People tend not to think that bad things will happen to them. This psychological proclivity towards optimism—logically termed “optimism bias”—is in many ways a beneficial feature of the human psyche, as most live better lives when they’re not constantly obsessing over the possibility of some calamity befalling them.
However, the optimism bias also has its disadvantages, as it may discourage people from preparing for emergencies. This was the case during Hurricane Sandy, during which 77 percent of New Yorkers reported that inland flooding was much higher than they expected. In New York City alone, the storm damaged 90,000 buildings, created $19 billion in damage,and killed nearly 50 people.
Chris Bousquet, a Research Assistant and Writer with Harvard’s Ash Center, explores how data sharing can influence human action through the Beyond Floods CARTO platform.