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Your Brain on Terrorism

What will you do the next time you hear there’s a major terror attack?

News networks swarm our minds with blanket coverage on terrorism, but this footage may be more beneficial to ratings than safety. Television exposes excruciating details, images, replays and sensationalized segments about terrorist attacks. They reveal the aftermath and warn about possible future attacks, leaving viewers in a state of obsessive fear. This persistent viewing causes stress and anxiety that is relatively unwarranted.

Bruce Schneier, a security expert, says the brain cares much more about stories than statistics. “We’re not very good at math, so we often judge the severity of a risk by how often we encounter it,” Schneier mentions. “Those stories stick to us more than the data does so we make risk decisions more based on the stories than the reality.”

Fear sells and news networks are profiting. Since American cable news is packed with extensive coverage on the War on Terror, it is understandable how terrorism has reached #2 on the top 10 things Americans fear. But in reality, you are more likely to die from choking on the food you’re eating while watching TV than from terrorism.

US President Donald Trump echoes the dramatized terrorism seen on news networks and is approaching the problem with policies that may be counterintuitive. His national security strategy includes a border wall with Mexico and a ban on Muslims from certain countries in efforts to keep foreigners out. But a better approach may be to conduct things like espionage intelligence and emergency response or hiring foreign translators.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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