“The end of the world is nigh!” For millennia that spiel has attracted people to gloom and doom prophets. After all, what could be more attention-grabbing than a perpetual threat on the horizon? Less ambitious religious leaders limit their dire warnings to witches, curses, and demons, but the multitudes are still gripped by panic, regardless of the presence or absence of actual danger. Could it be that when our amygdalas squirt fear all over the place, we naturally trust the doomsayer? Pascal Boyer and Nora Parren think so. Their recent research suggests that, all things being equal, people are likely to judge someone relaying threat-related information as more competent than the bearer of boring news.
WARNING: The following study may disrupt your sense of well-being. Proceed with caution!
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