Real and apparent risk

Roller coasters are one of the safest ways to travel (they end up where they begin, but that’s a different story).

People pay to ride on them because they feel risky, even if they’re not.

Air travel is really safe, and the airlines work overtime to reduce the perception of risk as well. That’s why turbulence is so jarring–it’s not actually risky, but it breaks the facade.

On the other hand, we regularly engage in activities and behaviors that are risky without perceiving the risk. The cigarette companies worked hard to make smoking feel macho, sophisticated and part of the crowd at the same time that they seduced people into feeling like they weren’t taking a risk with their health.

The most resilient path in most activities is to offer perceived risk to people who seek risk, while also creating resilient systems that aren’t actually risky. Because dancing with perceived risk creates growth, connection and emotional resonance, whereas actual risk leads to outcomes we don’t want.