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Humans' response to risk can be unnecessarily dangerous, finds Tel Aviv University study
Date:8/6/2008

t, presented with simple decision-making stimuli, people are not analyzing the complete situation based on logical rationales or statistics. Instead, they appear to be making decisions based on simple strategies for coping in nature, based mainly on personal experience.

Evolved to Fear Cobras, not Traffic Lights

During many years of evolution and under natural conditions, he says, people made decisions like other animals. This tactic worked fine for survival, but did not however evolve to survive the modern world. "We've evolved to be afraid of snakes, but not traffic lights," he says.

The results of Lotem's research may also be used by economists, politicians and psychologists, who need to know when people will take risks, says Prof. Lotem. A wider understanding of this phenomenon can affect business decisions, the economy ― and, hopefully, the number of road accidents in America each year.

In the business world, Lotem says, "If you give feedback and rewards to employees in a clear way, they might be more willing to take risks on your behalf." He adds that this approach might help governments to cultivate the entrepreneurial activities of their citizens.

Don't Gamble On It

But the more complex the risk, the more difficult to predict how people will react. Lotem cautions that in complicated decision-making scenarios such as gambling, addiction and excitement are new variables that come into play. It is also difficult to assess whether children exhibit similar risk-taking strategies as adults, because children tend to imitate what adults around them are doing.


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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