The psychology of security

shieldLast Friday I had the day off, spending the day doing exactly the things I like, to relax and read literature at the university library.
I found an excellent article that appeared in the Communications of the ACM [1] by Ryan West “The psychology of security”, it can be found here.
In the article, Ryan makes a very good overview on how people perceive security, and how they evaluate the cost/risk tradeoff.

He also presents  scenarios that demonstrate risk in terms of perceived loss, motivation and perceived gain, that was originally made by Twensky and Kahneman.
Scenario 1:
A) Gain $5 at no risk
B) Gain $10 if a coin toss lands heads up
It appeared that 72% prefers “A”, as it would be a sure bet.

Scenario 2:
A) Lose $5 guaranteed
B) Lose $10 if a coin toss lands heads up

When it came to losses, 64% prefers “B”, as they focused on trying to avoid loosing money. This shows that people are not rational, and makes decisions on feelings and very little information, also known as “cognitive miser”.

Looking at myself, in Scenario #1, I would choose “A” if it was $50 or above at no risk, how about you?

[1]The psychology of security; Communications of the ACM, April 2008, Vol 51, Nr.4,pp 34-40

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~ by petergullberg on March 30, 2009.

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