Psychology of risk


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how we frequently make terrible choices based on misinterpreted information

I recently saw a reddit thread about a Red Bull Rampage Mountain biking video here (also embedded at bottom). The armchair warriors within the reddit thread proceeded to tell everyone it wasn’t as steep as it appeared because the GoPro video uses a fish-eye style lens.

This was my response:

ITT - People who have never mountain biked on anything even close to this steep in their life yet keep claiming that the fishyeye lens is overly exaggerating the risk, etc.

Trust me, it’s 1000x more steep in person when your ass is actually on the bike, peanut gallery. If anything, the fisheye doesn’t do it justice compared to reality. The hilarious thing is the people saying this crap about the lens would piss themselves on something half this steep.

No one has ever won the Rampage twice in a row because of injuries preventing it. It’s hairy as hell.

This is the same course right here:

It really IS steep as hell and dangerous as hell. The only reason some of you think the fisheye exaggerates the risk is because your ass is planted firmly in a chair or sofa. You bastids.


Fuck me, that’s bananas.

But as a roadie, I know I don’t know shit.

As for intuition and when to use it, seems to me it’s called for when you have a lot of experience in relevant contexts, and explicit investigation is precluded due to time, money or hard data constraints, or it’s a trivial application that doesn’t justify anything more than pulling an answer out of your arse.

Concerning risk, I’m still trying to get hold of a doco I saw in the late 90s that tackled the subject from every conceivable angle, for instance MAO enzyme levels in the blood, to the difference between actual and perceived risk, in lots and lots of contexts… it was bloody brilliant. I remember factoids from it like more people die in the UK from putting their socks on than from ecstasy (there was a UK tabloid scare in the 90s), and that in Canada where they have all these level crossings without boom gates, they tried cutting back trees to provide more visibility but people just sped up to maintain the risk level they were comfortable with.

If someone could tell me the name of this doco, I’d be bloody stoked.


This guy has a nice presentation on risk from an industrial Hygiene perspective (it is a powerpoint) – doesn’t address the psychology, but tries to deliver a perspective of relative risk.
Embracing Risk: One Industrial Hygienist’s Perspective
Timothy J. Mukoda, Kinder Morgan

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