Dealing With the 10 Scariest Things You Can't Avoid
Terrified of cancer caused by cell phones? Wasteful dry-cleaning? Pickles? A social psychologist is here to ease your worried mind.
Yesterday, I filtered through a deluge of articles about the evils of everyday life—according to some recent media, commuting, sitting at a desk, and even pickles, can damage your health. As promised, I talked to a pro about how we process this kind of information. Social psychologist Kevin Binning, who studies human response as a post-doc at UC-Santa Barbara, thinks that this cautionary info won't resonate with people…unless the subject at hand never really mattered to them in the first place.
Mother Jones: Are we receptive to messages about potential danger in daily life? If so, do they change our behavior?
Kevin Binning: Say I'm an avid pickle fan, and I eat them all the time. I'm not going to be swayed by the information that they could be bad for me at all. I'm not in a mental place where I’m going to be receptive. But, if I'm in a place where pickles aren't central to my identity, then next time I see a pickle I'll think, "Hm, should I be eating that?" The people who these articles are targeting are the ones who aren’t going to listen.
MJ: What if it's something we don’t have a choice about, like commuting?
KB: You'll normally say, "This is just another in a long line of things that are bad to me," and then you kind of go about your daily life. It's just another thing to add onto the pressure that we face every day. We can't possibly cope with all these threats all the time; there's no way. We will probably selectively respond to the ones that we can do something about.