“That is, people overestimate the actual danger to children who are left alone by their parents, in order to better support or justify their moral condemnation of parents who do so.”

The result is a feedback loop that increases the legal and social penalties for leaving kids alone and reinforces the belief that even the briefest parental absence amounts to child abuse.

These beliefs don’t just affect busybodies.

They lead police, prosecutors, judges and jurors to overestimate risks.