Steven Pinker, Harvard professor, cognitive psychologist, and author of Enlightenment Now, asserts that the world is safer than it has ever been and he has the data to back it up. Pinker believes the news media is “keeping the country’s anxiety at a boil” and their bias toward negativity distorts the national conversation.
The truth is that news is about what happened not what didn’t happen, right? We all know the adage from the media, “if it bleeds, it leads.” All of this is why we might find Pinker’s claim absolutely unbelievable. But our mind might be playing a trick on us. It’s called the availability heuristic. The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.
I love how powerful the mind is but this little shortcut it uses to help us make decisions definitely has the potential to work against us. The mind assumes, “if I can remember it easily, It must be important” — and what does it remember? What it saw or heard in the news which was jobless claims, plane crashes, and terrorism. Hmm. Perhaps we should not assume the mind is always right, especially when we are making important decisions.