How We Make Decisions for Radiation Safety

Have you ever been puzzled about how people can make instant decisions for radiation safety with little or no actual data? Psychologists tell us we have two processes for making safety decisions. We have a slow conscious process for analysis of data and a superfast subconscious process. Our subconscious mind is constantly scanning all sensory inputs to anticipate dangers and take quick action for our safety. While some decisions for safety are determined by careful deliberation of our conscious minds, most safety decisions are spontaneous functions of our subconscious minds. Do we really want to take the time for careful analysis of a striking snake? We may also have to make safety decisions when we do not have all the data, time to get more data, or the ability to understand the data. This is not a problem for the subconscious mind, which makes decisions based on stored memories and impressions. Unfortunately, these stored impressions may not be relevant to the actual risks or decisions for safety and they may lead us to make errors. Since subconscious decisions for safety are automatic and made out of our awareness, we also do not know how prone we are to errors in safety decisions.

References
1. Johnson, R. Radiation Safety Psychology, monthly articles in the Newsletter of the Health Physics Society, March 2012 – August 2013. 2. Kahnemen, D. Thinking Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York. 2011. 3. Ropeik, D. How Risky is it Really? Why our Fears don’t Always Match the Facts, The McGraw Hill Companies, New York. 2010.
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