Humans are terrified of sharks. Many beachgoers are afraid to swim in the ocean because they are worried a shark might be nearby. Statistically, however, shark attacks rarely occur. One in 3.7 million people die of a shark attack, according to the International Shark Attack File of the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History. A human is at a much higher risk of dying of heart disease, of cancer, or in a car accident than of being the victim of a shark attack. Even less common things, like balloons, beds, and sand, are more detrimental to a human’s safety than are sharks.
During this recent surge of “taking selfies,” it has been proven that a human is at a greater risk of dying while taking a selfie than while swimming in shark-infested water. There have been dozens of deaths related to tourists taking selfies, according to Condé Nast research, versus only eight shark attacks occurring in the same year. In 2014, a couple visiting Portugal fell off a cliff while taking a selfie to send to their family. Unrelated to tourism, people risk their lives every day as they take selfies at times and in places that cause them to be distracted from something they should be firmly focused on, such as driving an automobile. As humans clearly pose a greater risk to themselves than sharks pose to humans, what explains people’s continuous fear of the “deadly” shark?
Studies show that it is not about the shark attack itself or the likelihood of encountering a shark that make people afraid, but more about the consequences of it. How unfortunate is it to be attacked by a shark when the odds are so low? Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University in California, reported that people living in Florida, where shark attacks are more likely, are less afraid of sharks than people living in Maine, where shark attacks almost never occur. Clearly, the more familiar a person is with the low risk of an incident occurring, the less likely that individual is to fear the event.
The bottom line is sharks have much more to fear from humans than humans do from sharks.
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