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University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Attitude to risk

Walking a tightrope.So it seems that even when the risks are very clear and the consequences immediate, we do not always do what is best for us. Maybe we all think we will live forever, or that we can avoid accidents through our skilful behaviour, or maybe we simply do not want to think about such depressing thoughts as accidents and premature death. Whatever the reason, it seems that we are not that great at making the best choices for our own long term survival.

Not only can we sometimes ignore or underestimate the risk to our health of the choices we make, we can also sometime overestimate the risk. This is most likely when the situation is unfamiliar, the consequences are dreaded and seen as unfair, unnatural and beyond our control. We are also more likely to overestimate risks that are actually very small. Currently it would seem that the risk of developing   variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) falls into this kind of risk category.

For more information see Will it happen to me?


What proportion of persistent cigarette smokers (those who start as a young adult and do not give up) will eventually be killed by tobacco?

How does whether you smoke or not affect how you answered this question?

Data from CTSU, Oxford University, 2001


Next: Alcohol


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