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Universal Mammograms Show We Don’t Understand Risk

Health, Psychology, risk

In an effort to reduce childhood injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2001 recommending that all kids younger than 2 sit in safety seats in airplanes as they do in cars.

The change meant that families traveling with small children would no longer be able to have them sit on an adult’s lap. Instead, parents would need to buy an extra ticket. But the added expense of purchasing a seat for small children would be prohibitive for some traveling families. They might choose to drive instead, which is a real problem, because driving is far more unsafe than flying.

It turned out that if just 5 percent of families chose to make an additional 400-mile road trip because of this policy, then the number of children killed each year would increase. The policy would also be enormously expensive.

Try relating this story to people, and you quickly learn that instinct often trumps data. They just know, deep in their hearts, that flying is scary and dangerous. They just believe that driving is safer. Convincing them otherwise is nearly impossible.

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