What are your chances of dying from ___ ?

OK, here’s a test for you  …


Rank the the following by the odds that somebody who is in the group or who is exposed to the risk is likely to die.

Make #1 the highest risk of dying in the next year; make #7 the lowest risk circumstance

  • For women giving birth
  • For anyone thirty-five to forty-four years old
  • From asbestos in schools
  • For anyone for any reason
  • From lightning
  • For police on the job
  • From airplane crashes

And the answer is …

Ranked from highest to lowest risk …

  1. For anyone for any reason 1 in 118
  2. For anyone 35 to 44 years old 1 in 437
  3. For police on the job 1 in 4,500
  4. For women giving birth 1 in 9,100
  5. From airplane crashes 1 in 167,000
  6. From lightning 1 in 2 million
  7. From asbestos in schools 1 in 11 million

Most people tend to perceive higher than average risks for all of the “events” … and perceive stuff like airplane crashes and asbestos-related health issues to be way above average.

There’s a name for it: the “vividness effect”.

While major air crashes are rare, the are spectacular and very visual.  So, networks constantly loop pictures of the crash scenes and victims … creating vivid memories for viewers.

“Information is vivid when it is acquired either traumatically or recently and thus has made a strong impression on our memory.

Information that is vivid is therefore more easily remembered than pallid, abstract information and, for that reason, has greater influence on our thinking.”

Vivid information is particularly over-weighted in perceptions … that’s called the “recency effect”.


Sources: Morgan Jones, The Thinker’s Toolkit and Robert Samuelson, “The Triumph of the Psycho-Fact,” Washington Post

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3 Responses to “What are your chances of dying from ___ ?”

  1. John Milnes Baker Says:

    If you are unarmed – AND NOT ALLOWED TO OWN A GUN – what are the chances an armed assailant could kill you?
    John Milnes Baker

  2. Los Says:

    “Vividness effect”: Why John Milnes Baker ignores the facts such that guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts or that for every one time a gun in the home was used in a self – defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

  3. John Milnes Baker Says:

    I suggest that Los – or anyone else interested in the subject Google “Thomas Sowell Gun Control Controversy. Here’s a brief quote from the article: “The central issue boils down to the question: What are the facts? Yet there are many zealots who seem utterly unconcerned about facts or about their own lack of knowledge of facts.” – John Milnes Baker
    PS I didn’t say anything about “guns in the home” and anyway, you didn’t answer the specific question.

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