I’ve talked about the lack of logic behind America’s fear of terrorism before.
We covered the likelihood of dying from terrorism, and how the FBI inflates the number of foiled terror plots via entrapment.
Now, I’ve got some psychological points for you.
Nothing super crazy. Just basic mental fallacies that we all fall into.
And when it comes to subjects like terrorism, which grab a large amount of the public’s attention and fear, these mental fallacies wreak havoc.
Here’s just a few…
Using Recent News to Determine Likelihood (Availability Heuristic)
A plane crashes, the media covers it nonstop for a day. Which leads you and others to assume plane crashes happen more often than they really do. You begin to fear that you too could be in a plane crash.
But you forget to remember how safe planes are (and how unsafe your car is).
This is what happens after every terrorist attack.
After 9/11, the experts were claiming there’d be another “9/11” in the next few months…but nothing ever happened.
Or, look at the hysteria after the Paris Attacks. Americans were freaking out. Literally losing their shit over whether or not their town would be targeted (as if terrorists even know the town exists).
The fear was rampant, and reality got thrown out the window.
This is what you call Availability Heuristic. Confusing recent occurrences of terror with likelihood.
Just because a terror attack happened a few days ago doesn’t mean it’s more likely to occur.
You’re ignoring the overall probability of a terrorist attack.
Further reading: Biases and Blunders
Disregarding the Likelihood of Terrorism (Probability Neglect)
Probability Neglect is when you disregard all probability in decision making when the result or situation is uncertain. (source)
For terrorism, it’s failing to realize just how unlikely you are to die from it.
I talked about the likelihood of dying in a terrorist attack in an earlier article. I wrote that, not surprisingly, you’re more likely to die from police brutality than a terrorist. Oh the irony…
Probability Neglect has some siblings that should be mentioned.
- Gambler’s Fallacy: is the belief that if something happens more frequently than normal, it will happen less frequently than normal in the future, and vis versa. This could explain why some “experts” claim more terrorist attacks will come in the future despite a lack of hard evidence. (source)
- Hindsight Bias: when you experience an event and afterwards view the event as having been predictable, despite the lack of objective basis for predicting it beforehand. This is usually used to claim that we knew about the attacks beforehand but did nothing to stop it. Or assuming we can accurately predict the next terrorist attack. (source)
- Base Rate Fallacy: when presented with general information and specific information, the mind tends to ignore the general and focus on the specific. For example, people will tend to focus on how many terrorist attacks take place in public locations, instead of focusing on the overall likelihood of such an attack occurring. (source)
Short Sightedness (Myopia)
A myopic outlook on terrorism ties into the Availability Heuristic. You’re failing to see the bigger picture.
The bigger picture being, how unlikely you are to die from terrorism.
Terror attacks are frightening. You feel helpless. You’re filled with fear.
“I can’t imagine being in such a situation. What if a family member was in that area during the attack? What if they attacked my city?”
It’s why it’s called terror.
Terror is fueled by irrational thoughts and reasoning. It’s inherently shortsighted, because it freezes you in the moment. Unable to see past the current situation to the reality of the issue.
Terrorism isn’t as likely as you’d think, or as politicians would like you to think.
What do you think about the irrational fear of terrorism? Is it irrational, or is there some basis in it? What does your fear of terrorism look like? Does it influence your life, or do you accept the unlikelihood of it?
Leave your answers and opinions in the comments below.