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It's a jungle out there, as the saying goes, and there are those who aim to do us harm. Have you had feelings that something is not quite right, had niggling doubts or red flags about certain people and situations? Each of us were endowed with gut feelings that we can either ignore to our peril or use to our advantage.

On this episode of the Health and Wellness Show we discussed the difference between true fear and everyday worry and anxiety, learning to spot danger signals that women, in particular, and society, in general, have been taught to ignore. How can we cultivate our sense of intuition to keep us safe and avoid becoming victims to the predators out there? Join us as we share eye-opening stories about how the gift of fear can save your life.

Have you ever wondered if your pet can understand you? Stick around for Zoya's Pet Health Segment to find out!

Running Time: 01:42:12

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome to the Health & Wellness Show everybody. Today is Friday, September 9, 2016. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today. Joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Doug, Erica and Tiffany. Hey guys.

All: Hellos.

Jonathan: So today our show is The Gift of Fear - Gut Feelings, Intuition and Situational Awareness. It is a jungle out there as the saying goes, and there are those who aim to do us harm. So we're going to talk about the feelings that you may have had that something is not quite right, the little doubts and red flags about certain people and situations. We are endowed with gut feelings that we can either ignore to our peril or use to our advantage. So we're going to be talking about that. We'll discuss the difference between true fear and everyday worry and anxiety, learning to spot danger signals that women in particular and society in general have been taught to ignore. How can we cultivate our sense of intuition to keep us safe and avoid becoming victims of the predators that are out there?

So it should be a pretty interesting topic and we are focusing largely today on a book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Gavin de Becker is a pretty interesting character. He is the designer of the Mosaic Threat Assessment Systems which have been used to screen threats to the justices of the supreme court, members of the Congress, senior officials of the CIA even. Along with the United States Marshal Service he co-designed the Mosaic Threat Assessment Systems which are currently used for assessing all threats to federal judges and prosecutors. He has been on the President's Advisory Board of the United States Department of Justice.

So he's got a lot of really interesting experience in assessing threats and determining dangerous situations, how to suss them out and how to read the situation and see what is dangerous and what is not. Of course he's been all over the place in media, Oprah Winfrey, 60 Minutes, Larry King, all of that. Unfortunately we don't have Mr. de Becker on as a guest today - that would be pretty wild - but we are going to be discussing his book and topics around that. So we have some clips from interviews and from a lecture that he did that we're going to play today. So we're just going to start with one of those that was pretty interesting about a mother/daughter movie night. So why don't we start with that clip and then we'll discuss afterwards.

GdB: I want to tell you a fast story that's not in a book you would have read, involving a woman I interviewed named Kate. She and her daughter used to go to movies with a group of other mothers every week. They would go usually at dusk, so that by the time they came out of the theatre it was dark and they'd go in vans or cars together. But on this particular movie which was Jurassic Park, the mother took her daughter to see the film and she parked far away from the theatre because she had some shopping to do. She took stuff back to her car and then she walked over to the theatre.

And in line at the theatre she was with all of her friends and with all of their daughters and there was a man behind her who for no reason that she could explain to you or me made her uncomfortable. He was wearing a T-shirt and the T-shirt said 'afraid of the dark' on it. and he was wearing gym pants and something about him gave her the creeps. Sure enough as they were standing in line he spoke to her and he said - looking at all of the women and all of their daughters - "Ladies' night out?" and she said "Uh-huh." She didn't want to engage with him.

That's the end of the story in terms of everything that she had to react to involving that man. They then saw the movie, Jurassic Park, about ancient predators and they came out of the movie and one of the friends said to the mother "Do you want a ride to your car?" and she said "No, no, we're fine. We'll walk."

And the moment she said that and saw the other mothers leave she was upset. She realized she'd made a mistake and she was thinking about that man. He wasn't even in the theatre anymore but that was on her mind as she and her daughter walked back the two blocks to her car. And so they walked down the street and she could not shake the feeling of that guy in line.

Now we don't know today whether she saw him again out of the corner of her eye. We don't know what it is that pushed the intuitive button in her but she began to walk faster and faster and her daughter who was eight years old said "Is it a race?" And she said "Yes!" and thought this will be a good idea, we'll run. And just as she began to run she turned around and sure enough that man was following them, the man with the T-shirt that said 'afraid of the dark'.

She realized as they were running they would not be able to outrun him and she would have to get to the car and act very quickly and she made the decision that she would get to the car, she would unlock the car on her daughter's side, put her daughter in and then walk around to the other side and she did all of that. She unlocked the car and she walked around to the other side but before she got into the car the man was already upon her.

So she got herself into the seat of the car and she just watched. She said to me later 'I could see that my legs were kicking so much that he wouldn't be able to get hold of me.' Basically he had a position of disadvantage. And she said 'I thought to myself car key, car key, car key. She said 'The next thing I realized, I kind of came back to consciousness in the car because the car door was slamming and all the things that I'd told myself to do, start the car, drive away fast, I had done them.' And she said 'When I thought about the car key I thought well I could put this in his eye. I could stick him in the eye with this key and that would settle this problem very quickly.' And she said 'That was when I realized I had already done it.'

She had already stuck him in the eye with the car key. He was already sitting on the curb doing what men do when you stick them in the eye with a car key and she had already driven away and the car door had already slammed. All of these things had happened without her conscious participation. The only part that was conscious to her was the impulse that she got that said 'car key'.

And she said that she felt terrible and wouldn't want to blind somebody and she said 'At least I could have stuck him in both eyes. At least I didn't do that.' Turns out she had stuck him in both eyes and didn't even know it. The next thing she heard was her daughter saying 'Mom, you didn't put your seatbelt on.'

So her daughter was pretty much insulated from the drama of the experience and she said to me later on that it was a terrible thing to do. 'I felt like it was natural, that I was part of nature.' And I said 'Well sure. He did something very stupid. He attacked a woman who was with her young daughter. What do we all know about animals? You can walk past the elephants but not if the calf is nearby or you can agitate the bear a little bit but you sure can't agitate the mother bear who's with her cubs.'

So he did basically a dumb thing and had the consequence for it. Later she explained to me that she knew that he didn't have a gun. I said 'Why did you know that?' And she said 'Because he was wearing a tight shirt, because he was wearing gym pants that wouldn't be strong enough at the belt to provide a gun and because of what he did. If he had a gun he might have just pointed a gun at me to get into the car or to get access to me but he didn't do any of that. He did this other full style attack that didn't work well for him.'

So whether she's right or wrong about whether he had a gun, whether she's right or wrong about any of her assessments that come now after the fact, all of the work was done by intuition in an instant. What I really hope you're left with today is that that resource is absolutely brilliant and it's our nuclear defence system if we listen to it.

Tiffany: That's a good example.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Tiffany: So we all have intuition. I guess we're all born with the ability to listen to our gut feelings. Some of us listen to our gut feelings more than others. Some of us deny our gut feelings or try to rationalize away certain dangerous situations or feelings that we have about people. We might not know exactly what is wrong with someone but it's something that we can't quite put our fingers on, but I think that most of us have felt that at some point in our lives and whether we listen to it or not is the interesting part.

Erica: Yeah, what's interesting in his book is that he gives a good definition of intuition because a lot of us kind of know what it is but we may not know that the root word of intuition is inter which means to guard or protect against. So it's knowing something without knowing why and he uses a good analogy of journeying from A to Z without stopping at all the letters along the way, coming to a conclusion quickly without taking the time to assess what's going on. So the mom intuitively knew, probably before the movie even start, it started to kick in.

Tiffany: Yeah, like right when she saw the guy standing in line. Einstein had another definition too. He said intuition is a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something. There's just a feeling.

Doug: I found it really interesting that he said in the book that everybody has this, because I've always considered myself to be not very intuitive. I had always thought it was a kind of innate ability that some people had, some people didn't. But he says that everybody has this, it's just that, like you were saying Tiff, our denial gets in the way. So we have these intuitions, these moments where we know something and we don't know why we know it and maybe it's because of that and we're taught to be more logical in our thought processes, that we don't accept it. We brush it aside and go "No, no, no. That's not logical. That doesn't make any sense."

So for me anyway, it offers almost an inroad to exploring intuition, the idea that "No, wait I do have it. I just am obviously overriding it too much." So I thought that was really interesting.

Erica: And he talks about how logic is faulty and slow to accept reality and you're burdened by judgment and that when you try and use logic you spend valuable time thinking about could, should, would, maybe and in nature animals don't do that. They don't spend any time on that.

Jonathan: The thing I struggle with, with this is the make nice program. I have that pretty bad, if anybody else struggles with that where you just want to be nice. You just want everything to be cool. The problem of course is where I will get into that logic loop thinking somebody might be dangerous with "Well I'm judging them. I shouldn't judge this person. I shouldn't come to conclusions about them without knowing". It certainly is not black and white. That makes sense in some situations but in situations where danger could be afoot you don't want to get sucked into that and that can certainly block the intuitive feeling.

I was driving with my girlfriend and there was a guy who was hitchhiking. He was wearing all black and he had a ratty backpack on and he looked kind of scruffy. Where I live we don't really have any homeless people because it's too cold here, so he wasn't necessarily a homeless guy. He was just a hitchhiker and I was like "Hey, we should pick this guy up". And she was like "Nope! That guy's a creep. Keep driving." And we got into a little thing where it was like "You just totally judged that guy. Why are you being a dick". {laughter} But she's not. She's a very nice person so I think that maybe that was that intuitive feeling where I got into the logic loop and she said "No, we're not picking that guy up." And who knows, had we picked him up, maybe he would have been violent. I have no idea. But I think that in those situations it's better to err on the side of your gut feeling.

Doug: Yeah, but we're so discouraged from doing that. It's just like you're talking about Jonathan. There is a stigma of "Don't prejudge anybody. Don't just a book by its cover. You have to give everybody the opportunity. Your first impression isn't necessarily the right one and there are all kinds of flaws that can come in." I know that Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink was very popular for a while there and a lot of people were putting more credence on what he called their first blink of a situation, the very first information that comes to you, not through logic or anything else, it's just there. You have this feeling or intuition or whatever you want to call it.

I think our society would be done a great service by giving more credence to that and not this idea of having to allow more information to come in first. But it's not necessarily right. Your first intuition isn't necessarily going to be the right one but to at least take it onboard.

Tiffany: And just think to yourself "Well this warrants further observation." Gavin de Becker says that intuition is always right; it's your interpretation which may be wrong. All of us have doubts, hunches, suspicions, curiosity about things, nagging thoughts. You might hesitate a little bit and you really need to pay attention to that kind of thing. It doesn't mean that every person you come across and you think twice about is going to turn out to be some crazed, mad killer or anything, but you should still pay attention and just take it onboard and say "I need to keep my guard up, observe this person and see."

I think that the predators out there in the world know that there are normal people out there that they prey on. There are predators and prey and they take advantage of that. They know that people don't want to pass judgment and people want to be nice so they don't want to come off as rude or judgmental and they take advantage of that. So they know, so we should know.

Erica: He was saying too that niceness is actually a strategy and not a human trait like being tall or having brown hair, blue eyes or whatever. So I thought that was interesting.

Tiffany: Yeah, it's just a social convention. It doesn't mean anything regarding your personality. It's something you can turn on and turn off very easily.

Doug: But it sucks people in. It's one of those things that can override that gut feeling. You have this gut feeling of somebody even though they're being very nice and your logic says "No, no, they're being very nice. They're just trying to be helpful."

Tiffany: "Look, they're smiling! They can't be out to harm me."

Doug: Yeah. One of our chatters actually said what was found in Blink was that those who had a correct blink about something were those who had a good knowledge base about the subject before being blinked. So that's very interesting too. All this intuition may be dependent upon past experience, past knowledge, things you already know about a situation. Gavin de Becker talks about how sometimes knowledge can actually get in the way and if a person is very familiar with a situation they might not be expecting the unexpected. They might be stuck in routine and won't necessarily notice new information when it's coming in. But nonetheless I think that your intuition is probably informed just through your life experience and what knowledge you have.

Jonathan: Totally. Have you guys had any experiences that were similar to that story? I can't say I've ever been in a fight for my life like that story that Gavin de Becker told that was pretty terrifying. Have you guys ever had anything like that where you realized afterwards what you did?

Tiffany: Yeah, I think I have and I may or may not have told this story before. I was nine years old and there was an old abandoned brick grocery store on the corner of my block and I was on my bike and I was just leaning up against the bike thinking kid thoughts or whatever and out of the corner of my eye I could see a car approaching me very slowly with the door open and there were these men in there. And immediately without thinking - the car didn't even get up to where it was beside me - I just jumped off my bike and just ran. I don't know why I chose not to just peddle off on my bike. Maybe I thought it would take too long but my immediate action was to just take off running and I ran a few houses down, ran back behind the house and felt myself freaking out, my legs got all wobbly, my heart was racing.

It was absolute fear because part of me knew "Why is this car pulling up on me so slow and not making any noise? Why are these men in the car? Why is the door open when the car is moving?" I don't know what would have happened and it probably would not have been anything for my benefit, that's for sure, but by the time I calmed down and came out and peaked around, nobody was out there so I just went to my house. But that was probably one of the first times I remember having that extreme fear response.

Erica: Like an instinct too, being young, so it's part of your survival makeup.

Doug: I can't say I've ever had an experience like that. I think it's probably unfortunately more common for women to run into issues like this, just the nature of our society. But I can't remember having any kind of situation where something else just took over, where I was in escape mode or fight mode or anything like that.

Jonathan: The closest feeling I had to that - and this might be kind of silly - was when I was a kid, the house I grew up in had kind of a scary basement. It wasn't dirty or anything it was just scary for some reason. I had a piece of plywood on the wall and I would shoot hockey pucks at it because I played hockey when I was a kid. So I would be down there doing that and all of a sudden I'd get this feeling like hair standing on end and I would run up the stairs and turn the light off when I got to the top of the stairs. It was a regular thing. Sometimes I'd be walking up the stairs and all of a sudden I'd get this feeling and I would just run up to the top of the stairs. So that's what I associate that feeling of fears with - basements I guess.

Tiffany: Well actually I have another one I just thought of. Maybe I was 11 or 12 or something. We had a school right across from our house and I was over there in the field - I don't know what I was doing - and these two boys around my age came up to me and started talking. I can't remember at this point what they said but one of them started attacking me and hitting me and I fought both of them off. I remember I flipped one of the boys over my back and I just took off running back to my house. I was like "Why would they do that to me?!" That's what I was thinking the whole day after that. "Why did they do that?" And then secondly I thought "Wow! I can't believe you beat those boys up!" {laughter}

Doug: That's an awesome story.

Tiffany: But the thing you said Doug, about the nature of our society, if you think about it, women have been victimized since the beginning of time, raped, murdered. It's like we're the perpetual victims. I don't know if that whole thing about women's intuition is some kind of genetic memory passed down through women, but it seems like women have stronger hunches about things, but considering what women have to go through. I had this guy make fun of me because I left the light on in the house if I knew I was going to be coming home after dark, or I left the front porch light on. "Why do you leave that on? You're just wasting electricity!" And I was like "You have no idea the danger that women can be in, in this society. We've been haunted and stalked and killed and raped and domestic violence throughout time." I don't think men really get a lot of times what women have to go through and what they have to be afraid of a lot of the times that men don't even think about.

Doug: I think that's very true.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Doug: Yeah.

Jonathan: I would definitely agree with that.

Tiffany: Well Gavin de Becker had a really good story at the beginning of the book The Gift of Fear, about this woman named Kelly. She was walking back home from the grocery store with grocery bags in her hand and she went up to her building and I think she just went right in, thinking to herself "Damn it. People left the door unlocked." And when she went in there she saw that there was a guy there and he didn't live there. So that was the first intuition she knew that something was wrong.

So she started going up the steps and I think she dropped one of the bags and the can of cat food rolled down the steps and she heard the guy say "Oh, I got it." And he said "I'll bring it up." Right away she was thinking "Who is this guy?" And then she said "No, I got it. That's okay" and he said "No, that's okay. We've got a hungry cat up there. We've gotta feed him." So he came up and he was trying to get the bags from her and she was saying "No, no, I'm okay. I got it" and he kept insisting.

And so he actually got into her apartment with her and he ended up raping her. She was in the bed and he got up and he said "I'm going to get something to drink and I'll leave you alone. I promise." And then he closed the window and right at that moment she said she experienced what was true fear and everything just became clear to her. So as he walked out of the bedroom and went to the kitchen she got up and followed right behind him, wrapped a sheet around her, followed right behind him, didn't say anything, didn't make any noise, and he went off into the kitchen. She walked right out her front door and walked across the hall and she knew that her neighbour's door would be unlocked and she just went in there and told them to be quiet and that's how it ended.

But she said she knew that this guy was going to come back and kill her because she could hear him rifling around in the kitchen drawers and she suspected that he was looking for a knife.

Erica: And it turns out later he had done the same thing.

Tiffany: Yeah, he had killed other women.

Erica: Raped and then killed them afterwards. That's how he starts the book and it really is shocking because, especially as a woman, you can sense how all logic was thrown out the window and she just got up and walked out and that's what saved her life.

Tiffany: But the thing is that when she went back and recalled the story she noticed all these red flags that she didn't act on right from the beginning.

Erica: What was some of the terminology that he used? This was especially in particular with women; the fact that when women say no it needs to be a complete sentence, but for men it comes as an opportunity for conversation. A lot of what his book talks about is that he wants women in particular to know that the niceness program is not to your benefit and that no is all you need to say and that we need to teach boys that too.

Tiffany: Because it seems like a woman is expected to respond to any kind of communication from a man. Like if she's just walking down the street and some guy starts talking to her, it's expected that she's going to engage in conversation with him. And if you don't then you're perceived as this cold, hard bitch.

Doug: And that's okay, really.

Erica: One of the terms was "forced teaming". That was "We've got a hungry cat", so he puts it that they're on this personal basis already. So all these little signs that she read right away when she kept saying "no, no" and he wasn't taking no for an answer.

Tiffany: Yeah, with the forced teaming they use the word "we". They try and make it seem like you're in the same boat or on the same team and it's a way for them to establish rapport with them but you should always be thinking "Why is this person trying to get on my good side? What do they want to know from me?"

Erica: Or too many details. People who want to deceive you will also use the simple technique that has a simple name 'too many details'. So the man started to talk about his cat and how it was left at a friend's apartment and fed. Too much information.

Tiffany: And she didn't ask for it and it's unnecessary and it's not relevant to the situation. When people use that technique they're really just trying to distract you so you can't pick out what is really going on in that situation and that is that a stranger is trying to make moves on you.

Doug: It was interesting that he said that somebody who is lying tends to divulge too much information because they know that they're lying so they try and talk around the lie whereas the person they're talking to doesn't necessarily know that they're lying but that's actually a red flag, giving away too many details.

Jonathan: Those are some of what he calls PINs - pre-incident indicators, so the forced teaming is one, too many details, charm and niceness.

Tiffany: Yeah, that was a good one about charm.

Jonathan: Type-casting. So insults used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore that person to engage in some kind of conversation, for example "I bet you're too stuck up to talk to a guy like me".

Tiffany: I've heard that one a lot! {laughter}

Doug: It puts the onus on the person. "Wait a minute, I'm not stuck up therefore I am going to talk to you. I'll show you!" It's a very easy way of forcing black and white thinking. In that particular case the guy used it when he was trying to take the bag from her, to help her with the bag. He said "There is such a thing as being too proud you know." And then she ended up letting go of the bag. He's basically labelling what she's doing as being too proud and she had to prove otherwise. So it's an automatic behaviour that can be triggered.

Jonathan: Some of these other ones are loan sharking - giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating that they'll feel obliged to reciprocate somehow.

Tiffany: Yeah, like if she let him help her with her bags then she would feel bad about refusing another request of his because he did that for her.

Erica: Being in debt to him.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Jonathan: And then there was the unsolicited promise too, I think from that story at the beginning of the book, a promise to do or not do something when no such promise has been asked for. So "I promise I won't hurt you" or "I promise I'll leave you alone" usually means the opposite in that kind of situation.

Tiffany: Yeah and you should be thinking to yourself "Why is this person trying to convince me of something?" And the answer is because he can see that you're not convinced so that's why he's doing it. So why is he trying to convince you to do anything?

Doug: Yeah, exactly. One of the interesting things about that story was that when Gavin de Becker was interviewing her afterwards she said that when the guy got up from the bed she said "I knew he was going to kill me". And he asked "Well how did you know he was going to kill you?" And she said "I don't know." Then she thought for a second and she said "Because he closed the window." He had already finished so there was no reason for him to close the window except that he didn't want noise to escape and alert people that there was some kind of struggle going on. So that was what tipped off her intuition that she knew she had to get out of there right away. But she wasn't conscious of it.

Tiffany: And the thing is, like he said, the first three - too many details, typecasting, loan sharking - some guys who aren't very well versed in dating or interacting with women might employ those kinds of things just to get a woman to talk with them and maybe get a date. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're a predator. But you should always keep those things in mind, even if somebody does that to you. Just make sure you make note of it and you might not want to go out with that person just because they're just stupid. {laughter}

But it doesn't necessarily mean they're always out to kill you. But the most important one of these PINs is discounting the word "no". He said this is probably the biggest one that you should pay attention to. Like we said before, "no" should never be negotiable. It should be a complete sentence and the person who doesn't hear you say no are trying to control you. It's different if you're in a store for example and somebody says "Hey, do you want some help? Do you want to buy this and do you want to look at this thing?" and they don't listen to you say no. But in interpersonal interactions with somebody, if somebody doesn't listen to you when you say no, you immediately have to think that this person is trying to control me. And it's creepy.

Jonathan: Well this might be a good time to go to another of our clips from Gavin de Becker about why he wrote the book The Gift of Fear. It's kind of interesting background.

Interviewer: What would you have our society do about all the others who haven't come to the conclusion you've come to?

GdB: Well in the most personal sense, the most contribution I've been able to make is to write a book that says "Here's what risk really looks like. You do need this information. There are risks in the world. There are people who act out violently. What does it look like? Here's what predatory crime really looks like." If I could give a single gift to American women it would be to lift from them the idea that they are required to be polite, that they are required to engage in conversations with strangers, that someone who offers them help is a good person or a nice man. I talk a lot in the book about the words nice and charming.

Charm is a verb. It's not an adjective. A person doesn't have charm. They use charm to compel by allure. So a single gift that I could give and that I try to, is to teach young women - I would have a high school class, to answer your question very directly - that teaches young men to hear the word "no" and teaches young women that it's alright to speak it explicitly.

When you and I say "no", it's the end of a discussion. When a woman says "no", it's the beginning of a negotiation. I say "Would you like to go out with me?" "No I'd really rather not." "Oh come on. How about just lunch?" And it's a discussion. We can work on that a great deal so that women wouldn't find themselves denying true hesitation signals and fear signals.

Look at this fact. A woman gets into an elevator late at night. Elevator arrives, door opens up. There's a guy inside she's afraid of. For 100 political reasons she says "I feel fear of this guy but I don't want to be that kind of person and just because he's not dressed well and I don't want to let the door close in his face." So she gets into a steel, sound-proofed chamber with someone she's afraid of. There isn't an animal in nature that would even consider that, even have that thought process. And women in America do it because of this culture that says "You're really not allowed to rebuff explicitly. You're not allowed to be rude. The cost of rude might be death. You might be killed for that because you don't want to make a man angry because if you're angry he may kill you."

That's the thing I would change most of all. The high school classroom is the practical answer that I'm talking about. And the concepts in the book is my small way of contributing to all of that and to reduce unwarranted fear.

Interviewer: Would you do anything about the media that increase unwarranted fear in you estimation?

GdB: I believe it's really the market. If we're going to watch this stuff, I think it's the consumer - which is why I don't think it's a small thing that I've stopped watching the local news - it's the consumer that controls all of this. There was an illusion that news was a public service. Television news is a business. Period. It's not any different than selling toothpaste or in fact it's tied to selling toothpaste. But I grew up believing that it was good, decent people making a contribution to keep us informed. And maybe it was, I don't know. But now, it's a whole different animal.

So what I would do about it, I don't think there's anything to do except turn it off. I don't think there's anything to do except exercise the power of the marketplace.

Jonathan: So that was pretty interesting and certainly a good impulse on his part to share this information with the world. I took an Aikido class a couple of years back and that was one of the main focuses of the class - women's defence. Our teacher was very conscious about that and we always had a segment of the class that was about real life situations; if a guy puts his hand on you in a bar or something, what can you do and how can you assert your independence and a physical affirmation of the "no". It's unfortunate that that even has to be a thing, but it does.

Erica: Maybe we should talk a little bit about what he says about true fear versus unwarranted fear and anxiety or worry.

Jonathan: Should we intro by playing that clip about the definition of fear?

Tiffany: Sure.

Interviewer: In his intriguing new book my guest refers to the famous line from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inaugural address - "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But I would first ask Gavin de Becker whether what FDR said further doesn't best illumine his and the President's thesis. As Roosevelt said "So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Isn't that addition more of what you're saying Mr. de Becker?

GdB: Absolutely! That is absolutely correct. In fact I amend his quote slightly to say that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself when there is a reason for fear. I'm asked all the time "what should we be afraid of?" and I say "It's not a choice, what you're afraid of. It's not a decision you make. True fear comes in here and takes over this animal and it causes all these physical responses. Our vision becomes more focused. Lactic acid pumped into the muscles. A chemical called cortisol is released into the bloodstream which prepares you for fighting because it causes blood to coagulate if you're cut. All these extraordinary things happen with true fear."

That other thing, that unwarranted fear, the voluntary fear like worrying, that's what Roosevelt's really talking about and I agree with him 100%. That fear will kill more Americans this year than violence will.

Interviewer: How?

GdB: Heart disease, stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, depression, suicide, defensive acts of violence when there wasn't a need for them. The fear that we get in this culture, that really centres this culture, I would say the overwhelming majority of it is unwarranted.

Interviewer: Unwarranted?

GdB: Right. No cause for it.

Interviewer: Do you think that you book The Gift of Fear in any way heads to that unwarranted fear in the public at large?

GdB: Well not for readers. Certainly when people pass it in the book store it has the big word "fear" on there - of course "gift" is this big and "fear" is this big - but people who read it come away with much less fear. If the 100s of letters and all the responses that I've gotten are any indication, people feel informed about what risk really looks like so that it's not this monster, faceless as Roosevelt said. It's not this demon that we imagine, but it's the real thing. What is it really?

So I certainly hope it doesn't contribute because the message of the book is "Here's where fear has a role. Here's where it's a gift and here's where it's a curse and here's how to tell the difference" which is the real key issue.

Interviewer: Well if a little paranoia is a healthy thing to have, what's your definition of appropriate fear?

GdB: Well appropriate fear is a brief signal that is in the presence of danger. It's based on something you perceive about your environment or your circumstance. That's all. I just said the whole definition. A brief signal in the presence of danger.

Now unwarranted fear, that's got a much longer definition. That's anxiety and worry and the way to tell the difference pretty quickly is that if true fear is based on your perception, something you perceive in your environment or your circumstance, then unwarranted fear is always something from your memory or your imagination.

And here's a practical example. Most of us have had that experience of going to the airport and you think "I shouldn't get on this plane. I should cancel this flight." And I ask the person who experiences that fear "Is that based on a news story you saw three weeks ago of an air crash or is that based on seeing the pilot stumble out of the bar at the airport? One of them would be in your environment, something you perceive. I'd take another flight. But if it's based on something in your imagination or your memory it's not relevant to your safety.

Jonathan: So it seems like a big part of this is being able to hone that ability, to tell the difference in the moment. It sounds like cultivating your sense of intuition and understanding the triggers and some of the PINs (pre-incident indicators) and how you react at a gut level can actually overall reduce your sense of unwarranted fear because if you are more in tune with your intuition you will have less occurrences of the ambient anxiety.

Erica: Yeah, situational awareness.

Doug: It does seem like a tricky thing. We've talked before about the idea that somebody may have had an incident in their past or something like that of a guy with a red hat traumatized them in some way and then all of a sudden you see somebody in a red hat and you get triggered. All of a sudden you have a sense of anxiety. I think navigating that and actually being able to tell whether or not there is in fact an actual threat there is part of what this book is all about; maybe bringing some of these unconscious things to consciousness and being a little bit more aware of where these impulses are actually coming from.

Tiffany: We all have worries or anxieties. People say one of the number one fears is a fear of public speaking. That's not really a true fear. That's an anxiety and a worry and it's based on what you imagine might happen. But true fear is something else entirely. It's completely dependent on the situation. You actually have to be in the presence of some real danger and that's when things become clear and you know exactly what to do. Worrying, like what's going to happen at work or 'my boss is mad at me' and 'what if this happens' and 'what if that happens' is not the same thing. A good part of this book is sussing all that out and figuring out what's a real fear and what's just a worry.

Jonathan: So often we don't have this confirmed for us, which is probably fortunate, but also it's unfortunate that you have to have some kind of experience with these situations to hone that feeling even more. Maybe I'm wrong about that. What comes to mind for me is the last time I experienced this kind of thing was in the woods. I was hiking down a trail. All of a sudden hair standing on end. I could feel something around and it seemed very weird, out of nowhere and I was getting really creeped out. Sure enough I rounded the corner and there was a fresh deer kill. This deer had been killed and just torn apart and was spread over the trail. So it was either a cat or a wolf or something that had done that or perhaps some coyotes but I knew that there was something in my immediate vicinity and that was confirmed for me. So I thought "Okay, I'm out of here."

But I think in a day-to-day situation when you're in the city or something like that, it doesn't happen very often where you have that sense and then it's confirmed. I was fortunate in that situation but when you're dealing with people, to have that sensation confirmed you have to get into some kind of confrontation with that person who is causing a threat. So it is tricky to navigate. I think it's something that's hard to learn about and that's perhaps why Gavin de Becker says hone that sense and watch for these triggers and just get out because you don't want to get into that situation and essentially who cares if you're seen as being rude or flighty or whatever? The chances are you're avoiding a dangerous situation so just go with your gut on it.

Tiffany: It looks like we have a caller so we'll go ahead and take this call. Hello caller. Are you there?

Joe: Yes, hello.

Tiffany: Hello, what's your name.

Joe: My name is Joe.

Tiffany: Hi Joe.


Joe: This is an interesting discussion you guys are having. I'm just talking about what Jonathan was saying and the last recording that you played. That guy broke it down into stuff that's in your environment - the drunk pilot, you can see there's a drunk pilot. Obviously you should be afraid or concerned. But if it's just some feeling or a memory that's causing you to be that way, then kind of dismiss it. I think what you guys were getting to was the idea of there being a third option there. It's almost like in the descriptions he gave you're almost a passive participant in the detection of threats or danger in your environment. One is something you absorbed by reading the newspaper or a story about a plane crashing or something, so you absorb that then it comes back when you're at the airport. I suppose you're not passive with taking action with the pilot but again it's information that's just coming to you directly and you're acting directly on it.

But there's a third option and like you're saying, it's difficult to tease out. The third option seems to be one where you've paid a lot of attention to life in general or say for example you've learned a lot about human personality types and different character types and even the way that can produce physical characteristics in a person or something like that. That's just one example but you can expand that out to lots of different things. I suppose what I'm getting at here is the more you know, the more you're aware of things, the greater chance you have of protecting yourself from threats because of course there's a lot of times where something bad will happen to you and you can say neither of the two things, that that guy in the last recording cited. Something bad happens to you where you're injured or you're traumatized in some way and it was neither a memory, you didn't have any fear reaction before the thing happened to you. There was nothing in your memory, there was nothing making you afraid, no signals from that and there were no signals from the environment but still something bad happened to you. You know what I'm saying?

So what that says is clearly there's something that you didn't know, right? If something bad still happens to you there's something you don't know. So I suppose my point is the more that you study and learn about the world - because you're not going to hear about threats in life that come to you from life from the environment itself, from animals, from other people, I don't know else, space aliens or something {laughter} that kind of thing.

So it's a difficult thing if the goal is to help you, as much as possible, to avoid threats and avoid injury and trauma and so forth, then it seems that you've got to learn as much about life and reality as possible, including other people like I was saying, their nature, what makes people tick, what hidden motivations a lot of people have, why people do certain things. That's probably the most complicated one to protect yourself against, bad things happening to you.

Jonathan: If you hadn't studied for instance, the character traits of predators and you didn't know that predators employ niceness and charm, when you come across a situation like that and they're being nice and charming and you're thinking "This person is just being very nice and so I'm going to reciprocate", but if you have that knowledge that there's a possibility that this person is a predator and there are signs that I can watch for, even if you've never been in that situation before but you've studied it, you have a little edge.

Joe: Right.

Doug: That goes back to what we were talking about before with Malcolm Gladwell's book Bink. One of our chatters had said that one of the conclusions of Blink is that the people who actually were most successful at having those intuitions and being right about them were the people who had a good working knowledge base against athe subject. So it's people who were informed. It's almost like we have this intuitive ability but that intuitive ability needs information. It needs knowledge in order to be able to function properly.

Joe: In fact maybe intuition is just that - a stockpile or a large database of information on many, many different things in a person's mind obviously that they don't have conscious recall of all the time but that is available to be brought to conscious awareness in specific situations that come up quite rarely but just in that moment. In the same way that you're absorbing information all the time, human beings are absorbing tons and tons of data and very little of it is thought about consciously. In the same way that information that is stored in the unconscious let's say, can be automatically dumped back out into conscious memory or conscious awareness at a given moment in response to a signal from the environment that is really being picked up by the unconscious and is being registered and being linked with that unconscious data that was absorbed.

You read a book. Can any of you guys recite word-for-word a book that you read a year ago or even a week ago? {laughter}

Tiffany: Absolutely not!

Joe: In some cases if it was a year ago, you'd probably be able to give me a paragraph of a 300 page book in terms of explanation of it. But still you read all that information and I'm pretty sure that's stored in your brain somewhere. So it's like that information, when it matches something that is also being observed in some way, unconsciously in the moment by your unconscious mind let's say, that it matches up with something you've learned or read or something that's stored just beyond conscious awareness and it can be triggered or pushed out immediately into conscious awareness and in that situation that would come out as just a feeling maybe or an intuition, "I don't really have anything to base this on" because you're not consciously aware of it but some pat of you is unconsciously aware of it, let's say, and that's the one that's speaking.

It's linked to that idea that you guys have probably talked about in other shows. It's in the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman where he talks about those two levels, system 1 and system 2, that there is a big part of our minds and how we operate and look at and see reality that is governed at an unconscious level and all the stuff we do is actually motivated at an unconscious level that we're not aware of. A lot of people don't know why they do certain things. They do something and then you ask them why they did it and they say "I don't know". Well that's probably the unconscious.

I think it's about actively filling that unconscious part of your mind with useful and accurate information rather than incorrect information.

Tiffany: Well that's why this book is so important - the Gift of Fear, Blink, Nasty People, Character Disturbance, In Sheep's Clothing, Snakes in Suits all books like that - even if you can't recite everything that you read in that book, it does leave an impression on you.

Joe: Right.

Tiffany: But another important thing is networking with people. Say you met somebody and you had a bad feeling about them, that person may not actually be out to do you physical harm or kill you but they could still manipulate you in some way. I had a couple of experiences with this where I just felt really, really uncomfortable around a person. I had bad feelings about them. I didn't know why and it wasn't until later when I started talking with other people and they would tell me stories about them and how they interacted with them and then it all just came together, like "No wonder I felt so bad about that person." I had no idea why. I didn't even really know that person but hearing stories from other people about that person kind of informed me. So I think one of the predator's ways to get us to not doing that is saying "You shouldn't gossip. You shouldn't tell stories about people or judge them." But they know that people can share information so that's why they discourage it. So networking is really important.

Erica: And when everybody has that same feeling "Oh, it just felt off", that off feeling.

Joe: That's weird you know because when you talk about that idea of "I just had an off feeling" and other people share that off feeling about someone, you can't put your finger on it. You could be questioned "Well why do you feel that way?" "I don't know." But if I'm honest and I objectively look at the person there's nothing that I can consciously say that should cause me to feel this way. But I do. And I reckon that must be coming from some part of your mind that you're not aware of. It's just coming from you somewhere and it's based on some information and when it turns out to be correct then that's good. Of course you can turn out to be wrong. It's just you, I don't like that person for some reason, you need to explore that as well. It's all about exploring it because a lot of times, as Doug was saying, the guy in the red hat type of thing. That can be wrong information. That's clearly a generalization of 'people in red hats are all bad' which obviously isn't true and isn't based on anything objective. You can't paint everybody with that same brush just because they're wearing a red hat.

So it's tricky and it needs reflection and thinking and like you guys were saying, it needs feedback from other people to work through this stuff and to dig out what those programs and biases are in our minds deep down and whether they're accurate or not because no one wants to make the wrong decision about someone and treat somebody badly who's actually a lovely person and just because they're wearing a red hat or because they've got a funny face or moustache or I don't like the sound of their voice or something you're going to treat them badly. No one wants to do that.

But then at the same time there are things about some people that are indicative of character disturbance or some other kind of psychological deviancy or something like that, that are accurate.

Jonathan: What are the pros and the cons. Say you get a weird feeling about somebody so you trust your gut and you don't engage with them, the pros are that you avoided a potentially dangerous situation or being manipulated. The cons are maybe that you could be perceived as rude and who cares? It's not like you missed out on somebody who's going to be your best friend for the rest of your life. {laughter}

Joe: Right. When it comes down to it I suppose err on the side of being cautious and maybe being seen as rude because you can always correct that after the fact. But in a world where there's so much hidden from us and there are human predator types and people with all sorts of nefarious agendas that they cover up with exactly the opposite of what they intend, then it's probably wise to be cautious and if in doubt, err on the side of 'get the hell away from me!' rather than 'yeah, come close' type of thing because like I said, you can correct the bit of rudeness if afterwards you figure some stuff out and you see that you were wrong, you can correct that. But if you go with the default of everybody's nice and you shouldn't judge people and stuff, well depending on the situation, it's not so easy to correct the potential damage it can cause you.

Erica: Also being in an environment, like where he talked about situational awareness and there was a story in the book where you walk in somewhere and you just get a bad feeling that something's going to happen and all those unseeable cues.

Doug: It's like the story that hypothetical story Gavin de Becker told about a woman coming into a building, presses the button for the elevator, the elevator door opens and there's a strange man in there and she instantly gets the feeling of not wanting to be in there with that man but then she proceeds to override it. "I don't want him to think I'm rude. There's no reason for me to feel nervous around this person. There's nothing conscious that had led me to believe that this is dangerous." So then she goes into the elevator. Well here she's put herself into a small, sound-proof room with a man for a minute, two minutes. She's put herself into mortal danger basically, ignoring those feelings. And he made the point that no animal in nature would ever do that, ever! So it's that ability, if you want to call it that, to override those feelings.

Joe: Yeah, that's the lot of human beings. Supposedly we're more evolved than animals so our souped-up brains, our next step up the evolutionary scale from animals means that we can override that like you said Doug. It basically means that we have the choice, to a certain extent. We can choose to do something other than our instinct or our genetics dictate to us. And that obviously opens up the whole field to exploration and learning and developing something new. We as human beings have that ability. But jesus! It makes it a lot more complicated.

Tiffany: And I think a lot of people are under the false impression that if someone means to do them harm they're going to come at them foaming at the mouth, screaming, flailing about. But if you look at nature and you look at predators stalking their prey, the predator is very calm. They're kind of low to the ground. They're studying. They're very quiet. They're focused. So you just have to extrapolate that into human predators. They're not going to come at you...

Joe: Right.

Tiffany: all crazy like that.

Joe: All teeth and fur.

Tiffany: Yeah. They're studying you. They're trying to get as much information about you and the situation as possible in order to best make their move.

Erica: In the book he talked about how homicide is 20% strangers and 80% people you know.

Joe: Right.

Jonathan: We've talked sometimes on this show about George Gurdjieff and one of the things that comes to mind that he said is sincerity 100% of the time is a weakness.

Joe: Sincerity with everyone is a weakness, yeah.

Jonathan: Sincerity with everyone, yeah. So if you're just sincere across the board with everyone you meet chance are you will, sooner rather than later, be taken advantage of.

Tiffany: And he also said assume that everybody is crappy until you're proven otherwise. {laughter}

Joe: Yeah, that's the kind of doctrine like we were saying, err on the side of everybody's poo. But the thing is you can still do that and have that attitude. Gurdjieff was maybe a bit crude in the way he described that but I suppose another way to say that is that you can just be sceptical, have a healthy scepticism about people until you gather more data. That doesn't mean you have to actually treat them like crap. You can be very nice to people. It just means that you don't invest yourself all of a sudden injudiciously in someone who you don't really know and decide that they're a wonderful person based on some outer appearance or what they tell you or what they say or the way that they flatter you. Knowing human beings, as we should do, that's not a good idea because people not only lie to other people, they lie to themselves more often than anything else. So if they're lying to themselves, by default they're going to be lying to you as well. And they're going to say it in a way that they're not aware of it. They're going to present you with a lie that is dressed up like the truth.

It's not a nice way to see the world or other people but all you have to do is get stung by it enough times before you go "Well, it's not nice but it's..."

Erica: Reality.

Jonathan: It's reality. The world is not a nice place. Would that it were a utopia but we have to worry about those kind of things.

Joe: Right, exactly. It's not the way you would like it to be and wish it to be but it is the way it is. I suppose the idea of growing up and becoming a real adult or properly mature human being is accepting that fact, despite the fact that it doesn't make you feel nice and then finding ways of making it as nice as possible despite those conditions.

Erica: I found it interesting in the chat how people talked about their experiences when they were kids. Back in the '70s and '80s kids had a lot more freedom to be out alone and that they picked up on those fears right away and now we've got the helicopter parent scenario where kids can't go outside, they can't go to the park, and they don't learn at a very young age how to read their environment properly. And they're fed this whole barrage of lies 'the world is a safe space and you're going to meet the right person and go to college and marry' and nobody's given the information to children to trust that intuition when you're on your bike and you see something scary and you run like hell. Does that make sense? Do you guys feel that?

I really liked in his talk how he talked about how he would teach high school boys and girls about these basic, what we would consider commonsense ideas. If you're getting a bad read or you're feeling a bad vibe somewhere, to go with that and not push it away like 'oh the world is a nice happy place.'

Doug: It goes back to the whole idea that your subconscious needs to be informed and what these helicopter parents, as you were describing them, tend to do is they're preventing their kids from actually learning. They're preventing them from actually gathering that data, informing their subconscious so that it is something that they can act on. If your parents are always two steps away from you then how much are you actually learning about the world if they're stepping in at the drop of a hat any time there's some kind of problem?

Jonathan: Well thanks for calling Joe.

Joe: Yeah, I don't want to take up too much of your time here. I'm going to push off. It's a great show.

Jonathan: Thanks a lot.

Doug: Thanks for calling Joe.

Joe: Alright, see you.

Erica: See you.

Tiffany: Bye.

Jonathan: Those are some great points and that makes me think of talking about the unwarranted fear or ambient anxiety and worry and something comes to mind about the modern media, especially the western media and how it's deluding and corrupting this true sense of fear that we might have in dangerous situations because we're so barraged all the time with 'be afraid of terrorists', 'be afraid of all of the things that are out to get you'. So you live with this constant sense of background worry and anxiety and that corrupts your ability to feel the intuition in the moment because it's a different sensation. It's not the same thing.

Doug: It almost makes you not trust that.

Erica: In the book he talks about how the relationship between real fear and worry is analogous to the relationship between pain and suffering.

Pain and fear are necessary and valuable components of life. Suffering and worrying are destructive and unnecessary components of life. After decades of seeing worry in all forms I've concluded that it hurts people much more than it helps. It interrupts clear thinking, wastes time and shortens life. When worrying ask yourself how does this serve me and you may well find that the cost of worrying is greater than the cost of changing. To be free of fear and yet still get its gift there are three goals to strive for and they're not easy to reach but worth trying.

One is when you feel fear, listen. Two, when you don't feel fear, don't manufacture it. And three, if you find yourself creating more worry, explore and discover why.

So like Tiffany was talking about with women, no woman wants to walk into an underground parking lot to her car at night and be 'oh it's all good. I feel fine.' Every woman I think - and I'm speculating here but there is that anxiety about being alone in a parking lot at night but to not feed into that, to observe your environment, make sure if you see other cars or people, to have that awareness of what's going on around you but not to start manufacturing all this fear and work yourself up into a frenzy to where you can't see clearly.

Tiffany: Right.

Jonathan: One of our chatters made a good point and says "We see these stories and videos of kids and teenagers going to strangers or lured through Facebook." I think that is a good point - Facebook mostly but social networks in general - the way people are interacting online now. It separates you from being able to read these signs. I'm sure most people, maybe everybody, are aware of that man or that woman who they know is a manipulative, threatening person who, if you were to look at their posts on Facebook, seemed like the nicest person in the world. They're great. They're magnanimous.

So it's very easy for people to get the wrong interpretation of other people when all you see is these 140 character snippets of what they write online.

Doug: Definitely.

Tiffany: It's important for parents to teach their children. I know when I was growing up my mother scared the devil out of me just telling me stories of when she was growing up and things that happened to her and "never, ever go off with strangers". She made it very, very clear through the stories that she told of people getting kidnapped and stuff like that, true stories, but she made it very clear that the world is not a safe place for you and people are out to get you, especially if you're a woman, especially if you're a child. Men get preyed on too but she made it very clear that there are bad people in the world and you better watch out and you better be on your guard.

I don't know how much parents do that now. You have to incorporate social media into that too and just not let your kids sit there at the computer all day and you have no idea what they're up to or who they're talking to online.

Erica: Stranger danger.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Jonathan: I wonder if this would be a good time for us to go to the last clip we have from Gavin de Becker about violence in America. If you want to play that we'll discuss it briefly afterwards.

GdB: I say right at the beginning of the book "Here's where we are." And there's a lot of figures like that, 70 children every week killed in the United States by a parent. Seventy a week! That's where we live. 20,000 guns every day coming into commerce. More guns in America than there are people right now.

So we have to start with where we live to remove the denial because the denial says 'things like that don't happen in my neighbourhood. Oh yeah I saw it on the news, but I'm not in a relationship right now so I'm not at risk. Or 'that's only a risk for the old or for the young or for the armed or for the drug user'.

What do we all do when we hear about some violent death is we immediately find a way in which we can exclude ourselves from that risk. We say 'I don't live in the inner city' or 'I don't engage in that behaviour' or 'I'm not out that late at night'. I wanted to say to people strongly and powerfully and clearly violence is a part of the human condition. It's not going anywhere. Violence and conflict are part of human beings as much as they are part of chimpanzees and orang-utans and lions and we have to start by recognizing that we have got in this country an opportunity to introduce matriarchy. Feminism now has power in the United States. Women have power in the United States where in every other culture men had power because of violence. Women have power because of communication.

So we have an opportunity to do something to change it in our country. We're not using that opportunity in a country where we fear violent crime and what do we do every Friday and Saturday night but line up to see it at the movies.

Interviewer: Couldn't one say that - forget the tabloids, let's stick to this medium or the electronic media - couldn't you say that reporters being honest and wanting people to deal with reality reporting the violent news, just as you want to report the violent news in your book, and you do. That's what led me to wonder whether there wasn't some internal contradiction.

GdB: Well, I'll tell you what I think is different. I report information that you read and by nature of reading, you need to be in a relaxed state. You have no emergency. Your heartbeat doesn't go up. You're not panting as you read that. But when you turn on the television and they say "Okay, we're going to the back of the building now and - how many police officers - ambulance has arrived yet?" and show me the pictures of the fire and "Whether more will die remains to be seen". What is a thing like that for? Whether more will die remains to be seen, all the time, that's the nature of life. They have these stories that never end and they're offered to you with urgency and with an emergency nature to them.

If I broke into your house and said "Quick! Quick! Come with me to save your life!" you might follow me and you'd be pretty excited about it and pretty high energy. That's what they're doing 40 hours a day in most major cities, 40 hours a day of local news. The difference is, if I give you a piece of information in order to inform you and I choose that information because I think it's valuable to you, they choose that information because it's got some graphic video because there's a gruesome discovery made today in Reno. "Police made a grisly discovery today", they choose it because it's going to be fear-provoking and most notably it's not about your survival because why is something on the news? Because it's unusual. "A cougar attacked a family of five today in Big Bear County".

Well I'm going to tell your viewers now I give $1,000 to anybody this week who's attacked by a cougar in America. So if your viewers can find me through this show and if somebody gets attacked by a cougar they're getting a cheque from me because the fact that it's unusual is what makes it newsworthy. You don't see that those 70 children died this week killed by a parent. You don't see that a woman will die before this show is out, another woman dying from spousal homicide. That's not news.

Just to that point, the fear-mongering distorts our ability to read reality because we're being fed these stories that are chosen for their sensationalist value and real dangerous, threatening situations are not sensationalist. Tiff, like you mentioned, the predator stalks you and observes you and looks for a moment of weakness and oftentimes is very close to you in some way or another or tries to get close and that's not an "oh my god! 3-alarm fire!" situation. So we lose our ability to read those kind of threats I think.

Tiffany: You're not afraid of your abusive boyfriend but you're scared of being attacked by a cougar. {laughter} What sense does that make?

Doug: I think that that underlying state of anxiety that's produced by the media really does get in the way of your own reading instrument. If you're constantly watching this local news and you have a constant fear of whatever - terrorists or lone gunmen shooters going crazy or whatever the case may be, you're going to have much less ability to have access to that intuitive knowledge that might actually inform you if there really is danger. You'd be in this background haze of anxiety.

Tiffany: Not to say that the news is all bad, because as we all know, the psychopaths do run the world and they do put things in action that can be harmful for us and the worldwide state, so it's not like you should bury your head in the sand. But you should look at these kind of things with a clear mind and just take them onboard. But if you're freaking out all the time over every news story that you hear about, that's not a good situation to be in.

Erica: Yeah, having a critical eye. You really see people who watch...

Doug: He did also specify - go ahead.

Erica: I was just going to say you do see people who watch the nightly news all the time and they're afraid "terrorists and you're going to get on a plane and what if somebody hijacks it..." and it's just like this instant, constant fear-based reality for people. "Don't leave your home! Don't get in your car because you might die!"

Doug: He did also specify local news. All news is sensationalistic but the local news is mind-blowing in how anxiety-promoting it is.

Jonathan: It just makes me think of the terror alert threat level.

Erica: Yeah. Or the zika virus.

Jonathan: It's such a ridiculous thing. First of all, who actually believes that the government is sharing any classified data with the public about what they think is going to happen and putting it on the news as threat level orange? That on its face is ridiculous but the obvious side effect of it is "if the meter goes up you need to be more afraid" and so that in itself, like I was saying before, is detaching us from our own sense of intuition about actual dangerous situations in our immediate reality. "I will just modulate my fear level based on the level of the meter that I saw on CNN."

Tiffany: Yeah, "forget about my own intuition about my immediate environment. I'll just let the government or whatever other authority there is out there, protect me. They know what's best."

Jonathan: Yeah. And get extra duct tape and plastic your windows.

Erica: Get vaccinated.

Jonathan: Well this has been a good discussion. I don't know how you guys feel about going to the pet health segment here.

Tiffany: Okay.

Jonathan: Good. So we have a good long segment from Zoya today, so let's go to that and we will come back and wrap up after this.

Tiffany: This is all about if animals can understand you.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the health and wellness show. My name is Zoya and today I would like to share with you a very interesting and fascinating talk by creator of Thoughty2 Youtube channel that is dedicated to covering various facts. The topic of the recording is Can Animals Understand Humans? For example, can your dog really understand when you tell him that he's a good dog or it's only a matter of intonation and other subtle signs? Listen because there is a wealth of truly curious information in this talk. Enjoy.

Hey, Thoughty2 here. Sixty-two percent of people claim that their pets understand what they say. Whether or not animals can hear, recognize and possibly even understand what humans say has always been a profound mystery. Recent evidence attempts to reveal once and for all whether Tony the terrier knows the difference between "good boy!" and "Tony, did you chew my slippers?" Dogs may respond to these sentences but do dogs and other animals actually understand the meaning behind those sentences or are they just well-trained? You may be very surprised by what you're about to discover about animal perception.

In 1984 researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California noticed something quite unusual. They claimed that they heard voices of people talking around an enclosure where they kept a beluga whale known as Knock. They were fairly certain it wasn't anything paranormal. After all the voices sounded so real.

Eventually a diver went into the tank where Knock was being held and he noticed the strangest thing. Knock the beluga whale was talking to him and in an eerily human-like voice. Incredibly, the whale reportedly told the diver to get out. This is an actual recording of Knock imitating human speech. [...] It kind of sounds like a human talking through a kazoo, doesn't it? That's because unlike humans who use their larynx, whales use their nasal tract to produce sounds, making everything sound all nasally. It's believed that Knock, having lived most of his life in close proximity to humans learned to mimic the human voice. But the real question is, was Knock merely repeating noises that he picked up from humans, or did he actually understand the meaning behind what he was saying?

Asian elephants, seals and parrots have also been known to imitate human speech but do they understand what they are saying and do they understand what we say to them? In 1891 a German high school mathematics teacher named Wilhelm von Osten convinced himself that animals could be taught basic mathematics. He tried to teach math to a cat, a horse and a bear.

The cats couldn't care less and was only interested in itself. The bear was just downright hostile towards him but the horse showed great promise. After extensive tutelage the horse named Hans learned to tap his hoof in response to numbers that von Osten would write on his blackboard. If von Osten wrote the number two Hans would tap his hoof twice. If he wrote four Hans would tap four times and so on.

Spurred on by this success von Osten proceeded to teach Hans to answer basic mathematical equations. von Osten would write on the blackboard 2+2= and Hans would tap his hoof four times. Von Osten was delighted and exhibited Hans to the public all over Germany. During these shows, which von Osten never charged admission for, the crowd were awestricken as Hans correctly answered an array of basic math equations by using his hoof to tap out the answers. Hans could seeming add, subtract, multiply, divide and even work out a square root of a number. Hans would correctly answer around 89% of the questions.

The news of Hans the genius horse rapidly spread across Germany. But along with Hans' fame came critics and sceptics. A psychologist, Oskar Pfungst asked to do some experiments with Hans to which von Osten agreed. Oskar Pfungst erected a large tent to perform the experiments in to eradicate the possibility of Hans being influenced by outside stimuli.

As a control test Pfungst asked von Osten to step inside the tent and ask Hans mathematical questions like he usually does. As expected, Hans got most of the questions correct. However, Pfungst then asked von Osten to move a little farther away from Hans whilst he asked the questions and subsequently Hans got far fewer answers correct. Finally Pfungst and von Osten to ask questions that he knew von Osten did not know the answer to. When von Osten asked these questions the accuracy of Hans' answers fell to almost zero.

It appeared that in order for Hans to get the answer correct the person asking the question had to know the answer to the question also. These results were very strange but incredibly interesting so Pfungst investigated further. He observed von Osten's facial expressions and posture whilst he was asking Hans the questions. Pfungst noticed von Osten's facial expressions and posture changed right after he asked a question. His face and posture would tense up in expectation of Hans' answer. However each time Hans tapped his hoof and got closer to the correct answer von Osten's posture and expressions would relax and become happier because he was relieved that Hans had seemingly arrived at the correct answer all by himself.

It transpired that the horse was receiving small visual clues that acted as feedback. The horse would start tapping as soon as he observed von Osten asking the question and then tensing up. When the tension had alleviated from von Osten's face, Hans would stop tapping his hoof. Hans was never actually doing any mathematics. He was simply well attuned to his owner's visual clues.

Von Osten was shocked at this revelation because he was completely unaware that he was providing Hans with these unconscious visual clues. He genuinely thought that his horse was a genius. The results of Pfungst's experiment had enormous effects on how all scientific experiments would be carried out in the future.

This phenomenon came to be known as the clever Hans effect. The clever Hans effect as we know it today is when an experimenter unwittingly alters the results of an experiment simply because he or she is expecting a certain result. The simple expectation for something to happen can have huge consequences on an experiment's results without the experimenter even realizing it. These days necessary measures are taken when working with both humans and animals to prevent the clever Hans effect from altering the results of experiments.

A border collie named Rico came into the spotlight in 2004 after being intensively studied by animal psychologists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. The researchers showed such a great interest in Rico because his owners reported that he could understand over 200 words, a feat previously unheard of in the canine kingdom. To test whether Rico's skills were a bunch of fluff or a bona fide talent, the researchers set up an experiment.

The researchers arranged 200 toys on the floor in a room adjacent to where Rico was being held. They did this 10 toys at a time. Each toy had a unique name such as Fluffy or Squeezy. Rico's owners had already trained him to remember the name of each toy. Each time the researchers would let Rico into the room with the toys and ask Rico to fetch a toy, then another toy and then another until Rico had fetched all 10 toys.

Whilst the researchers were issuing commands to Rico, they stayed on the other side of a dividing wall where Rico could hear them but not see them to eliminate the clever Hans effect. In total Rico successfully remembered and retrieved 93% of the toys. Impressive! But this was only a test of Rico's memory, not his cognitive function, i.e., his ability to use logic and inference just like a human.

So the researchers did a second experiment. They arranged seven items in the room with an eighth item which was brand new which they gave a unique name to. Rico had never seen or heard the name of this new item before. Amazingly, when Rico was let into the room and asked to fetch the new item, he was very quickly able to infer which was the new toy and fetched it straight away.

Rico seemingly used a process of deduction and elimination. This is called fast mapping, a process where one is able to quickly learn a new concept after a single exposure to brand new information. Human toddlers do this all the time. It's how they learn. Even more amazingly, Rico was able to fetch the new toys again four weeks later having only seen them once.

Out of the six new items that Rico was shown four weeks prior, he remembered three of them four weeks later. Interestingly, three out of six is the same rate at which adult humans are able to remember things that they saw four weeks ago.

Chaser is another border collie who can reportedly remember the name of a thousand toys and can retrieve each one of them just like Rico. But Chaser has another unique talent. She is able to recognize verbs. From a young age Chaser's owner, a retired psychologist, trained Chaser to understand and utilize three verbs, nose, paw and fetch. When Chaser's owner says "Paw Slinky" Chaser will go over to the toy named Slinky and put her paw on it. Similarly if "Nose Slinky" is said, Chaser will put her nose on the Slinky toy. And when "Fetch Slinky" is said, Chaser will fetch the Slinky toy.

Chaser's owner is able to swap the verb and the name of the toy for any one of a thousand different toys and Chaser will go over to the correct toy and do the correct action almost 100% of the time. That's about the same cognitive ability as a three-year-old human child. This also demonstrates something astonishing. Chaser doesn't simply remember each and every command. It's not just a cheap memory trick.

Chaser's brain is actually using cognitive function to determine what to do in each given situation. This is no different to how a human brain works. Although this is rather basic stuff for an adult human, it's an amazing display of cognitive ability and logical inference for an animal. It demonstrates that dogs do understand what we say provided they are given the opportunity to learn these human-like concepts as a puppy. But that's no different from a human.

Humans have to learn this stuff too. We aren't born knowing what "Go get daddy a beer" means. As a baby we learn the individual words that construct that sentence and then as a toddler we use our brain's cognitive ability, especially our fast mapping ability, to know what we should do when those words are arranged into that sentence in that order, just like Rico and Chaser are doing.

Dogs aren't able to learn as fast or to the same extent as humans so realistically their ability is capped when compared to humans. However, provided they are given the correct education and training from an early age, dogs most definitely can understand at least a small percentage of what you say to them. So when you say "Time for walkies" and your dog goes freaking mental, it may not just be because they have associated the word "walkies" with running about outside with their beloved owner. There's actually some very basic level of understanding there.

But don't think you can go and have full-blown esoteric conversations with your canine buddy. They may understand the odd word or two but first and foremost dogs use smell to communicate and differentiate between objects and people. They're probably going to understand a lot more of what you're trying to communicate with them if you roll around in the garden for 10 minutes then let them sniff you than if you try to explain to them why you've had such a bad day at the office.

So far we've only talked about dogs, horses and whales. But what about other animals? After all a spectrum of animal cognition spans the entire animal kingdom. Take Koko the gorilla for example. Koko is a female gorilla who has learned a modified version of American sign language. Koko was taught from a very early age and now she can reportedly understand and use 1,000 different signs of what her trainer calls gorilla sign language and she understands over 2,000 words of spoken English.

Naturally Koko has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, articles and books but whether or not Koko actually understands sign language in the same way a human does is a topic of hot debate. Some researchers argue that Koko hasn't actually mastered sign language at all and she doesn't understand the words she is signing. They insist that Koko's human-like sign language abilities are simply a result of operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning is when someone learns to do something because there's a reward at the end of it. For example, if you showed a toddler three different coloured boxes - blue, green and red - and then placed a sweet in the green box, the toddler would then learn to always open the green box in the future in order to get the sweet. Koko may have simply learned to make certain shapes and signs with her hands because she is rewarded for doing so.

Video evidence showed that Koko was also being influenced by the clever Hans effect. Her trainers were giving her unconscious facial clues to prompt her to make certain gestures with her hands. Despite all this, Koko's trainers are adamant that there's more going on in Koko's head than researchers give her credit for.

One piece of evidence which suggests a greater level of cognition in Koko's brain occurred when Koko's baby was taken away from her. The day after her baby was removed, she reported signed the word "baby" to her keeper. This is known as a displacement, the ability to talk about objects that are not currently present in the room and it's something that we thought was unique to humans and it's very rarely observed in the animal kingdom. Also Koko has been known to talk about new objects that she hasn't even been taught how to sign.

For example, Koko has never been taught the sign language for the word "ring" but Koko combines the signs for "finger" and "bracelet" to refer to a ring and if you think about it, a ring is just a tiny bracelet for your finger. That's pretty smart going Koko! Events such as this suggest that Koko has a higher level of understanding with the words she's actually signing.

But there's a dark side to all that gorilla intelligence. Koko enjoys seeing human nipples and she often asks her female caregivers, using human sign language, to show her their nipples. This unusual behaviour actually resulted in a sexual harassment lawsuit by one of Koko's female caregivers in 2005. Maybe it's not such a good idea we try to communicate with animals after all.

Dolphins are often said to be one of the smartest animals in the world and they certainly proved it in a 1984 study. Two bottlenose dolphins were taught human language. The first dolphin named Phoenix was taught how to comprehend human speech. The second dolphin Akeakamai was taught a form of sign language. Both dolphins were taught a large variety of words such as object names, actions and object modifiers, all of which could be combined and rearranged into hundreds of unique sentences to form a command, for example "swim to the blue ring" or "pick up the red ring".

The commands were given to the dolphins using computer-generated voices and videos to prevent the clever Hans effect. Both dolphins were able to comprehend and execute the given commands at a much higher success rate than what would be considered chance. Understanding words and simple one-word commands is one thing. But for an animal to understand complex three-to-five-word commands and accurately follow them, is quite simply astonishing.

Experiments such as these prove that many animals have an unprecedented level of understanding of human speech and communication. Up to now we've only explored a minute fraction of intellect within the animal kingdom. Who knows what some animals are really capable of? A real life Planet of the Apes may be just around the corner. But until then, you should probably watch what you're saying around your pets. They may be listening a bit more attentively than you think. Thanks for the views. Subscribe for more Thoughty2.

Jonathan: Those goats sound like they understood that.

Tiffany: Yeah, why would they take Koko's baby away? Why would they do such a thing?

Doug: Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. That's terrible.

Jonathan: Well thank you Zoya for sharing that with us. That was really fascinating. So that is our show for today. We'd like to thank our chat participants for taking part in the chat and thanks to our caller Joe. We really appreciate you guys listening. Be sure to tune in to the SOTT Radio Show on Sunday at noon eastern time and you can go to radio.SOTT.net on Sunday. It will show the air time in your local time zone on that site. That's it for today so we will sign off and we'll see you next Friday.

All: Good-byes.