Which Is Worse?

Knowing that something bad will occur? Or that it might occur? Turns out, the latter is worse:

Consider an experiment by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who gave subjects a series of 20 electric shocks. Some subjects knew they would receive an intense shock on every trial. Others knew they would receive 17 mild shocks and 3 intense shocks, but they didn't know on which of the 20 trials the intense shocks would come. The results showed that subjects who thought there was a small chance of receiving an intense shock were more afraid – they sweated more profusely, their hearts beat faster – than subjects who knew for sure that they'd receive an intense shock.

Comments (2)

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  1. Ken says:

    Intuitively makes sense, but I don’t know why. What is the evolutionary survival value of theis reaction?

  2. Joe S. says:

    Ken, it means people don’t lilke uncertainty, and efforts to reduce uncertainty probably had survival value eons ago. For that matter, they may have survival value even today.