When exceptions become the norm

Can following the news leave you less informed about the world around you?

Let us explore this question with a thought experiment. Imagine that you wished to show an alien the rich diversity of animals that our planet has. You take the visitor to zoos and circuses around the world to show them dolphins that can juggle balls, bears that can ride cycles and cockatoos that can recite multiplication tables. Having witnessed these feats, how accurate would their idea be about the behaviours of these animals?

As we know, performing animals aren’t the norm in their species. They are the glaring exceptions. And guess what else is filled with glaring exceptions? The news.

By definition, anything that is news-worthy is exceptional. News channels report aircraft crashes from around the world because they are rare events. And yet, each time we fly, these scenes flash in the backs of our mind. About 25% of people in the US are nervous about flying, with 6.5% of the population suffering from aviophobia. Terrorism, accidents and disasters are anomalies in an otherwise peaceful, progressive and boring world. By covering these exceptions alone, the news distorts our world-view.

Ignorance can result in two ways – by not being aware of the world’s norms or by following the world’s exceptions on a minute-by-minute basis.

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