"Risk taking is not to be idolized, nor should it be condemned. Risk in everyday life is like salt in our soup: the best amount is neither too much nor too little. That is what The Real Story of Risk shows in an entertaining and informative way with documented data and interesting anecdotes."
-Gerald J. S. Wilde, Author of Target Risk
"As Croston cleverly points out, although humans are well adapted, through our evolutionary history, to react to immediate risks, we are much less able to respond to slowly approaching, less obvious, future risks. We are able to anticipate and prepare for a possible tiger attack but unable to stop eating ourselves to a heart attack or to understand the dangers of massive world changes caused by global warming. Croston provides excellent advice as to how we might better respond to these future, long-term risks."
-Robert W. Sussman, Professor of anthropology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri