The idea of the ‘boiling frog’ – that a frog put in boiling water will jump straight out, but if placed in cold water that is slowly heated up to boiling, is unable to perceive the danger (and will be cooked to death) – is characterized elsewhere as a failure of humans to recognize changes that occur on a small, incremental basis.

Another example is the gradual loss of biodiversity (meaning variation in biological organisms) that is occurring as a result of humankind’s impact on the earth:

…Megafauna extinction is… a “geological instantaneous ecological catastrophe too gradual to be perceived by the people who unleashed it”

Source: Kolbert (2014) The Sixth Extinction

When else are we unable to perceive slow and small progress?

What is the name for this cognitive limitation, and what can we do about it?

(For the latter question, I think one method is to read and learn widely, to expand the timeframe and context of our consideration).

Advertisements