May 20, 2009, 9:30 pm
What You Don’t Know Makes You Nervous
By Daniel Gilbert
New York Times
...people feel worse when something bad might occur than when something bad will occur. Most of us aren’t losing sleep and sucking down Marlboros because the Dow is going to fall another thousand points, but because we don’t know whether it will fall or not — and human beings find uncertainty more painful than the things they’re uncertain about.
A colostomy reroutes the colon so that waste products leave the body through a hole in the abdomen, and it isn’t anyone’s idea of a picnic. A University of Michigan-led research team studied patients whose colostomies were permanent and patients who had a chance of someday having their colostomies reversed. Six months after their operations, patients who knew they would be permanently disabled were happier than those who thought they might someday be returned to normal...
[Maura Larkins' comment: Perhaps this is why voters frequently choose leaders who speak very assuredly of what the future holds, and what must be done about it. These voters don't want someone who says, "We have to find out what we don't know, and then figure out the best way to respond." They just want someone who says, "Do this, and then the boogeymen won't get you." I'm amazed at how voters do a 180-degree turn when their chosen leader's absolute certainty turns out to be simply wrong. I don't understand voters sudden hostility to the poor foolish man that they put into high office. He honestly believed he knew what was right. He thought God was on his side, and the voters thought that, too. It was a shared delusion. The voters should blame themselves just as much as they blame their erstwhile hero.]