Almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That includes the victims in or near the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and all the passengers in the four commandeered jets, including the flight that went down in rural Pennsylvania. But it does not include the many hidden victims of lingering terror — an additional 1,500 whose dread of another attack led, indirectly and much later, to their deaths.
This is the gist of the so-called “dread risk effect” — first hypothesized in 2004 in the journal Psychological Science. The idea is that terrorist acts indeed create terror. After witnessing such a mass murder, people begin to dread — and avoid — situations that are vulnerable to similar mass attacks; and their actions lead to more, but less dramatic deaths, over time. To be specific, scientists believe that terrorized Americans switched from (relatively safe) air travel to (relatively risky) driving in the aftermath of 9/11, a decision that increased road traffic, traffic accidents and fatalities.
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