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The Cassandra Curse: Why We Heed Some Warnings, And Ignore Others

Why are some warnings heard, while others are ignored?
Why are some warnings heard, while others are ignored?

After a disaster happens, we want to know, could something have been done to avoid it? Did anyone see this coming?

Many times, the answer is yes. There was a person — or many people — who spotted a looming crisis and tried to warn those in power. So why didn't the warnings lead to action?

This week on Hidden Brain,we look into the psychology of warnings. We'll turn to an unusual source — an ancient myth about the cursed prophet Cassandra — to understand why some warnings fail. We'll travel 40 feet below the ground to talk to a modern-day Cassandra, and we'll speak with a government official who managed to get his warnings heard. There's also a gory (and fictional) murder plot, and even some ABBA.

Additional Resources:

  • Christoph Meyer and Florian Otto,"How to Warn: 'Outside-in Warnings' of Western Governments about Violent Conflict and Mass Atrocities," Media, War & Conflict
  • Andrew Natsios, Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur
  • Translations of Aeschylus' Agamemnonand Euripides' Trojan Womenin The Greek Plays
  • Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Camila Vargas Restrepo. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.