I am a bit late posting this, but there you go. Watchyagonnadoaboutit.
The other week I was quoted in the Irish Times on the matter of risk perception and vaccines:
Proper risk assessments should combine two factors: impact and probability. In other words: “how bad something is” and “how likely it will happen”. But we tend to focus on the first.
“If we feel the outcome is especially bad, we react to it with fear, and we become motivated to avoid it. In contrast, probability is a much more abstract concept and does not provoke the same emotional response.”
In other words, we care about tangible outcomes that we can visualise but don’t care about probability statistics that we must compute in our heads.
Also, we often falsely compare “risk” with “no risk”, says Hughes. “With the vaccines, we might think about the risk of blood clots and decide it is safer not to be vaccinated. But we forget that the alternative to this risk is not ‘no risk’. If we don’t get vaccinated then we remain exposed to Covid and could get seriously ill.”
Science journalism is hard. The writer, Sheila Wayman, did a great job.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.