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The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger
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The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  3,919 Ratings  ·  293 Reviews
From terror attacks to the war on terror, real estate bubbles to the price of oil, sexual predators to poisoned food from China, our list of fears is ever-growing. And yet, we are the safest and healthiest humans in history. Irrational fear seems to be taking over, often with tragic results. For example, in the months after 9/11, when people decided to drive instead of fly ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 17th 2008 by Dutton Adult
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Stephanie
Mar 19, 2012 Stephanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psycology, 2012
This book was rather dry. With the title being fear I kind of expected it to be more dramatic. Not so much.


In this book Mr. Gardner reveals to us that the stuff we are scared of, most of the time is really not what we should worry about. He points out how the news media will pick up a story and run with it because it is sensational. Fear sells. Then we will get all paranoid about it. I could have told you that.


Pesticides for example, are not all that bad, because what we ingest is not enough to
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Caroline
Nov 03, 2012 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
.

Okay, I’ll own up. Deep down, and not so deep down, I’m the sort of gal who could walk up and down Oxford Street with a placard on my back saying “THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH”. My outlook is definitely pessimistic. This book on the other hand is the absolute opposite, arguing from beginning to end that we should be a whole stack less worried than we are. It therefore gave me a very bumpy ride. To say it was counter-intuitive was putting it mildly.


Dan Gardner’s basic premise is that we have two
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Scott Rhee
Daniel Gardner's "The Science of Fear" is an immensely readable and fascinating examination of the culture of fear that we live in and how it consistently makes us do stupid things.

Gardner is fond of quoting FDR's famous quote, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" several times throughout the book, but he emphasizes that what FDR is referring to is not healthy fear (the kind that has helped our species to survive this long) but an "unreasoning, unjustified" fear.

This kind of fear he
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Chris
Imagine, for a moment, one of our early human ancestors. A first-generation Homo sapiens, exploring his world with an amazing brain that would be the envy of the animal kingdom. If they understood envy. He, and his children, and their children and grandchildren will spread across the Earth as hunter-gatherers, the first beings (so far as we know) who can look at the world and attempt to pass on what it knows and learns. Their threats were simple: survive or don't. Find food or starve. Hunt or be ...more
David
Aug 21, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A sentient beings
Recommended to David by: The universe
This is one of the few books that I've given 5 stars to this year and it deserves every one of them. Gardner's analysis of fear and the motivators of fear (both collective and individual) are brilliant and how these connect to ~

1. Brain
2. Media
3. The many individuals and groups with an interest in stoking fear.

His contention is that we are luckier than any generation that has ever lived, and he goes a long, long way to proving this, and yet we are more afraid than ever before. The reasons for
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Tanja Berg
Oct 09, 2011 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a good book, all-in all it was interesting and lucid although not all chapters had me sitting at the edge of my seat. Half-way through the book I was intent on giving it 3 stars, but the chapter on terrorism and the conclusion made me change my mind to 4.

This book is about risk and fear. Or rather, it is about how fear makes us perceive risk. The one thing is miss is the lack of discussion of real and possibly imminent risk. Real risk is only used as comparison. The psychology of risk p
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F.R.
Mar 30, 2010 F.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“So why is it that so many of the safest humans in history are scared of their own shadows?”

That’s the question posed by this fantastic tract which looks at why modern man – despite having advantages which his ancestors could never dream of – is beset by so much fear. It explores how that fear is exploited and exaggerated by the media, governments and corporations – so that we are constantly told of new things to worry about, new dangers ahead and new reasons to panic.

Gardner deals with violent
...more
Grant
Jun 15, 2012 Grant rated it it was amazing
One of two books I recommend to anyone and everyone, but especially to young high school students and college students. Fear can make us adopt bad policies, waste money, and even do harm to very good people, companies or institutions. it's one of the best times in the world to be human, but you wouldn't know it from the press...and there's a reason for that. Read this to be the proper, skeptical and informed person you need to be and live in a democracy.
Ivan Raszl
Great book. Makes you realize that we fear things with a negligable risk and do not worry about things we rationally should. it also exlains why that happens and what to do about it.
Jafar
Mar 03, 2008 Jafar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the sort of the book that is nice and easy to read – nothing that requires too much of thinking to comprehend – and yet so immensely useful and informative that I’d rate it as required reading for all of us. Everyone needs to read this book or something like it. It reminded me of Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling Upon Happiness. It contains the same kind of tidbits of information and insight that can be very useful in helping us get a better grasp of what is happening to us and what is going on ...more
Eduardo
Feb 07, 2011 Eduardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This book has three main researchers at its heart: Paul Slovic, Amos Tversky, and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. The three men have both done work on the two-system brain and it is this idea that Daniel Gardner uses to explain and link all the topics in this book. It is a fascinating explanation of how we think and make decisions. There is an excellent description (chapter 2 Of Two Minds) of why our brains still function as our ancient ancestors brains did, even though our society has devel ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 08, 2010 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
This book is all about putting a realistic twist on all the big risks everyone thinks the world holds - zillions of people terrified of terrorism and the like. The only problem for me is that I'm already a numerate sceptic who explains to others that the risk of, oh, their kids being abducted by paedophiles or similar, is vanishingly small and takes all use of statistics in news stories with a huge pinch of salt. So I wasn't sure how much I was going to get out of it.

The good news is that it's a
...more
Blake Nelson
May 09, 2009 Blake Nelson rated it liked it
This book starts out well - describing the psychology of how people evaluate risk, and how come we are often so bad at it. One great example from the September 11 attacks. If there had been a single attack of similar magnitude every month for a year, then a person's risk of dying in an attack would be 1 in 7,750. In one year, a person has a 1 in 6,498 chance of dying in a car accident. So our billions of dollars spent on anti-terrorism measures would have been better spent trying to find ways to ...more
Peter
Aug 14, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very good book: it’s rational, well documented, and extremely readable. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting something more in the way of an inventory of risks — that is, a discussion of what dangers are more prominent than others. Instead, the book dwells a lot on psychology, particularly on the ways that Gut (immediate reactions tooled for survival on the ancient savannah) is at odds with Head (our rational selves, all the way up to the rational self that can do statistics!). Irrational fea ...more
Sergey Antopolskiy
Dec 15, 2014 Sergey Antopolskiy rated it really liked it
Your media and politics skepticism 101.

The book covers a wide range of material, which is mostly related to what kind of things we fear as a society and individually, how and why most of these fear are completely unjustified, and how politicians, media and the market create a self-reinforcing environment of fear, which allows them to get votes/views/sales.

This book is very unsettling in its own way. Unsettling, because you realize that the media-politics-psychology create such a screwed up envir
...more
Russell
Nov 12, 2009 Russell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Worriers
Recommended to Russell by: Philitsa
Shelves: makemesmarter
After years of trying to figure out why I think news reporting is bullshit, and advertising is bullshit, and politicians are full of bullshit, I finally have some reference material to actively back up my instincts. This book confirms something that I think we all sense, but don't have the context to express. Life should not be such a scary thing, but there are a whole lot of people with a whole lot of vested interest in convincing us otherwise.

Only two problems with the book. First, his use of
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Marco den Ouden
Aug 02, 2014 Marco den Ouden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How well do we assess risk? Not very well according to Dan Gardner in his fascinating book on the subject. He starts out with a story. The tragedy of 9/11 made a lot of people leery of flying. Yet, Gardner points out, flying remained and remains the safest way of traveling by far. How safe? Well, one statistician calculated that even if terrorists were hijacking and crashing one passenger jet a week in the United States, a person who flew once a month for a year would have a 1 in 135,000 chance ...more
Sally McRogerson
This was brilliant! We stress constantly; currently about swine flu, but that's only the most recent in a long list of many paranoias. This book actually quantifies risk in a way that puts everything into perspective.

One part of the book focusses on 9/11. The world gave up flying and as a direct consequence about 1500 US citizens died in road accidents. This figure can be extrapolated from the data for years before and after and the empty plane seats. GETTING INTO A CAR IS THE MOST DANGEROUS AC
...more
Tadas Talaikis
Dec 18, 2016 Tadas Talaikis rated it really liked it
OK not the first book I hear this, about traffic fatalities after 9/11. Decided to find it finally: Driving deaths and injuries post-9/11. However I look into this data, I don't see it. So, injuries increased, it may be any reason, we don't know. Here's my reality based hypothesis - people don't give a f*ck, you only hear several active screamers, who consist of too small portion of the distribution.

And again, many references to original Thinking, Fast and Slow. I don't even know how much I read
...more
Tyler
Nov 21, 2008 Tyler rated it really liked it
If I had to come up with one word to describe this book it would be 'insightful.' The author cites study after study that shows how humans in general allow their gut to control their decisions and thinking. I often found myself thinking "Well, that doesn't apply to me" or "That's not how I look at it," before I realized that I am pretty much the same as the subjects in these studies. While people don't see themselves as biased by their gut or fear-tactics, we all certainly are. This isn't a book ...more
John
Jun 22, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
We are safer and healthier than ever, but yet we are just as (if not more) worried about disease, health, and death than ever. Why is this? Hint: influence and profits can be had by presenting messages that speak to us on a visceral level. This hardwiring in humans may have served us well 50,000 years ago, but if we allow ourselves to be influenced by those who know how to press this button in our minds in this age of mass communication, our human condition can lead us to ill-considered decision ...more
Amie
Aug 10, 2010 Amie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Maybe it's just my confirmation bias kicking in, but this book said what I've been saying for myself for years-- I have enough REAL stuff to worry about to be bothered by whether or not I'll get blown up flying across the ocean. Thank you, Dan Gardiner!

Yes, there are things to worry about. No, we shouldn't ignore a risk just because it's a small chance. But we should be smarter about what we worry about enough to a) stop us doing what we want to do or b) pour ridiculous amounts of time and mone
...more
Zoe Hollinger
I have come to admit to myself that I am afraid of most things, and I realize most of my fears are silly. As I read this book, it was easy to understand how quickly we as humans can get caught up in tragedies and forget the improbability of it happening again or to us. This book was eye opening to me and while the "head" part of me is more able to make better arguments against my fears, my "gut" still screams at me to run at any perceived danger. The book gave a lot of descriptive information an ...more
Justin Hill
Sep 20, 2012 Justin Hill rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
This was a great read during an election year. We are the healthiest, wealthiest, longest-living folks in history. Yet we live in the Age of Worry. We remember the past as more certain and less scary than it actually was, imagining our futures the bleakest of any who have lived before us. This book covers a lot of the tricks our mind plays and how advertisers, politicians, and alarm system salesmen exploit them.
Mark
May 12, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful ideas presented well. Solid. I found myself wanting to share the discoveries of my read with others, even when I had been away from the book for some time. And an enjoyable read, on the whole, although some points felt a bit belabored.

I had the pleasure of seeing Dan speak. He's an engaging, funny presenter, and I was especially impressed by how well he fielded questions from the audience.
Moataz Ibrahim
الكتاب بيتكلم بصفة عامة عن الخوف وأبعاده الاجتماعية. بيتكلم عن الذعر المسبب والمغلوط أو الغير مسبب المحفور في الوجدان من أيام إنسان الكهف.
"لم يوجد قط زمن يمكننا أن نعيش فيه أفضل من زمننا هذا". دي حكمة الكتاب.

أحيانا وجدته ممل عشان الموضوع بالنسبالي مطروق ، عشان كدة تصفحته ماقرأتهوش قراءة متأنية.
عموما ، أنصح بيه لأي حد عاوز يقرا أكتر عن أثر التهويل والتركيز علي الاستثناءات علي توليد الذعر المرضي في المجتمعات.
Dеnnis
Excerpts from it should be read aloud in schools. Another good book that appeals to our reasoning all the while showing the limitations and biases of our Head. Read it before opening a newspaper or turning on a TV set. You don't want to be part of yet another hysteria that unfolds in the media. One book's drawback is it relative length. Two vivid examples, illustrating author's point was normally enough for me, yet apparently he tries to break most thickest defenses and prejudices :)
Sameer Alshenawi
Oct 09, 2016 Sameer Alshenawi rated it really liked it
قبل قراءتي لهذا الكتاب، كنت احسب ان خوف الناس من أمور لا وجود لها واستهانتهم بمخاطر محدقة من حولهم يرجع برمته الى انتشار الجهل و العلوم الزائفة بين الناس. لم أكن اعرف ابدا ان الخوف و سوء تقدير المخاطر يرجع بجزء كبير منه لتطور الانسان و كيفية تشكيل عقله عبر العصور.
.. و في الحقيقة منظومتين التفكير كان صاحب السبق فيهم دانيال كانمان و تفرسكي في كتابهم التفكير السريع التفكير البطيء
Helen
Oct 16, 2013 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book on the psychology of fear, and why we over-estimate some risks (eg being attacked by random strangers, or children being abducted by pedophiles), while underestimating other risks. The role of the media, politicians and the advertising industry in exaggerating risks and increasing our fears is also discussed.
Kate
Jan 02, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Mostly an enjoyable read. It's a little numbers heavy and starts to feel repetitive towards the end. A bit of extra editing to streamline it a bit would have helped, but Dan Gardner's writing style is smooth and goes down pretty easily. All in all, a very worthwhile read.
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Dan Gardner is a journalist, author, and lecturer.

Trained in law (LL.B., Osgoode Hall Law School, class of ’92) and history (M.A., York University, ’95), Dan first worked as a policy advisor to the Premier of Ontario. In 1997, he joined the Ottawa Citizen. In the years that followed, he travelled widely, researching long features about drugs, criminal justice, torture and other challenging issues.
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“Put all these numbers together and what do they add up to? In a sentence: We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.” 7 likes
“The rather uncomfortable feeling most of us have when we're around snakes is evidence of how this ancient experience continues to influence us today. Throughout the long prehistory of our species and those that preceded it, snakes were a mortal threat. And so we learned our lesson. Others didn't, but that had a nasty habit of dying. So natural selection did its work and the rule--beware of snakes--was ultimately hardwired into every human brain. It's universal. Go anywhere on the planet, examine any culture. People are wary of snakes. Even if--as in the Arctic--there are no snakes. Our primate cousins shared our long experience and they feel the same way: Even monkeys raised in laboratories who have never seen a snake will back away at the sight of one.” 6 likes
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