An online game elucidates the ways we calculate risk.
Widespread outbreaks in 47 states. A public health emergency in New York and Boston. And yet reducing the odds of getting the flu by 62 percent doesn't seem to be enough for most people, judging by the fact that when the CDC last checked, fewer than 40 percent of Americans had gotten themselves vaccinated.
If the no-shot strategy has worked for someone before, they're more likely to try it again, according to economists at Wake Forest University, who designed an online game that simulates public response to epidemics.
Even "highly educated, very smart" people tend to have funny attitudes about something that's universally recommended and relatively low-cost, as Michael Specter pointed out in a succinctly awesome New Yorker op-ed piece, "For God's Sake, Go Get a Flu Shot":
On Friday, a highly educated, very smart colleague at The New Yorker explained her decision to remain unvaccinated with these words: "I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu."
O.K. Let's play her game. Turn to whomever you are with and say these sentences out loud: "I never wear seat belts, and I never get killed in car crashes"; "I never use condoms, and I never become infected with sexually transmitted diseases"; "I eat red meat seven times a week, only exercise once a year, and I've never had a heart attack or a stroke."