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Stateside: I-96 Shooter, Commuters safer than they may think

A sketch of the man suspected of random shootings in a four-county area along I-96 in Michigan.

Police are searching for the person responsible for a series of shootings along the I-96 corridor. From  October 16-18, 22 people were reported being shot and although no one was injured, there were some close calls.

Complaints came from Oakland, Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee counties.

These random attacks evoke memories of the 2002 Washington D.C. shootings that left 10 people dead and three critically wounded.

Often these violent acts are accompanied with a considerable amount of worry and fear- their erratic nature is the source of our distress.

To more thoroughly understand the psychology behind such fear, Stateside’s Cyndy Canty spoke with Brad Bushman. A Professor of Communication and Psychology, Bushman suggests the panic one links to these shootings is due to the “Availability Heuristic.”

The heuristic is rooted in memory, claims Bushman.

Although someone is more likely to be involved in a car accident than a sniper attack, their memories of safe travels extinguish the fear of having an auto wreck.

“You can readily recall instances in your life when you have driven safely, you can’t remember instances that you’ve had terrible crashes. You assume because you cannot remember horrific instances they must not be that common,” said Bushman.

When rare occurrences like the shootings along I-96 are broadcast to the public, they are embedded in our memories, giving us a warped perception of their frequency.

“People like to share information but it can have a destructive effect because we think these events are more frequent than they are.”

The question arises of how these cases should be covered. How does the media inform its viewers without driving them to hysteria?

“People should understand that these instances are extremely rare and the likelihood that something will happen to them is rare,” said Bushman.

According to Bushman, it is also crucial for parents to reconfirm their children’s notions of safety.

“I think we should help our children remember instances where they have driven with us safely, rather than focus on the horrific things that might happen but probably won’t," said Bushman.

-Cameron Stewart

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