Cry Wolf: The Psychology of False Alarms

Cry Wolf: The Psychology of False Alarms

Cry Wolf: The Psychology of False Alarms

Cry Wolf: The Psychology of False Alarms

Excerpt

The story of "the shepherd who cried wolf" appears in Aesop Fables, and in some minor variations it can be found in the folklore of many different cultures. The psychological effects of false alarms have been widely recognized and even put to use. Thus, according to Liddell Hart (1962), Alexander the Great in the battle against Porus (331 B.C.) produced deliberate false alarms: "Repeated noisy marches and counter-marches of Alexander's cavalry kept Porus on tenterhooks, and then, through repetition, dulled his reaction [p. 41]."

False alarms play a major role in any warning system, whether manufactured or natural. It is thus surprising that they have not been studied systematically. This volume reports an experimental program that attempted to provide such systematic analysis of what appears to be a highly prevalent phenomenon.

With the rise of sophisticated early warning systems, false alarms are inevitably on the increase, and their psychological impact may well turn out to be the most vulnerable link of many warning systems. It is my hope that this volume provides some answers to these new challenges.

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