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  1. The Influence of Fear
  2. Sometimes 'Feeling Better' Is a Good Thing
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Sometimes 'Feeling Better' Is a Good Thing

Can money buy peace of mind? In a sense, that's what FUD is all about. If you buy product X, you feel that you can sleep when the wind blows. This can be beneficial when you look at things like 9/11. Since the attacks of 9/11 took place, we've seen dramatic changes in the security of our airports and airplanes—from the installation of protective cockpit doors and enhanced passenger screening to the banning of liquids on flights and the forced removal of shoes before boarding. Some of these security measures may provide some additional measure of "real" security, while some of it is intended to make the passengers feel safer. Bruce Schneier often writes about this issue. In his January 25, 2007 Wired article "In Praise of Security Theater," he wrote, "It's only a waste if you consider the reality of security exclusively. There are times when people feel less secure than they actually are. In those cases […]a palliative countermeasure that primarily increases the feeling of security is just what the doctor ordered."

The goal here would be to bring the perceived risk into alignment with the real risk in a given situation. Airlines are attempting to lower the perceived risk so that people will continue to fly.

Summary

Managing risk, both real and perceived, is a balancing act. You must weigh all factors carefully and rationally, being aware of the impact that fear may have on decision-making. Some fear is rational, based on facts. It's when fear goes beyond a rational response that it can lead to irrational decisions. For this very reason, fear should even be considered a risk by itself. Ignoring the reality of fear can lead to hasty, potentially expensive, and unnecessary actions that may cause more harm than good.

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