Wharton Digital Press Logo

This website does not support versions of Internet Explorer below version 9. Please try updating your version of Internet Explorer or using another browser. Thank You.

The Ostrich Paradox Cover Image Buy Now
Starting at $6.99 per book
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInGoogle+

The Ostrich Paradox

Why We Underprepare for Disasters

Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther

“The Ostrich Paradox boldly addresses a key question of our time: Why are we humans so poor at dealing with disastrous risks, and what can we humans do about it? It is a must-read for everyone who cares about risk.”
—Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

We fail to evacuate when advised. We rebuild in flood zones. We don’t wear helmets. We fail to purchase insurance. We would rather avoid the risk of “crying wolf” than sound an alarm.

Our ability to foresee and protect against natural catastrophes has never been greater; yet, we consistently fail to heed the warnings and protect ourselves and our communities, with devastating consequences. What explains this contradiction?

In The Ostrich Paradox, Wharton professors Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther draw on years of teaching and research to explain why disaster preparedness efforts consistently fall short. Filled with heartbreaking stories of loss and resilience, the book addresses:

  • How people make decisions when confronted with high-consequence, low-probability events—and how these decisions can go awry
  • The 6 biases that lead individuals, communities, and institutions to make grave errors that cost lives
  • The Behavioral Risk Audit, a systematic approach for improving preparedness by recognizing these biases and designing strategies that anticipate them
  • Why, if we are to be better prepared for disasters, we need to learn to be more like ostriches, not less

Fast-reading and critically important, The Ostrich Paradox is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why we consistently underprepare for disasters, as well as private and public leaders, planners, and policy-makers who want to build more prepared communities.

Featured Author Image

About the Authors

Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer, Frederick H. Ecker/MetLife Insurance Professor of Marketing and codirector, Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in a wide variety of professional journals and books, including the Journal of Consumer Research; Journal of Marketing Research; Journal of Risk and Uncertainty; Marketing ScienceManagement Science; and Risk Analysis. ... More

Howard Kunreuther

Howard Kunreuther, James G. Dinan Professor of Decision Sciences and Public Policy and codirector, Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His recent books include At War with the Weather (with Erwann Michel-Kerjan), winner of the Kulp-Wright Book Award from the American Risk and Insurance Association in 2011; Insurance and Behavioral Economics: Improving Decisions in the Most Misunderstood Industry (with Mark Pauly and Stacey McMorrow); and Leader ... More

Praise

The Ostrich Paradox boldly addresses a key question of our time: Why are we humans so poor at dealing with disastrous risks, and what can we humans do about it?  It is a must-read for everyone who cares about risk.”

—Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

“At a time when we face looming short- and long-term risks as varied as terrorism, cyberattacks, and climate change, this timely book diagnoses the innate psychological barriers to effective disaster planning and mitigation. Drawing on a variety of historical lessons and integrating insights into psychology, the authors prescribe practical approaches to disaster preparation. The Ostrich Paradox is a must-read, whether you are protecting the nation or your own family.”

Michael Chertoff, Former United States Secretary of Homeland Security

The Ostrich Paradox is an essential, sobering read for anyone interested in assessing and responding to tomorrow’s hazards today. Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther don’t just help us understand why we don’t prepare for disasters as we should, they also show us how to alter those behaviors and improve preparedness.”

Alan Schnitzer, Chief Executive Officer, The Travelers Companies, Inc.

“Good things typically come in threes. In The Ostrich Paradox, however, Meyer and Kunreuther skillfully distill a large body of recent psychological insights on the barriers to action in the face of potential peril into four steps of a behavioral risk audit and into four guiding principles to ensure preventive action.”

Elke U. Weber, Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

More

Related books

The Ostrich Paradox Cover ImageThe Ostrich Paradox Cover ImageThe Ostrich Paradox Cover ImageThe Ostrich Paradox Cover Image

In the Media

Media Teaser Image
September 14, 2017  |  The Daily Pennsylvanian
After Harvey and Irma, Penn professors explain how cities can better prepare for natural disasters
Media Teaser Image
September 12, 2017  |  University of Pennsylvania News
Penn Experts Offer Advice Following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma
Media Teaser Image
September 6, 2017  |  Knowledge@Wharton
Lessons from Hurricane Harvey
Media Teaser Image
August 28, 2017  |  Huffington Post
How the Insurance Industry Can Push Us to Prepare for Climate Change
Media Teaser Image
August 25, 2017  |  Scientific American
Trump Faces First Big Disaster Test
Media Teaser Image
July 13, 2017  |  South Florida Sun Sentinel
Buying Insurance Guards Floridians Against Risk of Regret
Media Teaser Image
June 7, 2017  |  Psychology Today
Why Disasters Repeat Themselves
Media Teaser Image
May 23, 2017  |  KQED News
This Scientist’s Doomsday Earthquake Scenarios Will Terrify You, and That’s the Point
Media Teaser Image
May 1, 2017  |  Recovery Diva
Book Review: The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters
Media Teaser Image
April 24, 2017  |  Wharton Magazine
Why You’re Not Prepared For Disasters (And What To Do About It)
Media Teaser Image
April 6, 2017  |  Psychology Today
Rising Seas: 4 Steps We Must Take Today
Media Teaser Image
March 30, 2017  |  Risk Assistance Network + Exchange
An Inconvenient Contradiction: Why We Underprepare for Disasters
Media Teaser Image
March 10, 2017  |  Greater Good Science Center
Why Don’t We Prepare Enough for Disasters?
Media Teaser Image
February 20, 2017  |  Wisconsin Public Radio
Why We Underprepare For Disasters, And What We Can Do About It
Media Teaser Image
February 13, 2017  |  Insurance Thought Leadership
6 Reasons We Aren’t Prepared for Disasters
Media Teaser Image
February 12, 2017  |  Salon
Why Disasters Repeat Themselves
Media Teaser Image
February 9, 2017  |  New Orleans Public Radio
Why Aren't Humans Better Prepared For Natural Disasters?
Media Teaser Image
February 9, 2017  |  Psychology Today
Why We Are Underprepared for Disasters
Media Teaser Image
February 8, 2017  |  New Consciousness Review
THE OSTRICH PARADOX: Why We Underprepare for Disasters
Media Teaser Image
February 2, 2017  |  NY Post
You’re Wildly Unprepared For a Natural Disaster
Media Teaser Image
February 2, 2017  |  MarketWatch
What You’re Doing Wrong to Prepare for Natural Disasters
Media Teaser Image
November 21, 2016
Risk Management Review