I’m now reading a book called The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. It’s not a parenting book; rather a business book about creativity and innovation (and one of Amazon’s 10 Best Business Books of 2004). But one of the concepts in the book caught my attention as a parent, and I thought was worth sharing.
It’s called risk homeostasis – the notion that people have a basic “acceptable” level of risk, so if you take more risk in one area, you will compensate by decreasing risk in another. Johansson cites a few examples:
- In Munich, Germany, researchers installed antilock brake systems in half of a group of taxis, but did nothing to the other half. Then they secretly monitored them for 3 years. Logic would suggest that the group with the brake systems – which prevents wheels from locking up under extreme braking conditions – would experience fewer accidents. But no. Both groups had the same accident rate. That’s because the group with the brake systems “drove more aggressively, braked harder, accelerated faster, swerved over lanes, and took sharper corners.”
- Zebra crossings did not decrease the accident rate because they give pedestrians “a false sense of security that the motorist can, and will, stop in all cases”
- Driving without your seatbelt on would cause you to drive more carefully, and research has shown the converse to be also true – that people drive less carefully when their seatbelts are on.
- “When childproof lids on medicine bottles were introduced, it led to a significant increase in the number of child poisonings because parents became less careful about keeping the bottles away from their children.”[The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson, p167-168]
I thought it was a terrific insight, and a reminder to me (and any parent reading this) to be self-aware, and not overly dependent on external rules and aids. Knowing is half the battle 🙂