The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teens and risky behavior: More complicated than it seems? -

“Teenagers enter unsafe situations not because they are drawn to dangerous or risky situations, but rather because they aren’t informed enough about the odds of the consequences of their actions,” said Agnieszka Tymula, a postdoctoral researcher at New York University and coauthor of a report detailing the study, in a statement.


This strikes me as highly plausible, and not just for teenagers but for people generally who indulge in high risk sports for example. In a great moment near the beginning of Grand Prix, an underappreciated classic movie from 1966 about Formula One racing, a French driver explains that it is not imagination, au contraire, that helps make a great driver, but lack of imagination: an inability to imagine what it would be like to collide with a concrete berm at 200 mph. Similarly with alpinists. Very few have given much thought that I could see to what a broken femur at 6000 meters would be like, or slowly freezing to death in the "blue room". I guess my point is a little different than the paper. In calculating expected costs, extreme risk takers not only don't appreciate the probability of the event, they also don't appreciate the magnitude of the cost, and both may come from lack of experience. I read in some military history that the US Army and Marines preferred inexperienced troops for beach landings because they didn't know what they were in for. --TS

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