This Thursday, January 15th, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River. The crash was very widely publicized by the US press. I would like to mention one interesting phenomenon that might affect cognition of people after this event.
Psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (Nobel laureate) showed that people often estimate probability using heuristics to ease judgment.
There are situations in which people assess the frequency of a class or the probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind. For example, one may assess the risk of heart attack among middle-aged people by recalling such occurrences among one’s acquaintances. Similarly, one may evaluate the probability that a given business venture will fail by imagining various difficulties it could encounter.
Thus, witnessing a crash or watching about it on TV may make some people think that the occurrence of such an event is more likely than it is. Probability of a fatal plane crash is quite remote: 1 in 1 million to 10 million depending on the airline (1, 2) – you are much more likely to die from heart disease (start exercising now). Don’t let the media intimidate you!