Overreacting to Terrorism?

“The basic problem is this: The human brain evolved so that we systematically misjudge risks and how to respond to them. Our visceral fear of terrorism has repeatedly led us to adopt policies that are expensive and counterproductive, such as the invasion of Iraq.”

Odd Emotions By coming to grips with unnamed feelings—from the need to connect deeply with someone we’ve just met to the desire to know how things will turn out—we can master our interior life.

Labeling emotions isn’t necessary for their primary—and immediate—purpose. “The conscious understanding of emotions is superfluous from a survival standpoint,” Gillihan says. “If I’m running away from a tiger in caveman days, I never say to myself, ‘I am afraid.’ I just think, Tiger! I’ve got to get out of here! I handle the threat and survive.” In modern times, however, our feelings often arise from our relationships, careers, and travel, and we benefit from a more considered response, he says. “It helps to be able to put a frame around more complex emotions.”


The Happiness Code: A new approach to self-improvement is taking off in Silicon Valley: cold, hard rationality.

“Our minds, cobbled together over millenniums by that lazy craftsman, evolution, are riddled with bad mental habits. We routinely procrastinate, make poor investments, waste time, fumble important decisions, avoid problems and rationalize our unproductive behaviors, like checking Facebook instead of working. These ‘‘cognitive errors’’ ripple through our lives, CFAR argues, and underpin much of our modern malaise: Because we waste time on Facebook, we end up feeling harried; when we want to eat better or get to the gym more, we don’t, but then feel frustrated and guilty.”

Addicted to the Lottery: Why People Buy False Hope and Lottery Tickets

“States spend millions on promoting the lottery. In 2011, Oregon’s ad budget was $26.6 million over a two year period; in Ohio, the state used to time advertisements for its Super Lotto game to coincide with the delivery of Social Security and government benefit checks. Poor people are the primary targets of these campaigns—a fact that has made some of my interactions with lottery players uneasy. Multiple customers have told that they spend around $3,000 each year on the lottery and never win. Each person said they continue to play ‘because it’s fun.'”


How Language Influences Emotion

“Do you feel something less strongly if you don’t have a word for it?”

“There’s plenty of disagreement over how to define emotions, but at least one thing is certain: They are intensely personal things. A flood of anger, a flash of annoyance—that feeling is yours, is a result of your own unique set of circumstances, is shaping the way you see the world at a given moment.”


Paris, Beirut, and the Language Used to Describe Terrorism

“Not all media coverage is created equal, and sometimes the difference is in a few words.”

“As in Paris, the attacks in Beirut were the deadliest in decades, committed by the same medieval perpetrators from outside. And yet major American and European media outlets did not treat the two incidents similarly, which in turn, I suspect, contributed to an environment in which terror in Paris spurred Facebook to action in a way bloodshed in Beirut didn’t.”


Forget ghosts and zombies this Halloween. Americans’ greatest fear is their government.

“Fear can impact behavior. The Chapman researchers found that nearly one-quarter of Americans said they’ve voted for a political candidate solely out of fear. Fears also often ebb and flow with the news cycle. Remember the crippling anxiety around the Ebola crisis last year, even though the chance of catching the disease was infinitesimal?”


N.F.L. Announcers Are Bad at Math, Too

What does this article tell us about people’s motivation to take “correct” actions? What happens when math says one thing but our emotions tell us another? What if the agreed upon consensus correct answer is in fact wrong?

“It’s not that coaches don’t know the math — rather, it seems they don’t want to be criticized. If a coach does the expected and sends out the punt unit on fourth down, and then his team goes on to lose, players are blamed for the defeat. If the coach orders a conversion attempt that fails, the coach is blamed for subsequent defeat.”


If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?

syrian-migrant-boy-turkeyBelow are a couple of links to articles that focus on the Syrian refugee crisis and this issue, while important in its own right, offers us a lot of interesting TOK questions and insights.

  • What are the ethical guidelines of using such sad and brutal images in newspapers? Do such images fairly or unfairly affect our decision making about this crisis?
  • When is it appropriate for nations to get involved in foreign conflicts?
  • How does the use of language affect our perceptions of this conflict and these people?

“They are extraordinary images and serve as a stark reminder that, as European leaders increasingly try to prevent refugees from settling in the continent, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.”


How a Single Photograph May Be Changing the Way the World Thinks


On whether the images should be shown

Brutal Images of Syrian Boy Drowned Off Turkey Must Be Seen, Activists Say


On the use of language in this crisis:

The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence


Migrant, Refugee or Infiltrator? How Our Language Affects Legislation


Migrant, refugee, asylum-seeker…


Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved?

An interesting article that approaches this question by examining the role of religious dictates, moral philosophies, reason, natural science among other point of view.

“Moral disputes seem intractable — more intractable than other disputes. Take an example of a moral position that most of us would consider obvious: Honor killing is wrong. But honor killing has its supporters. Anyone who suggests that we can compromise with its supporters on the matter misunderstands the nature of this type of disagreement. It’s absolute. One party has to be right. Us. So why can’t we convince those who hold the opposite view?”