In my mind’s eye, I shoot the TV or radio Elvis Style whenever I hear the phrase “wind chill” come out of either. To understand why, first you have to understand what wind chill is all about. Here is the definition courtesy of Wikipedia:
Wind-chill or windchill, (popularly wind chill factor) is the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of air.
Did you catch the part about “exposed skin?” Unless you venture out of the house bare naked in the middle of winter, wind-chill is almost meaningless. Your nose and face may care a bit, but the other 95% of your body that is covered up couldn’t care less.
Why has this become so popular then? Consider these two weather reports:
- Rational (non-existent) weather person: It is 21 degrees at 7am this morning.
- Actual weather person: With the windchill, it’s NEGATIVE 27 out there! AHHHHH!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES FOLKS!!!!!!!!!!
Just a minor difference, eh? The people on the TV who guess at what the weather is going to be are playing on the negativity bias of our brains. What is negativity bias you ask? Back to Wikipedia again:
Negativity bias is the psychological phenomenon by which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared with positive memories. People are seen to be much more biased to the avoidance of negative experiences.
Very simply, when presented with information, we tend to focus on the worst. If you’re walking down the street and you see a guy with a delicious pie and another guy waving a knife, you’re not going to be focusing on the treat.
On an evolutionary level, it makes sense for the brain to have this disposition. It’s all about survival. Avoiding the lion on the Savannah (or Mr. Knife Psycho) is much more important than looking at a pretty flower.
However, negativity bias also weakens us by scaring us into bad decisions. It causes us to believe ridiculous conspiracy theories tossed out by AM radio talk show hosts. It makes us spend lots of money on products that we perceive will make us safer:
- Buy a gun!
- You will die if your car has less than 387 airbags and weighs less than 5000 pounds!!
- Get a home security system!!!
- You need a billion dollars worth of life insurance or your loved ones will starve when you die in a horrific knitting accident!!!!
However, this concept doesn’t just apply to the weather, avoiding a stabbing and not dying in a violent car crash. I see it pop up in the mainstream financial media as well. With the exception of when the Mr. Money Mustache breaks into the news, we’re treated to ridiculous stories all the time that play on our fears. There are no shortage of people telling us we need millions and millions to retire. I notice that lately, fear-mongers are telling us that the markets are going to drop by 50% any moment. Who cares. Think long term and everything will be OK.
What to do about it?
You have the most amazing machine right between your ears. Use it to evaluate information and make your own decisions. I never understood why people like being told what to think. I’d rather see the facts from all sides and then come to a conclusion using my very own neurons. Once you let some AM radio clown or a commercial tell you what to believe or how to live, they own you. No thanks. I’d rather think for myself. MMM himself sums it all up very well in this comment.
Avert your eyes
One other thing, it’s far to cold to go outside without a hat, much less naked. When June arrives though, watch out neighbors! Put on your sunglasses so you’re not blinded by my bright white torso! In the meantime, make sure you tell the Weatherfool what he can do with his wind chill.
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