Monday, February 09, 2009

Fears and Proclivities

Updated version:

We review a daily menu of fears through lenses that may have been crafted by our proclivities.

The odd thing is many of us worry about theoretical and complicated threats more than we do about real ones. A sizable amount of time is spent stewing over something that first must go from A all the way to P or even Z before it becomes truly harmful. Next to no time may be devoted to a threat that needs only to travel from A to B.

This irrational distinction is often tied to the attractiveness of the solution than to the likelihood of the harm. In short, if a worriers prefers the solution to one fear and does not care for the solution to another, then the first fear may receive higher priority even though that does not comport with the facts. [This behavior is reminiscent of the old joke in which a person who lost a ring in the bedroom chooses to look for it in the kitchen because the kitchen has better light.]

That's why threat analysis also requires an awareness of our solution proclivities. Maslow put it well: If all you have is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail. That can be supplemented: Even if you have other tools, if you greatly prefer using the hammer, you may ignore or discount every problem that does not require hammering.

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