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Bertrand Le Roy

It's not so much that we like being scared (although we do sometimes), it's that it works so it's being used. We also prefer identified threats to fuzzy anxiety, so pattern-seeking animals that we are, we identify anything and blame it for the anxiety. I think.

Terry Bleizeffer

People will always be that way - it's hard-wired. Bertrand nailed it... being on the constant look-out for threats is a fantastic adaption, but like many other successful adaptations it also has a downside. We look for patterns (smartly) even when they don't exist (stupidly). We attribute our emotions to outside stimuli, even when they are unconnected (like the famous experiment with the hot chick who interviews men on the suspension bridge). Your germ bogeyman is another great example - being concerned about germs is obviously a smart thing.... being paranoid about germs is not. Where do we draw the line? Doctors still don't wash their hands enough at hospitals and lots of people die because of it. A little paranoia there might come in handy! (no pun intended)

The other big thing is CONTROL. People want to have control over their fate, and their children's fates. Again, this is a good thing in general. But it makes us seek out things to control that don't require it.

And finally, people suck at understanding probability emotionally. Even people who understand probability mathematically aren't immune. Ask a parent what the probability is that their child will be kidnapped and murdered... even if the parent understands that the probability is as astronomically low, emotionally all that matters is the answer is "not zero."

People have always been this way, and always will.

I think all that's changed is the efficiency with which this predilection is manipulated. The GOP does it. The Dems do it. The media does it. Parents do it. It's a cottage industry.


I agree with both of you that being vigilant is in our nature, but my point was the same as the last line of Terry's comment: outside forces are intentionally ratcheting up that fear instinct, higher and higher, and I just wonder how much we can tolerate as a society before we lose our marbles.

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