Avoiding Death Is Far

Avoiding death is a primary goal of medicine. Avoiding side effects of treatment is a secondary goal.  So it makes sense that in a far mode doctors emphasize avoiding death, but in nearer mode avoiding side effects matters more:

The study asked more than 700 primary-care doctors to choose between two treatment options for cancer and the flu — one with a higher risk of death, one with a higher risk of serious, lasting complications. In each of the two scenarios, doctors who said they’d choose the deadlier option for themselves outnumbered those who said they’d choose it for their patients. … Two hypothetical situations were presented: one involved choosing between two types of colon cancer surgery; the less deadly option’s risks included having to wear a colostomy bag and chronic diarrhea. The other situation involved choosing no treatment for the flu, or choosing a made-up treatment less deadly than the disease but which could cause permanent paralysis. (more; HT Tyler)

As other people are far compared to yourself, advice about them is more far. Similar effects are seen elsewhere:

One study asked participants if they would approach an attractive stranger in a bar if they noticed that person was looking at them. Many said no, but they would give a friend the opposite advice. Saying “no” meant avoiding short-term pain — possible rejection by an attractive stranger — but also missing out on possible long-term gain — a relationship with that stranger.

Since fear of being laughed at for doing something weird is also near, far mode also seems the best place to get people to favor cryonics. A best case: folks recommending that other people sign up at some future date. How could we best use that to induce concrete action?

Added 11p: Katja offers a plausible alternative theory.

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