Thinking Economics

Thinking Economics

Most human behaviour can be viewed through an economic lens to identify trends, patterns, biases and misconceptions. This column assesses Nigerian behaviour by applying Economics to behaviour and behaviour to Economics.

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EFCC and How Information can Backfire

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba is a data analyst & the co-founder of Akanka - a global design firm.

You are supposed to catch a flight tomorrow. You receive terrible news of a plane crash. Do you go ahead and book your ticket or do you decide that spending 6 hours travelling on Nigerian interstate roads isn't such a big deal after all?

If out of self-preservation, you decided to take the bus instead of the plane due to the terrible news, you acted as many did following the 2012 Dana Air crash. Immediately after the crash, many travellers switched from air travel to road travel. With the Dana crash looming large in their minds, they travelled by roads despite the fact that road travel – especially in Nigeria – is fraught with risks and offers a higher probability of fatal accidents due to bad roads, bad drivers, and bad vehicles. But after significant events like plane crashes, people always switch to riskier road travel. This behaviour isn't restricted to Nigerians either; Americans acted similarly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.  

What makes people act contrary to their own safety interests? We all fall victim to saliency bias. Dramatic events like bombings, plane crashes, or natural disasters stick in our heads longer than others, affecting the way we judge events. Similarly, such events are easier to recall, making it more likely they will be used when we form our opinions. This tendency to give significance to dramatic events can have consequences that affect economic and policy decisions. 

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