Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
If your house is on fire, you'll probably feel it. It also happens to be rational in that case, as you and/or your loved ones could die, and all the stuff you worked hard to accumulate is in danger of being destroyed. In this case, it is probably helping you by providing you with adrenaline and motivation to take drastic action. This is presumably it's origin: it's like a save-your-ass overdrive mechanism... going back to questionable evolutionary speculation.
With issues like crime and terrorism fear, I think the problem is both unconscious and calculated efforts by people involved with various mass media to stimulate the feeling in people for their own benefit. [snip]
I really think this is why society seems so irrationally fear-ridden nowadays, moreso than in prior eras where people were faced far more real danger: mass media. If one could come up with a way to quantify and measure how much fear people felt and the extent to which it motivated them, I think studies would show the magnitudes directly proportional to how much time they spend watching TV and consuming other mainstream mass-media products.
Wanted to make a couple comments, working backwards...
I took a Social Psychology class recently and they talked quite a bit about the phenomenon you're describing. People have heightened fear reactions to things that (among other things) are particularly terrible/traumatic or that they hear about frequently though the media. This is one reason why anecdotal evidence is terrible. You might hear about two muggings in a park, but you won't hear about the 10,000 people a day who pass through the park safely (pulling that example from nowhere by the way). Remember in the 80's when *everyone* was getting kidnapped? Apparently the rates weren't highter than the 60's or 70's. But national news coverage carried those stories more frequently. Same thing with violent crime rates. Even though it's been shown that people are more likely to report violent crime today, and violent crimes take up a much greater percentage of our news coverage (particularly TV) the rates have been on a general decline for quite some time (and in most areas). An example of the first phenomenon is airplane travel. The thought of falling to your death in a failing and flaming airplane is terrible, so despite the fact that you are statistically more likely to die in a car crash, more people have a fear of flying than driving. I ride a motorcycle and while the statistics could be better, one study recently suggested that I have a much better chance of dying from a hospital mistake than riding my bike.
Second, I got to experience a bit of PCS on Saturday night when I caught someone trying to break into my house and confronted them. While many people have a fear of a break in, during the encounter, I didn't feel scared at all. I felt really really amped, and could recognize the signs that I had a huge adrenaline hit (my legs were trembling but stable, but it seemed to be mostly confined to my lower limbs, I didn't have any tremors in my arms and my fine motor skills seemed ok). The event was limited to a verbal confrontation and he wasn't able to get into the house and I chose to call the police rather than follow him and put myself at any greater risk. It's funny how often the things that we are most scared of don't feel scary when we are in the midst of them.
All for now.