Chapter 9: Thinking and Language

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What are the functions of concepts?
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We use concepts, mental groupings of similar objects, events, ideas or people, to simplify and order the world around us. We form most concepts around prototypes, or best examples of a category.
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Cognition
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all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering and communicating
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Concept
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a mental grouping of similar objects, events, ideas and people
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Prototype
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a mental image or best example of a category; matching new items to a prototype provides a quick and easy method for sorting items into categories (as when comparing feathered creatures to a prototypical bird, such as a robin)
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What cognitive strategies assist our problem solving, and what obstacles hinder it?
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An algorithm is a methodical, logical rule or procedure (such as a step-by-step description for evacuating a building during a fire) that guarantees a solution to a problem. A heuristic is a simpler strategy (such as running for an exit if you smell smoke) that is usually speedier than an algorithm but is also more error prone. Insight is not a strategy-based solution, but rather a sudden flash of inspiration that solves a problem. Obstacles to problem solving include confirmation bias, which predisposes us to verify rather than challenge our hypotheses, and fixation, such as mental set, which may prevent us from taking the fresh perspective that would lead to a solution.
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Algorithm
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SLOW; a methodical, logical rule or procedure that guarantees solving a particular problem; contrasts with the usually speedier – but also more error-prone – use of heuristics
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Heuristic
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QUICK; a simple thinking strategy that often allows us to make judgements and solve problems efficiently; usually speedier but also more error-prone than algorithms
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Insight
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INSPIRATION; a sudden realization of a problem’s solution; contrasts with strategy-based solutions
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Confirmation Bias
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a tendency to search for information that supports our preconceptions and to ignore or distort contradictory evidence
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Mental Set
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a tendency to approach a problem in one particular way, often a way that has been successful in the past
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What is intuition, and how can the availability heuristic, overconfidence, belief perseverance and framing influence our decisions and judgements?
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Intuition is the effortless, immediate, automatic feelings or thoughts we often use instead of systematic reasoning. Heuristics enable snap judgements. Using the availability heuristic, we judge the likelihood of things based on how readily they come to mind, which often leads us to fear the wrong things. Overconfidence can lead us to overestimate the accuracy of our beliefs. When a belief we have formed and explained has been discredited, belief perseverance may cause us to cling to that belief. A remedy for belief perseverance is to consider how we might have explained an opposite result. Framing is the way a question or statement is worded. Subtle wording differences can dramatically alter our responses.
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Intuition
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an effortless, immediate, automatic feeling or thought, as contrasted with explicit, conscious reasoning
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Availability Heuristic
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estimating the likelihood of events based on their availability in memory; if instances come readily to mind (perhaps because of their vividness), we presume such events are common
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Overconfidence
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the tendency to be more confident than correct – to overestimate the accuracy of our beliefs and judgements
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Belief Perseverance
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clinging to one’s initial conceptions after the basis on which they were formed has been discredited
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Framing
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the way an issue is posed; how an issue is framed can significantly affect decisions and judgements
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How do smart thinkers use intuition?
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As people gain expertise, they grow adept at making quick, shrewd judgements. Smart thinkers welcome their intuitions (which are usually adaptive), but when making complex decisions they gather as much information as possible and then take time to let their two-track mind process all available information. – Intuition is analysis “frozen into habit” – Intuition is usually adaptive, enabling quick reactions – Intuition is huge – Our two-track mind makes sweet harmony as smart, critical thinking listens to the creative whispers of our vast unseen mind, and then evaluates evidence, tests conclusions, and plans for the future.
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What is creativity, and what fosters it?
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Creativity, the ability to produce novel and valuable ideas, correlates somewhat with aptitude, but is more than school smarts. Aptitude tests require convergent thinking, but creativity requires divergent thinking. Robert Sternberg has proposed that creativity has 5 components: expertise, imaginative thinking skills, a venturesome personality, intrinsic motivation, and a creative environment that sparks and refines creative ideas.
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Creativity
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the ability to produce new and valuable ideas – coming up with something both NOVEL and USEFUL – Reletively difficult to measure, can depend upon the judge – Novel animals may have properties of real animals: bilateral symmetry, sense organs on head, similar sense organs to humans – Requires whole-brain activation – need the whole brain to be creative – Intelligence is LOCALIZED, creativity is ALL OVER
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Convergent Thinking
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narrowing the available problem solutions to determine the single best solution
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Divergent Thinking
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expanding the number of possible problem solutions; creative thinking that diverges in different directions
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What do we know about thinking in other animals?
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Researchers make inferences about other species’ consciousness and intelligence based on behavior. Evidence from studies of various species shows that other animals use concepts, numbers, and tools and that they transmit learning from one generation to the next (cultural transmission). And, like humans, other species also show insight, self-awareness, altruism, cooperation and grief.
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What are the structural components of language?
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Phonemes are a language’s basic units of sound. Morphemes are the elementary units of meaning. Grammar – the system of rules that enables us to communicate – includes semantics (rules for deriving meaning) and syntax (rules for ordering words into sentences).
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Language
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our spoken, written, or signed words and the ways we combine them to communicate meaning
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Phoneme
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in a language, the smallest distinctive sound unit (ex. letters) – distinct to each language
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Morpheme
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in a language, the smallest unit that carries meaning; may be a word or part of a word (ex. -ing) (modify language and have meaning)
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Grammar
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in a language, a system of rules that enables us to communicate with and understand others. In a given language, semantics is the set of rules for deriving meaning from sounds, and syntax is the set of rules for combining words into grammatically sensible sentences.
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What are the milestones in language development, and how do we acquire language?
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Language development’s timing varies, but all children follow the same sequence. Receptive language (the ability to understand what is said to or about you) develops before productive language (the ability to produce words). At about 4 months of age, infants babble, making sounds found in languages from all over the world. By about 10 months, their babbling contains only the sounds found in their household language. Around 12 months of age, children begin to speak in single words. This one-word stage evolves into two-word (telegraphic) utterances before their second birthday, after which they begin speaking in full sentences. Noam Chomsky has proposed that all human languages share a universal grammar – the basic building blocks of language – and that humans are born with a predisposition to learn language. We acquire a specific language through learning as our biology and experience interact. Childhood is a critical period for learning to speak and/or sign fluently. This is an important consideration for parents of deaf children, who might master oral communication if given a cochlear implant during this critical period. Deaf culture advocates oppose such implants on the grounds that deafness is a difference, not a disability.
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Babbling Stage
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beginning at about 4 months, the stage of speech development in which the infant spontaneously utters various sounds at first unrelated to the household language
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One-Word Stage
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the stage in speech development, from about age 1-2, during which a child speaks mostly in single words
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Two-Word Stage
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beginning about age 2, the stage in speech development during which a child speaks mostly in two-word statements
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Telegraphic Speech
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early speech stage in which a child speaks like a telegram – “go car” – using mostly nouns and verbs
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What was the premise of researcher Noam Chomsky’s work in language development?
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– Chomsky maintained that all languages share a universal grammar, and humans are biologically predisposed to learn the grammar rules of language. – If you wanted to, you could make a sentence that has never been sat – we all come with this idea of universal grammar (ready to learn the grammar of our native language)
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Why is it so difficult to learn a new language in adulthood?
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Our brain’s critical period for language learning is in childhood, when we can absorb language structure almost effortlessly. As we move past that stage in our brain’s development, our ability to learn a new language diminishes dramatically.
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What brain areas are involved in language processing and speech?
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Aphasia is an impairment of language, usually caused by left-hemisphere damage. Two important language and speech processing areas are Broca’s areas, a region of the frontal lobe that controls language expression. Wernicke’s area is a region in the left temporal lobe that controls language reception. Language processing is spread across other brain areas as well, where different neural networks handle specific linguistic subtasks.
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Aphasia
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impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca’s area (impairing speaking) or to Wernicke’s area (impairing understanding)
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Broca’s Area
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controls language expression – an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs the muscle movements involved in speech
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Wernicke’s Area
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controls language reception – a brain area involved in language comprehension and expression, usually in the left temporal lobe
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What do we know about other animals’ capacity for language?
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A number of chimpanzees and bonobos have (1) learned to communicate with humans by signing or by pushing buttons wired to a computer, (2) developed vocabularies of nearly 400 words, (3) communicated by stringing these words together, (4) taught their skills to younger animals, and (5) demonstrated some understanding of syntax. But only humans communicate in complex sentences. Nevertheless, other animals’ impressive abilities to think and communicate challenge humans to consider what this means about the moral rights of other species.
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What is the relationship between thinking and language, and what is the value of thinking in images?
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Although Whorf’s linguistic determinism hypothesis suggested that language determines thought, it is in fact more accurate to say that language influences thought. Different languages embody different ways of thinking, and immersion in bilingual education can enhance thinking. We often think in images when we use implicit (non declarative, procedural) memory – our automatic memory system for motor and cognitive skills and classically conditioned associations. Thinking in images can increase our skills when we mentally practice upcoming events.
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Linguistic Determinism
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Whorf’s hypothesis that language determines the way we think
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Benjamin Lee Whorf’s controversial hypothesis, called ______________ ______________, suggested that we cannot think about things unless we have words for those concepts or ideas.
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linguistic determinism
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What is mental practice, and how can it help you prepare for an upcoming event?
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Mental practice uses visual imagery to mentally rehearse future behaviors, activating some of the same brain areas used during the actual behaviors. Visualizing the details of the process is more effective than visualizing only your end goal.
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Mental Sets
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one solution that may have multiple applications • All in how you frame the problem • If problem looks similar to other problems, might solve it in the same way (salience of surface similarity) when there may be an easier and different way that you did not think of
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Functional Fixedness
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tendency to take the most obvious or familiar function of something and assuming that this is the only possible use – results in: difficulty thinking of new or novel uses for things with familiar function – basis of creativity: using items in a novel way that may not be their usual use
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Groupthink
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– tendency to reach consensus without critically evaluating alternative options – pressure to conform to group opinion – complex problems cause stress and people often adopt quick solutions for relief – can especially happen when groups seek consensus under pressure, when they want to feel good complex problems make people not want to think them through, so go to a bigger group – usually one person will be dominant, and will have a good idea and everyone will go along with it and not think about it, if have someone who speaks out, will be more likely shut down by other members of the group if not going along with the group consensus
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Social Loafing
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– people tend to put in less effort in groups than when working alone – group members fail to take responsibility for decisions – quiet group members may not contribute important information – dominant group members may provide poor information – if tell people working alone, will work harder, and if in a group of C students, will also work harder – dominant will talk over quiet people, but just because you are louder does not mean you know how to solve the problem
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Self-Serving Bias
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want to think highly of yourself so tend to do things that will let you think highly of yourself (if it worked, it’s because of me, if it didn’t, it’s because of someone or something else) – if good things happen, give yourself credit – if bad things happen, blame others – Happens in many different situations of our daily lives – Reserachers think that it helps protect our self-esteem – Can have negative impact on our life because we won’t learn from our mistakes and do something for years without getting better at it – YOU are responsible for YOU – People who suffer from depression have less of this self-serving bias – If always blame others, cannot get better – Better to have intrinsic sense of control over your life
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Fundamental Attribution Error
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tend to attribute things that we do to the situation, and things that people do due to that person (we see ourselves in terms of the situation/other factors, we see other people as fixed factors that are not going to change) – makes us feel better about ourselves (like the self-serving bias) – both work together to make us happier people
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Availability Bias
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easier to think of a vivid representation of something as opposed to the typical representation (ex. 9/11 making people afraid of flying when people fly safely every day)
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Thinking Process
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Cognition –> Concepts –> Prototype –> Categories (see slide)
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Fluency
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how many ideas you come up with
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Originality
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how different the ideas are from most people (usually idea that less than 10% of people thought of)
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Extrinsic Motivation
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men tend to be more creative than women for mating purposes/motives – Creative men get more creative mates or more mates in general – Being used as a stand-in for reproductive fitness is the number of partners you have, not the number of offspring since a lot of people are on birth control now (more creative, more partners if you’re a guy)
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Pareidolia
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seeing patterns that are not there (highly creative people are good at seeing connections that most people won’t – seeing a face in an outlet)
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Human Cognition
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– When we are born, our brains are only ¼ done (smaller end of the spectrum for mammals) so we have more time to develop our brains – Humans have the highest encephalization quotent of all mammals (brain to body ratio)
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Camilla systematically tried each successive key on her dad’s key ring until she found the one that unlocked her office door. This best illustrates the problem solving by means of an ___________.
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Algorithm
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Myra has such low self-esteem that she is often on the lookout for critical comments about her appearance and personality. Myra’s behavior best illustrates the dangers of ________________.
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Confirmation bias
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Despite overwhelming and highly publicized evidence that Senator McEwan was guilty of serious political corruption and misconduct, many who had supported her in the past elections remained convinced of her political integrity. Their reaction best illustrates ____________,
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Belief perseverance
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In the words lightly, neatly, and shortly, the ly ending is a __________.
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morpheme
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Those who learn sign language as teens never become as fluent as children exposed to sign language from birth. This best illustrates the importance of _____________ for mastering language.
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a critical period
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What factors contribute to our fear of unlikely events?
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We tend to be afraid of what our ancestral history has prepared us to fear (thus, snakes instead of cigarettes); what we cannot control (flying instead of driving); what is immediate (the takeoff and landing of flying instead of countless moments of trivial danger while driving); and what is most readily available (vivid images of air disasters instead of countless safe car trips).

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