Book Review of ‘Risk – The Science and Politics of Fear’ By Dan Gardner

According to Gardner, our misjudgments originally stem from the fact that our brains have evolved to deal, very effectively, with the sort of immediate risks that we have historically encountered as a species, say as hunter-gatherers in the African savannah. But it is this same evolution that makes our brains singularly ill-adapted to the complexities of the modern 21st Century urban jungle and causes us to make egregious mistakes.

At the heart of Gardner’s explanation lies the idea that we have two different internal systems to react to events: roughly summarised as ‘head’ and ‘gut’. ‘Head’, a rational, reflective, but also slow-acting system, is often overridden by ‘gut’, a more intuitive, fast-acting system, which bases its recommendations on factors such as precedent and recency. For example, in the case of stressful situations, ‘head’ barely gets a say, and if so, then often too late.

Historically, ‘gut’ has served us very … Read More