Nance and I have been over at Greg Laden’s blog a few times this week because of home education, but science is the main thing there, it seems. The tagline is “Evolution: not just a theory anymore” and so I figured education and evolution together were reason enough to link his place on the Snook roll for handy visiting.
Here’s something from his front page earbox today, via Wired News:
Some scary things are not really as risky as they seem, and others are better handled by staying in the scary situation to set up a more advantageous future response. This means there’s an evolutionary advantage to being able to hold off the reflexive fight-or-flight response while you work out a more sophisticated analysis of the situation and your options for handling it. . .
So here’s the first fundamental problem: We have two systems for reacting to risk — a primitive intuitive system and a more advanced analytic system — and they’re operating in parallel. It’s hard for the neocortex to contradict the amygdala. . .
A lot of the current research into the psychology of risk are examples of these newer parts of the brain getting things wrong.
And it’s not just risks. People are not computers. We don’t evaluate security trade-offs mathematically, by examining the relative probabilities of different events. Instead, we have shortcuts, rules of thumb, stereotypes and biases — generally known as “heuristics.” These heuristics affect how we think about risks, how we evaluate the probability of future events, how we consider costs, and how we make trade-offs. We have ways of generating close-to-optimal answers quickly with limited cognitive capabilities. Don Norman’s wonderful essay, Being Analog, provides a great background for all this.
Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for some of this work, talks about humans having two separate cognitive systems, one that intuits and one that reasons . . .
Thinking Parents take on many risks along with our responsibilities, and we know it all too well. So it makes sense that we’d benefit by educating ourselves about analyzing and coping well with risk, too, tune up those helpful heuristics?