Reducing the Perception of Risk – The Illusion of Control

One can reduce risk, or pretend that it’s lower (or non-existent). While the former is legitimately an act of risk mitigation, the latter deals only with the perception of risk. If one can get to a point where risk is perceived to be smaller than it is, concern or anxiety about it will also be lowered. One example of this is the use of drugs. These can be medicinal or recreational. Alcohol consumption can be another method that makes people less concerned. All these techniques change perspective. They make people care less about the risk, often by dulling the mind. Another modern technique is to consult a mystic. If the mystic provides assurances that all will be well (a common message), the listener may be relieved and get on with his life. Has the actual risk been changed? Of course not! Only the perception of the risk has changed.


  1. Going to a faith healer.
  2. Going to a palm reader.
  3. Resorting to superstition and ritualistic actions is a common way to pretend that the unknown is knowable and controllable.
  4. Engaging in herding behavior, despite the common (but false) impression that there is strength in numbers.
  5. Acquiescing to communal reinforcement. Basically, the point is that succumbing to peer pressure, however relieving it may seem in the near term, doesn’t change the objective facts about risk exposure.
  6. Engaging in selective thinking. This refers to focusing on the more positive or optimistic evidence at the expense of evidence pointing to the negative outcome(s).

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