Becoming Numb to Risks

Excellent post by Dr. Saraf.

Familiarity with a process can often lead to complacency!

Becoming Numb to Risks
July 27th, 2009 | by Dr. Saraf |


In our daily lives we often become immune to risks around us. For example, there are around 40,000 annual fatalities from automobile accidents in the US and yet we do not think twice before getting into their cars. We eat a burger ignoring the risks of heart problems!

Why do we tend to ignore risks that we are frequently exposed to?

To answer this question, I’m going to quote my graduate advisor - Dr. Sam Mannan.

The first time your “low fuel” gauge lights up, you might get worried about running out of gas. However, if you make it to the gas station easily, you may not get as concerned the next time and wait some more time before you stop at a gas station. This relaxation of concern and the time you might wait to stop at a gas station after the gauge comes on might increase as you get more comfortable with the “alarm,” “warning,” or “indicator.” However, if one day you were to run out of gas, it would be hard to argue that you did not have indicators of trouble.

Many researchers have called this phenomenon as the “normalization of deviation”, i.e., getting so used to a warning signal that it’s no longer much of a warning. In fact, the phenomenon is such that with time, the increase in deviation accepted by the individual or organization increases in magnitude.

So true! Is this the reason things are Still Going Wrong?

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