Don’t Sneeze So Close to Me

11 Nov

It’s the spitting, not the sneezing that gets me, but a researcher is actually testing how a sneezing person unnerves others.

Lee suggests that a minor, everyday event (like a sneeze) can heighten our worries about a whole range of unrelated hazards because it brings to mind a prominent threat (like a flu pandemic). Our emotions are affected by our ability to assess risks, regardless of what those risks are. In this way, the feelings elicited by one threat can feed into our evaluation of others, and sneezing in a pandemic climate can make people more worried about unrelated hazards from heart disease to crime.

Greg Laden, dropping by for a comment, adds:

Makes perfect sense. We are not shaped by natural selection to have internal probability and actuarial tables in our brains, but we are shaped by natural selection to modulate temperament according to circumstance.

Economists will turn this into “humans are irrational.” But economists only say that because they think it makes them more attractive to members of the opposite sex. We Darwinists know what is really going on.

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