Scientists have identified a mental mechanism that people use to subconsciously gauge threats posed by others.
The mechanism translates the magnitude of the threat into the same dimensions used by animals to size up their adversaries – size and strength – even when these dimensions have no actual connection to the threat, researchers said.
“In choosing between fight and flight, we rely on a little picture in our heads that adjusts the size of every potential foe we encounter according to how formidable he seems to us to be. The more likely we believe the individual is to win a fight, the bigger and stronger he seems to us,” said University of California, Los Angeles anthropologist Daniel Fessler.
The research illuminates how people make decisions in situations where violent conflict is a possibility, which could have ramifications for law enforcement, the prison system and the military.
“There’s an old system in our brains that’s used when we decide whether to be physically aggressive and it’s a very efficient shortcut to gauge danger, but it can mislead us,” said Colin Holbrook.
In the study’s first phase, Fessler and Holbrook presented Americans with descriptions of two men: one who participates in several dangerous sports including freestyle motorcycling and big-wave surfing, and another who is so risk-averse that he can’t bear to even watch big-wave surfing.
The respondents consistently perceived the daredevil to be taller and stronger than the man who avoided the extreme sports.
To ensure that the effect wasn’t unique to American culture, the team also assessed perceptions of risk-seeking behaviour among men on the Fijian island, where one of students happened to be conducting research at the time.
The team even tested whether there was an actual correlation between height, muscularity and risk-seeking behaviour in the US, but found none.
“Risk-prone behaviour doesn’t have a literal connection to size and strength, yet is conceptualised in those terms,” Fessler said.
“Risk-prone individuals make for dangerous enemies; if someone isn’t worried about getting hurt or dying, he’s someone you don’t want to mess with,” said Fessler.
Fessler and Holbrook also have shown that perceptions can run in the other direction, making a potential foe seem smaller and weaker.
- Varun Gandhi Under Attack Over Defence Deals: Here’s How
- This Diwali, Let Blind Students Brighten Up your Homes With Candles & Diyas
- CBI Files Supplementary Chargesheet In Sheena Bora Murder Case
- Soha Ali Khan And Vir Das Starrer 31st October Audience Reaction
- Sahara Chief Subrata Roy’s Parole Extended Till November 28
- Simple Tips To Secure Your Debit Card From Fraudsters
- New Zealand & India Team Being Welcomed In Chandigarh
- Mumbai Call Centre Scam: All You Need To Know
- Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Appeals To Police: Here’s What She Said
- Shocker From Ahmedabad: Find Out What Happened
- Bigg Boss 10 Day 3 Review: Celebs Fail To Do Well in First Task
- Airtel Offers 10GB Data At Rs 259 For New 4G Smartphone Users
- Aamir Khan Starrer Dangal’s Trailer Launched: First Impressions
- TMC Supporters Attack BJP Leader Babul Supriyo
- Sri Lankan Navy Apprehends 20 Indian Fishermen