Following up on a recent post I wrote about air turbulence, let me note that pilots who conduct fear-of-flying courses are fond of saying “knowledge is power”. Most insist that if passengers understand how safe flying is, they will not be afraid. It’s not that simple, however. Intellectual understanding does not translate directly into emotional security.

Knowledge that a plane is safe in turbulence does not prevent an automatic emotional reaction. Regardless of what a person knows, stress hormones are released each time the plane drops, building up and produce an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, and tension in the body. These physical sensations – sensations strongly associated with danger – make it difficult to maintain a sense that the plane is safe.

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