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Take More Time!

Quick! Make a choice. You are walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see… one of those roots slither. What do you do?gnarly tree roots

A. Freeze

B. Jump back

C. Scream

D. Bend down and examine the roots

Answer: According to Risk Guru, David Ropeik, most people choose one of the first 3 answers.

Our brains are wired to make quick choices. We’ve evolved to the top of the food chain because our sympathetic nervous system helped us avoid danger. It goes a little something like this…

You Fight or Flightare walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see one of those roots slither. Your amygdala sends a signal to your hypothalamus which begins a chemical reaction in the body. Your heart rate speeds up, your mouth gets dry, your body gets a surge of adrenaline, and your stomach feels like that dude from Aliens who was implanted with an adorable little alien baby. Everything in your body is preparing you to either run, or stand your ground and fight. It’s pretty awesome and, as David Ropeik explains: our brain is a survival machine built for quick reactions based on emotions, not facts, in order to get us through the dangers of lions and tigers and bears in the dark, oh my! This system worked well for getting us out of danger and to tomorrow but it doesn’t work so well now that we need our brain to rationalize risks.

So here we are, enlightened beings, making too many decisions based on emotions and not facts.

David Ropeik goes on to brilliantly explain concept by using a vaccine example.

Remember HPV vaccine? What was your first response? Let me trigger some memory. “We are pleased to announce the release of new vaccine that will target cervical cancer. It’s given to young girls as early as 11, before they start having sex.” That’s basically what many of you heard. Admit it; you had an emotional reaction, didn’t you?

Your first reaction may be to the word vaccine. Vaccines are created by scientists and many risk studies show that people are adverse to things created by humans and more accepting of things that are natural. Think about it. What is more scary (or risky), coal fired power plants or nuclear? Would you rather get the flu or receive anthrax (weaponized by humans) in the mail? Some of you might even recall the false vaccine/autism study that has been debunked by scientists over and over. Yet it’s easier to espouse it because autism is scary and we don’t know where it comes from.

Your second reaction may be to the words cervical and sex. I’ve heard parents say, “I’m not giving that to my daughter. If these girls would just keep their legs closed and not have sex until marriage, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

We feel first and think second. Our brain jumps to conclusions based on key trigger words and emotions flowing through our sympathetic nervous system. VACCINES!  OH NO!

The problem is that our first reaction, or our first choice, might not be the best or healthiest one. It’s certainly not the most informed one.

So what does David Ropeik suggest? Take more time….

30 minutes        an hour           a day

Just take more time.

Start gathering facts. Not just facts from sources that agree with you but gather information from trustworthy sites. Look up the benefits to having the HPV vaccine from cdc.gov. Look up the prevalence (how many people have it) rates of HPV in your community. Research cervical cancer, treatments and death rates. Make an informed decision, not an emotional one. Use your rational brain. Don’t jump away from that vaccine just because you think it looks dangerous.

Take More Time

Oh, and watch David Ropeik on YouTube. (I have a bit of an academic crush on him.)