Zero Risk Bias

What is Zero Risk Bias?

Zero Risk Bias can be understood as a mental shortcut that happens when we choose to get rid of a smaller risk completely, rather than reducing a much bigger risk just a little. It’s like when we have the choice between fixing a tiny scratch on your bike’s paint or checking to see if the brakes work properly, and we choose to fix the scratch. It feels good to make the small risk disappear completely, but it could be smarter to pay more attention to the larger risk, which is your brakes not working when you really need them.

A second way to look at Zero Risk Bias is thinking of it as choosing to feel completely safe in one small area instead of being safer overall. Imagine you’re setting up your new phone. You might spend a long time picking a really strong password to keep your accounts safe, which is good. But then you ignore updating your software, which can keep you safe from a lot more problems. Even though the strong password makes one part of your phone security perfect, not updating could leave you open to bigger risks.

How Does Zero Risk Bias Affect Us?

Zero Risk Bias makes us feel like we’ve done something really good and safe, but it can often lead us to make decisions that aren’t the smartest. By focusing so much on small risks, we might not do enough about the bigger ones. Here are some examples and an explanation for each:

  • Health Choices: If you’re spending a lot of money and effort to avoid eating any food that could be a tiny bit risky, like rare exotic fruits because of a minimal chance of an allergy, but you’re not exercising at all. The risk of health problems from not exercising is much larger than the risk from eating the fruits. So while avoiding the fruit takes away a tiny risk, a little exercise would significantly reduce a bigger health risk. This is Zero Risk Bias because you’re eliminating a small risk rather than reducing a larger one.
  • Financial Decisions: Choosing to pay off a small, interest-free debt first rather than making a payment on a high-interest mortgage can be driven by Zero Risk Bias. You might feel a sense of relief that one debt is gone, but the mortgage will cost you more in the long run. This is an example of Zero Risk Bias because the small debt is less of a problem compared to the growing interest on the mortgage.
  • Safety Measures: If a city decides to spend all of its budget on earthquake-proofing a rarely used bridge but ignores fixing potholes on a busy road that cause accidents, this is Zero Risk Bias. The bridge is made perfectly safe against a rare event, while the common and more probable risks on the road remain. The Zero Risk Bias appears as the city focuses on completely solving a less critical issue instead of improving overall road safety.

Here is a scenario highlighting Zero Risk Bias in action: A school has the option to buy a small number of very expensive emergency lockdown kits for each classroom to use in case of a rare extreme threat, or it could spend the money on regular fire drills and better first aid kits that would prepare students for more common emergencies. If the school goes for the lockdown kits, it is focusing on eliminating a small risk rather than reducing greater, more frequent risks. This is Zero Risk Bias because the feeling of being completely prepared for one event overshadows the benefit of being better prepared for many others.

Dealing with Zero Risk Bias

Knowing about Zero Risk Bias is the first step to dealing with it. Here are some ways to manage this thinking pattern:

  • Compare the Changes: Look carefully at what’s different after you take action. Will it matter a lot, or just a little? Understanding the true impact helps us decide better.
  • Long-term Thinking: Consider how your decisions will play out over time. It’s tempting to go for quick fixes, but they may not be the best choice for the future.
  • Get Outside Opinions: Sometimes talking to friends or experts can give us a fresh perspective. Other people may see the risks and benefits differently.
  • Focus on the Numbers: Data and statistics can show us the real chances of different risks and which safety measures can have the most impact.
  • Practice Balance: Instead of aiming to wipe out some risks entirely, work on reducing the overall level of danger. This approach can keep you safer in the long run.

Related Biases and Concepts

Zero Risk Bias isn’t the only mental shortcut we fall into. It’s part of a bigger group of behaviors that influence our decision-making. Here’s some related thinking patterns:

  • Neglect of Probability: This happens when we forget to think about how likely something is to happen. We might worry a lot about extremely rare events, ignoring more common threats.
  • Overconfidence: This is when we are too sure of our knowledge or abilities. It can lead us to ignore big risks because we think we have them under control when we don’t.
  • Loss Aversion: People often prefer to avoid losses rather than making gains. This could cause someone to focus on preventing a small loss completely rather than taking a chance for a larger gain.
  • Confirmation Bias: We have a habit of listening to information that confirms what we already believe and ignoring what doesn’t. This can keep us from seeing the larger risks because we’re too focused on what we want to be true about the smaller ones.

Understanding these biases helps us get a better grip on why we make the choices we do about risk, and it can also make us smarter about noticing and controlling our Zero Risk Bias.

Why is it Important

Zero Risk Bias might seem like just a quirky thing our brains do, but it’s important because it can have real effects on our safety, health, and wallets. By placing too much importance on completely removing small risks, we might overlook bigger threats that can harm us. If we’re not careful, this bias can lead to policies or personal choices that feel secure in the short term but end up putting us and others at greater risk in the long run. It’s about managing risks in a more balanced and sensible way, so we’re safer overall, which can affect everyone’s lives.


In conclusion, Zero Risk Bias is a pattern of thinking that leads us to prefer totally eliminating small risks instead of reducing more significant ones. This can end up making us less safe and not the best version of ourselves. Staying vigilant about it, balancing our approach to risks, and seeking the big picture can help us make smarter decisions. Remember, we can never make our environment completely without risk, but by understanding and managing Zero Risk Bias, we can do our best to protect ourselves and others in a practical and effective way.