Search the Site

A Rational Shark-Bite Victim — and She's Only 10

In SuperFreakonomics, we write about shark attacks as anomalous events that tend to make a lot of noise and therefore persuade many people that they aren’t such anomalies.
A reader named Michael McDonald sends along encouraging evidence that at least one person is thinking clearly on the matter. A young girl named Caitlin Dubois gets nibbled on by a shark in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and won’t even consider staying out of the water:

“I like swimming in the ocean,” she said. “It’s a freak thing, and a one-in-a-million chance that I would get bitten by a shark. So it really wouldn’t happen again, I don’t think.”

Here’s what Michael wrote:

Could not help but read [this] and smile that this 10-year-old girl grasps the irrationality of being afraid of something that 1) has overwhelmingly long odds of ever happening to us (shark bite); and 2) has already happened to her. Somehow this little girl understands what so many adults in a similar situation would walk away with the opposite conclusion (the mental certainty that they are somehow “prone” or at least very likely to experience another bite). Maybe our next generation isn’t as troubling as our bias leads us to believe….or, more likely, this girl is untainted as of yet by adults’ fear-mongering.

Surely we don’t know enough about her yet to start a Caitlin-for-President movement, but still, it is tempting.