28 Jan 2009 8:37 am   //   Filed under: Labeling

Important vs. interesting

I have been thinking about the difference between stuff that’s IMPORTANT and stuff that’s INTERESTING. For some reason, our brains do not give these concepts equal weight. We feel phobic toward big spiders, yet we find nothing scary about riding in a car – even though the odds of sudden death by car accident are far greater than death by spider bite.

This may explain why, over the last decade, America invested billions in airport security and the war in Iraq, yet did very little to patch the vulnerabilities in our financial system. Both terrorism and banks are IMPORTANT. But terrorism is INTERESTING, while banks are not.

Even by sheer numbers, a thing with influence, that’s demonstrably important, is not always interesting. Consider the things we talk about compared the things that touch the greatest numbers of people.

INTERESTING: Plane crashes
IMPORTANT: Heart disease

INTERESTING: Vogue
IMPORTANT: Reader’s Digest

INTERESTING: A handgun in your nightstand
IMPORTANT: A fire extinguisher in your kitchen

INTERESTING: Media companies
IMPORTANT: Construction companies

INTERESTING: NFL football
IMPORTANT: High school sports

INTERESTING: Saturday Night Live
IMPORTANT: 60 Minutes

INTERESTING: PETA
IMPORTANT: AARP

INTERESTING: Ikea
IMPORTANT: Wal-Mart

Things that manage to be both? How about weather, schools and gas prices.