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Download The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Should not—and Put Ourselves in Great Danger Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Should not—and Put Ourselves in Great Danger Audiobook, by Daniel Gardner Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,229 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Daniel Gardner Narrator: Scott Peterson Publisher: Gildan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2009 ISBN: 9781596594326
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From terror attacks to the War on Terror, bursting real-estate bubbles to crystal meth epidemics, sexual predators to poisonous toys from China, our list of fears seems to be exploding. And yet, we are the safest and healthiest humans in history. Irrational fear is running amok, and often with tragic results. In the months after 9/11, when people decided to drive instead of fly—believing they were avoiding risk—road deaths rose by 1,595. Those lives were lost to fear.

The Science of Fear is a disarmingly cheerful roundtrip shuttle to the new brain science, dissecting the fears that misguide and manipulate us every day. As award-winning journalist Daniel Gardner demonstrates irrational fear springs from how humans miscalculate risks. Our hunter-gatherer brains evolved during the old Stone Age and struggle to make sense of a world utterly unlike the one that made them. Numbers, for instance, confuse us. Our "gut" tells us that even if there aren't "50,000 predators...on the Internet prowling for children," as a recent U.S. Attorney General claimed, then there must be an awful lot. And even if our "head" discovers that the number is baseless and no one actually knows the truth—there could be 100,000 or 500,000—we are still more fearful simply because we heard the big number. And it is not only politicians and the media that traffic in fearmongering. Corporations fatten their bottom lines with fear. Interest groups expand their influence with fear. Officials boost their budgets with fear. With more information, warnings and scary stories coming at us every day from every direction, we are more prone than ever to needlessly worry.

Real-world examples, interviews with experts, and fast-paced, lean storytelling make The Science of Fear an entertaining and enlightening tour. Ultimately, by revealing the psychology behind the many ways our “gut” reactions lead us astray and allow others to manipulate us, The Science of Fear will make you brave.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An expert guide to how and why we make bad decisions.”

    Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music

  • “Wonderfully provocative, an engagingly written study of the psychology of risk.”

    Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times bestselling author of Traffic

  • “An invaluable resource for anyone who aspires to think clearly.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Excellent…Analyzes everything from the media’s predilection for irrational scare stories to the cynical use of fear by politicians pushing a particular agenda…Gardner never falls into the trap of becoming frustrated and embittered by the waste and needless worry that he is documenting. A personal anecdote about an unwise foray into a Nigerian slum in search of a stolen wallet disposes of the idea that the author is immune to the foibles he describes. What could easily have been a catalogue of misgovernance and stupidity instead becomes a cheery corrective to modern paranoia.”

    Economist

  • “Both matter-of-fact and entertaining…Gardner’s vivid, direct style, backed up by clear examples and solid data from science and psychology, brings a breath of fresh air and common sense to an emotional topic.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[An] entertaining, often jolting account of why trivial risks terrify us, even as we engage in wildly dangerous activities with hardly a qualm…Using examples from everyday life and elucidating with ingenious psychological studies, the author explains why utterly irrational fears come naturally.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sean | 2/18/2014

    " This is a very insightful book that equips its readers to question more of what they watch on T.V., read in the paper, and view on the Web. A key quote: "Politicians, corporations, activists, and non-governmental organizations want votes, sales, donations, support, and memberships, and they know that making people worry about injury, disease, and death is often the most effective way of obtaining their goals." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 2/16/2014

    " Scary that we are so easily manipulated! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 2/12/2014

    " Another voice of reason in an increasingly chaotic world, Gardner investigates why, at at time when humans are healthier and more secure than ever before, we're so terrified. Written in sober, clear language, this book may just help put things back into perspective. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 A. J. | 1/28/2014

    " Finally found time for personally reading and finished this great book. It is a mixture of Freakonomics and Denialism/Superstition in the age of reason. It is a story of our two brains (conscious and unconscious/"gut" and "head"). This is well written, informative and fun. The book is a great compliment to different but similar books such as Charles Pierce's "Idiot America" and Shankar Vedantam's "The Hidden Brain." A nice triology these three books are but Gardner's "The Science of Fear" is the best of the three. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelli | 1/19/2014

    " This was an eye opening book for me. Because we live in a culture where media, politicians and even non-profit groups prey on our fear to get us to act, this was relieving. The author posits that - statistically speaking - we should be much more worried about getting in a car accident than our child getting kidnapped or being robbed. The U.S. population is around 280 million so the one-in-a-million freak stories happen to someone every day. Those are the stories that make the news and make us think it's very likely that it could happen to us since we see the detailed coverage of how it happened to that one person or family. I'm also much more cynical about the verity of advertisements. For example, hand sanitizing companies want you to think the world is filthy so you buy their product. The same goes for home security systems and pharmaceutical companies (all the commercials touting better sleep or heart disease panacea have making money - not your health - as their focus). Non-profit groups like those fighting hunger want you to do something so they very often jack up the numbers, making you think that truly one in five children in America are painfully hungry. More often than not, these statistics are mixed with truth so the audience will spring into action for that special cause. I'm really glad I read this book. I sleep better at night. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim Niland | 1/9/2014

    " As someone who suffers from anxiety and fear problems that can be pretty debilitating at times, it was looking forward to reading this book to see if there were any ideas that could help me recognize and alleviate my fears. Gardner focuses on the psychological aspects of fear, quoting at lengths from researchers and their experiments. While he does bury the reader at times in numbers and studies, he narrows his thesis down to humans having split personalities: the head, thoughtful and rational, and the gut, impulsive and reckless. In this sense, it is the flipside to Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink. In that book, the gut was responsible for good decisions, in this book the gut the gut takes all information at face value and ratchets up the fear. Gardner is successful with presenting his ideas, but the scope is somewhat narrow, as he focuses on the psychological and it would have been interesting if he could have included some neurological research about how gut and head co-exist and conflict within the brain. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 David | 1/3/2014

    " Interesting, but way too verbose. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Diann | 11/22/2013

    " Many Americans were horrified by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and they stopped flying. Because of this, an additional 1,500 died in auto accidents the following year; none died in plane crashes. Most Americans know flying is safer than driving. I've never flown! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Brightenburg | 11/13/2013

    " (Audio) So far, this book has been good at highlighting how we are bombarded by strategies that play on and create fear. Marketing, media, and politics are excellent places to look for good examples of these strategies. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Blixco | 10/30/2013

    " Simplistic, disappointing. Not as good as Blink. Tended to beat points to death with extremely simple explanation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 10/11/2013

    " A fascinating exploration of our psychological pit falls, and statistical misunderstanding of the world and how our fear does more bad than good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimathy | 8/2/2013

    " A very informitive work. Opened my eyes alot. I really enjoyed reading it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jn_phillips | 9/30/2012

    " Why we are afraid of the least likely things (plane crashes, serial killers) and not afraid of the likeliest (cancer, suicide). And what the media has to do with it, and how trying to override your Gut instincts by using your Head usually doesn't work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristina UK | 9/30/2012

    " An eye-openimg look at the psychology of risk and risk perception and how this can and is often manipulated by those in the media and politics. This book has made me think more carefully every time I see one of those health scare newspaper articles or anews report on the threat of terrorism. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Margaret Campbell | 5/4/2012

    " I got about 50 pages into this but didn't finish it. There wasn't any new information in it and it was too dry and dull. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimathy | 5/9/2011

    " A very informitive work. Opened my eyes alot. I really enjoyed reading it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 4/19/2011

    " This book was non-stop full of good information to use in the real world:) I noticed the author dared not to open up a can of worms AKA, religion. He just skipped out all together. Not sure why. Religion uses fear so much that it would only make sense to call out such in a book this good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ken | 2/4/2011

    " Very insightful. Worth taking a second read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 1/10/2011

    " This is my kind of book - very interesting! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Russell | 12/19/2010

    " Amazing look at the way that we make decisions, the impact that fear and our primitive hind brain have on our lives. Very revealing, very, very interesting. Everyone should read this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily | 12/16/2010

    " Gardner does wonders in explaining irrational fear, mostly fueled by media. Amazing arguments backed by some scary but relevant statistics. Great read. I definitely recommend it if, like me, you get nervous about the crazy things that happen in this world. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erica | 12/16/2010

    " This book should be required reading for all Americans.

    I just wish the chapter on terrorism wasn't so close to the end. It's arguably the biggest topic of fear right now, and it would be a shame for casual readers to miss the author's analysis. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenn | 12/7/2010

    " This was a really facinating book about how poorly humans evaluate risk, especially when innundated with information (like cable tv, Internet, etc). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Noora | 10/12/2010

    " I read about half way through. Fairly interesting books, full of statistics, but I have other books I am currently reading that are much more captivating. "

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About the Author

Daniel Gardner is a columnist and senior writer for the Ottawa Citizen. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including Amnesty International’s Media Award and the Michener Award. Gardner is the author of The Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain and Future Babble and currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, with his wife and three children.