Friday, October 24, 2008

PAIN: Personal, Abrupt, Immoral and Now

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, gave a talk at Pop!Tech on why the threat of global warming fails to get our attention while the threat of terrorism consumes us.

In a nutshell, there are four characteristics of a threat that human brains have evolved sensitivity towards. Terrorism presents all four of these characteristics, global warming none.

Human agency (Personal):
Terrorism has a human face, global warming doesn't.

Rapidity (Abrupt):
Humans are good at spotting fast not slow, relative not absolute, changes.

Moral sensitivity (Immoral):
Emotions are raised around, say, food (nausea) and sex (disgrace), but we're oblivious to atmospheric chemistry.

Immediacy (Now):
Terrorism can kill you right now, global warming can't. The brain responds to present, not future, threats.

Sounds plausible to me.

The talk is available at the following links:
The Psychology of Global Warming I (YouTube)
The Psychology of Global Warming II (YouTube)
The Psychology of Global Warming (view or download from Pop!Tech)

1 comment:

jj mollo said...

You're talking about the US now. Other countries can plan for a longer time range than we can. Brazil's investment in ethanol is one example. France's dedication to nuclear power is another.