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Risk Homeostasis


Original Post
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460
Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585
Tradiban wrote: Read it and weep.

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1996-01-22#folio=032

Lacking a subscription, can I get the cliffs notes?

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460
Derek DeBruin wrote:

Lacking a subscription, can I get the cliffs notes?

Doh, sorry. This hits it just not as colorfully.

https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/4/2/89​​​
Keith Noback · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 640

Nice. You are going to get people responding to this who can't differentiate the effect of a psychological response to a safety measure from the direct effect of the measure itself. I'm talking about the same folks who don't wear a seat belt because they want to be "thrown clear" of an accident or think they can "brace themselves" if only they have the unrestrained freedom of movement to do so. Same lot who think Bugs Bunny knows best about elevator safety.

master gumby · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 172

Who reads the New Yorker nowadays.....?

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460
master gumby wrote: Who reads the New Yorker nowadays.....?

People who know what "climping" is.

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 35

Summary: Honnold free solos because he's an atheist.

Jason Eberhard · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 66

The TLDR is that we all have an amount of negative outcomes we'll accept for a given activity due to risk, and regardless of what safety improvements are made to decrease this risk we'll change our behaviors to be more risky to achieve the same net outcome over time (Risk Homeostasis).

In order to translate this to climbing think about how you would measure negative outcomes.  Would you evaluate total climbing injuries / deaths per capita by population, per capita by participant, per foot of rock climbed, total time spent in a climbing environment, or something else?  I think climbing deaths per capita would be the best example for applying this theory.

No matter which measure you choose there are two main factors that can affect it.  Almost every piece of climbing gear is inherently more safe today than it was in the past (I know there are exceptions due to the pressure to make things lightweight).  Ropes take more falls, have degrees of graceful degradation, smaller cams hold more weight, you can carry more of them because they weigh less, auto-locking belay devices, helmets, harnesses, rescue methods, communication, training courses, gym experience etc etc.  The other major factor is the behavior of your population.  Are more people climbing, spending more days climbing, climbing in hazardous areas, improperly trained, climbing in inherently risky ways (speed, solo, simul), or making other decisions to add risk.

Per this theory the number of deaths should stay the same per capita over time.  In the past not as many people climbed because it was thought to be so risky and deadly.  As climbing gets safer you get more participation, and more risky behavioral choices (that were previously more inherent in gear/environment) which increases the number of deaths.

Detrick Snyder · · Michigan, for now · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 140

Love this kind of stuff. Thanks Tradiban.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,084
Detrick Snyder wrote: Love this kind of stuff. Thanks Tradiban.

Say what? He's run out of troll material so he's repackaging his same old stuff out of desperation. 

Like Hollywood turning 70s tv shows into movies cuz they can't think of anything new.......it's kind of sad.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460
Jason Eberhard wrote: The TLDR is that we all have an amount of negative outcomes we'll accept for a given activity due to risk, and regardless of what safety improvements are made to decrease this risk we'll change our behaviors to be more risky to achieve the same net outcome over time (Risk Homeostasis).

In order to translate this to climbing think about how you would measure negative outcomes.  Would you evaluate total climbing injuries / deaths per capita by population, per capita by participant, per foot of rock climbed, total time spent in a climbing environment, or something else?  I think climbing deaths per capita would be the best example for applying this theory.

No matter which measure you choose there are two main factors that can affect it.  Almost every piece of climbing gear is inherently more safe today than it was in the past (I know there are exceptions due to the pressure to make things lightweight).  Ropes take more falls, have degrees of graceful degradation, smaller cams hold more weight, you can carry more of them because they weigh less, auto-locking belay devices, helmets, harnesses, rescue methods, communication, training courses, gym experience etc etc.  The other major factor is the behavior of your population.  Are more people climbing, spending more days climbing, climbing in hazardous areas, improperly trained, climbing in inherently risky ways (speed, solo, simul), or making other decisions to add risk.

Per this theory the number of deaths should stay the same per capita over time.  In the past not as many people climbed because it was thought to be so risky and deadly.  As climbing gets safer you get more participation, and more risky behavioral choices (that were previously more inherent in gear/environment) which increases the number of deaths.

Bingo. To sum it up even more, do helmet wearing climbers engage in more risky decisions while climbing?

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,084
Tradiban wrote:

Bingo. To sum it up even more, do helmet wearing climbers engage in more risky decisions while climbing?

You should have opened with that...... ;)

Jonathan Awerbuch · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 41

Conclusion: Rocky Mountain Rescue should charge exorbitantly for rescues

Jared Casper · · St. George, UT · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 10

While interesting, I would caution against applying conclusions derived from population-wide statistics to your own N=1 decision making.

Dylan Colon · · Eugene, OR · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 366

Instead of turning this towards the boring-as-hell to me argument about the behavior of people wearing helmets and seatbelts, I think there is an interesting philosopical point to make here about what drives people to climb in the first place, especially the more risky aspects of climbing like alpinism or free soloing. You occasionally hear people say things like "I'd totally be a hardcore drug addict if it weren't for climbing." Are some climbers just doomed to repeatedly take what objectively seem like stupid risks because our brains are wired in a way that predisposes those kind of choices, be them in climbing, what we eat, or interpersonal relationships? It seems morbid, but it's worth considering in my view.

I think it's patently obvious that the deaths per capita per year have been dropping like a stone in climbing, as the sport continues to grow without a concurrent rise in deaths. On the other hand, the death rate amongst people pushing the proverbial edge remains quite high, its just that modern gear allows the Ueli Stecks, Dean Potters, and Tom Ballards of the world to get away with much wilder stuff than the George Mallorys and Toni Kurzs, though I suspect the underlying psychology is more or less the same.

Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 262

The stupidest and riskiest stuff I ever did was when I was least happy at work.  I didn't realize it, but maybe the brain was calculating the expected cost (#4) of finding itself at work on Monday.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460

The important takeaway, I believe, is that we should think about human psychology while climbing especially as a relates to risk.

What are you thinking about when you're thinking about doing the next move or placing that next piece or running it out? Are you justifying the risk somehow or are you actually evaluating that risk in a realistic context?

Kelley Gilleran · · Sacramento, Ca · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 2,800

Being analytical and constantly evaluating risk has hindered my potential as a climber.

However it also may be the reason why I haven't had any severe injuries in 21 years of climbing. The flipside is it may have just prevented me from having an exciting experience where I escaped unharmed.

Dylan Colon · · Eugene, OR · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 366
Serge Smirnov wrote: The stupidest and riskiest stuff I ever did was when I was least happy at work.  I didn't realize it, but maybe the brain was calculating the expected cost (#4) of finding itself at work on Monday.

On a related note, the "post-break up free solo/risk binge" is a pretty well-documented phenomenon. Risk-taking as coping mechanism is definitely a thing, and again, as Tradiban mentions above, it's worth asking ourselves if we're doing dangerous stuff for the usual kinda unhealthy reasons or for unusually unhealthy reasons.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460

If you want an apropos example of risk homeostasis, look into the current Boeing mess.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Tradiban wrote: If you want an apropos example of risk homeostasis, look into the current Boeing mess.

It is somewhat premature to draw conclusions to what happened, but "Boeing mess" does not appear to be an example of risk homeostasis - behavior that becomes riskier due to safeguards. From snippets of reporting of both 737 crashes it appears that Boeing took liberties with integration of sensor data into flawed control software, this was exacerbated by the fact that software implementation was not disclosed to pilots, as a result pilots lacked training to deal with this particular emergency.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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