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The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 17, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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--Dan Ariely, author of New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational
Where writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Francis Wheen have been content largely to enumerate the errors of less rational men and women, Dan Gardner has collated part of what we need to diagnose the problem. If skeptics spent less time moaning about the propensity of their fellows to believe what they want to believe and more time asking why they do so, there might not be such a crisis of reason in the West today.
Terrific. Exceptionally good Has the clarity of Malcolm Gladwell.
Excellent . analyses everything from the medias predilection for irrational scare stories to the cynical use of fear by politicians pushing a particular agenda . Gardner never falls into the trap of becoming frustrated and embittered by the waste and needless worry that he is documenting. A personal anecdote about an unwise foray into a Nigerian slum in search of a stolen wallet disposes of the idea that the author is immune to the foibles he describes. What could easily have been a catalogue of misgovernance and stupidity instead becomes a cheery corrective to modern paranoia.
Those of us who spend our careers in research hope that someone like Daniel Gardner will come along and bring our findings to the world in an engaging and scientifically accurate way. Thank you, Dan! Some books can change the world. This one might.
--Paul Slovic, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon, past President of The Society for Risk Analysis
Fear needs a science and Daniel Gardner offers a fast-paced tour of what the most interesting researchers have revealed. The number of things that you don't need to be afraid of is encouraging, but finding out why we still do fear them anyway is fascinating. Essential reading for anyone interested in the social mistakes we make everyday--and how to fix them.
--Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist
An invaluable resource for anyone who aspires to think clearly.
--The Guardian Elegantly summarises the results of psychological research Gardner is forensic in his dissection of bogus claims in advertising and politics, just as he is lucid about the science explaining why they work.
A fascinating insight into the peculiar and devastating nature of human fear, while training the reader to be ever wary of misleading media announcements.
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Top Customer Reviews
For millions of years animals relied on quick responses for survival. Reaction to potential danger or a possible meal left no time, nor need, for reflecting. Act fast or expire. That kind of brain is now called the limbic system, or "lizard brain". Evolution granted humans a chance to build on that foundation to produce a "thinking" part of the brain. The limbic system is still in place, however, and issuing commands we are rarely aware of. Psychologists, says Gardner, call these System One and System Two. The author, in the best journalist's style, calls these The Gut and The Head. The Gut reacts to crisis situations quickly and effectively. The Head follows along later at a more deliberate pace - if it gets any voice at all.
Gardner is eager to have us understand how these Systems work.Read more ›
Gardner uses a vast review of research in the field of risk assessment to bolster his points, yet manages to make these scientific studies accessible to laypeople, summarizing many of the principles with names such as the Example Rule, the Anchoring Rule, and the Rule of Typical Things. He then gives a number of examples of how people are often led astray by different entities (e.g., the news media, advertising agencies, political campaigns) who use these principles to evoke unreasoning fear as a means of manipulation, the implicit message being, "Here's something that you should be afraid of, but if you'll just buy this product or elect this candidate, you'll be safe."
I especially enjoyed the abundant statistics and discussions about the relative risk or safety of different activities (e.g., car travel vs. airline travel, heart disease vs. cancer, etc.), and how, from a historical and statistical perspective, "there's never been a better time to be alive." I would have liked for Gardner to have covered certain topics in more detail (e.g., vaccinations, climate change), but the ones he did cover in detail (e.g., terrorism, environmental chemicals, the role of the news media) were all well done.
All in all, a fascinating and valuable book for anyone who wants to know how to better use the reasoning side of their brain to evaluate the risks we all face.
The premise of The Science of Fear is simple -- fear comes from the Gut, not the Head. Sometimes the Head can overrule the Gut, sometimes not. Snakes, for example. Most people fear snakes. It has nothing to do with reason or experience. It's ingrained. Even if we try to get used to being around snakes -- which would normally work to eliminate a fear like this -- nothing we do or think can overcome the fear of snakes.
Gardner gives lots of examples of how fear works. But he is a newspaper journalist, and the writing shows that. Despite the title, this is not a science book. And the organization is not tight. The book seems less a book and more a collection of articles. That's what kept me from giving it five stars.
Another weakness, for me -- I had hoped that Gardner would cover a couple of topics that ended up with just a brief mention. Global warming, which seems a fear driven by Gut more than Head. And the Y2K computer bug. Talk about not being able to properly evaluate risk. Billions wasted to combat a false fear. Both topics interest me.
Like most books, The Science of Fear could have been better. But it's still a very good book, well worth reading. I enjoyed it and learned from it. In both cases, a lot.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book. I've been reading on the field of "propaganda" the past two years, as a hobby. I am interested in how social media is used to spread propaganda messaging. Read morePublished 3 months ago by E. Mitchell
The conditions of the book were great and you save money. Not sure I like the book though.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very thorough analysis of how our culture and media contribute and use our hard-wired fears to emotionally keep any logic at bay while we flounder handwringing and focus on the... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Richard Lennox
Science is great. Science with an agenda, not so much. This book clears up some of the propaganda used by governments and big businessPublished 6 months ago by Tom Thacker
Awesome book. Must read if you want to understand how fear mongering is used by EVERYONE to manipulate. Reading this book will help you to manage your fears, esp. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael Fisher