Archive for the ‘lung cancer’ Category

TV, newspaper, and magazine reporters and editors decide what we learn

November 5, 2007

When a CNN/New York Times poll asked people where they learned most about health-related issues, only 1-in-10 said from a doctor; 6-in-10 said they learned most from television, newspapers, or magazines.

What reporters and editors find newsworthy often is a poor measure of what people really need to know. We get spun by mistaking how often we hear about something for how often it really occurs.

For example, breast cancer gets enormous attention in the news media. Yet, the plain fact is that women are nine times more likely to die of heart disease, and more than twice as likely to die from a stroke, and lung cancer kills far more women than breast cancer, and so do other chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema.

Psychologists call this effect the availability heuristic, a mental bias that gives more weight to vividness and emotional impact than to actual probability.

Unspun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson


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