The pandemic has caused so much panic to many of us but what is even more threatening than the virus is the fear and irrationality that come out of it. As we live through unprecedented times, it helps to take a step back on how we behave in the midst of this crisis and get a hold of ourselves to see the better course of action to take. Patrick Veroneau dedicates this episode to behaviors that will help us deal with the pandemic as well as the behaviors that will undermine our ability to come through this crisis stronger than we are now. Join him to find out!
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Why Fear And Irrationality Are More Threatening Than Any Virus
We are living through unprecedented times right now and this episode is about behaviors. Both behaviors that will help us to deal with this crisis as well as the behaviors that will undermine our ability to come through this crisis stronger than we are now. It’s our choice in terms of which way we’re going to go. The goal of this episode is two-fold. It’s to identify irrational behaviors and unconscious biases that we all fall victim to so that people can hopefully stop some of the panics that’s going on but also, to talk about what behaviors do we need to work together to make sure that we come out of this thing stronger than we went into it. This is the show where I’m nearly obsessed with interviewing those whose actions are inspiring others to do great things but also in uncovering the research that demonstrates that we all have the ability to rise above our best. It starts with ourselves and never in our history do we need people to behave in ways that inspire others more than we do right now. Let’s get into it.
As I mentioned, I wanted to talk about some irrational behaviors, unconscious biases, however, you want to label them. The first one is around what’s called the availability heuristic. What happens, in this case, is people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them. As an example, a person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy because they know of several people that have contracted cancer or lung cancer because of smoking. Therefore, that’s all the data they have. Smoking doesn’t cause cancer. In the same situation that we’re in right now, there are those who may be depending on their age, think somehow they’re immune to this or it will impact them less because they are younger.
While that might be true, what it doesn’t take into account is what this will do regarding overwhelming our healthcare system so that those who are older and don’t handle us as well, the resources they need will not be there. We’ve heard over and over again why it’s important to flatten out the curve. That’s what this speaks to is just because you think this is a stronger version of the flu that you’ll recover from, others will not. The next bias that I’m going to talk about is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is one that says, “We only tend to go with the information that confirms our perceptions.” It is one where we only look to the evidence that confirms whatever our perceptions are. One of the many reasons it’s hard to have an intelligent conversation about climate change with some people is they will often look to the weather in terms of always being a variant.People overestimate the importance of information that is available to them. Click To Tweet
“It’s really cold one day so tell me about global warming now,” where they will try and lump weather and climate as the same and they’re not. Where do we see that in this place? Confirmation bias is such that there are those out there that will say, “It’s not going to impact us,” or “This is what we’ve done. This is why it won’t be the same.” We’re discounting the evidence that says that this thing is a runaway train at times if we don’t take it seriously. To play off of that, another cognitive bias we can run into is called the ostrich effect. The ostrich effect is just as it sounds. The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich. To me, we see this right now. There are many that are doing the ostrich effect of thinking, “It won’t be as bad as it was in Europe or in China because we’re in the US and we’re different.”
If you look at the data that’s being presented now, it says that we are in the exact same situation as Italy was. Quite honestly, I would rather look back on this and say we overreacted than be in a situation that says, “I wish we had taken this more seriously.” Certainly, that’s what you hear many in Italy are saying. The last one is around scarcity. Scarcity is so important here in that we’re seeing it over and over again. I believe the mainstream media is part of the problem here that they have created some of this. They’ve created a sense of panic where people are rushing to supermarkets and to other outlets to overwhelm them in regards to buying up things in bulk that prevents everybody else from getting the piece just that they need as well. There’s an enormous amount of research around the scarcity effect.
We know that we’re more motivated to avoid the loss than gain. This is playing itself over and over again. In grocery stores, it is never more evident right now but this plays itself out over and over again. There’ve been studies that they’ve done where they’ve looked at sales in grocery stores of an item like soup. When they limited the number of cans a person could buy, people bought more soup than if they could buy as many cans as they wanted at the same price. We see that happening whether it’s toilet paper, hand sanitizer or any other thing that’s going to be the next thing.
People are going to watch everybody may be buying one so you start to think, “I need one myself. If I’m going to buy one, they’re going to be gone if I don’t get two of these things.” We fall victim and prey to this that we feel like if we don’t get this, they’re all going to be gone. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and it builds on itself. Unfortunately, there are those out there that are unscrupulous when it comes to this. They go around and buy as many as they can to take advantage of people later on.
One way that we can help prevent this if we all recognize what’s going on. That there is enough for everybody if we slow down and recognize the irrationality that’s happening to us. We wouldn’t have the run that we’ve got now in regards to the items that are unavailable. What happens if it’s somebody who is in need of that like an elderly individual but because a knucklehead felt the need to store a case of hand sanitizer in their basement, now somebody that needs this doesn’t have it available to them. That’s the unconscious bias component of this.
The other component to this in regards to the positive behaviors that we need to demonstrate is one to pause. This is not to stick our head in the sand but it’s simply to take a step back and be able to say, “What do we need to do to change the trajectory of this?” We need to understand that we will either be part of the problem or part of the solution. One of the best ways that we can do that is if we think in terms of behaviors of being for others. We’re practicing social distancing to save our physical health. We are going to need to practice social assisting if we are going to come out of this with community health and strength that is strong as well.
In the long run, that is going to be far more damaging to our communities if we cannot find a way to work together to deal with this. That means all of us taking responsibility. If it is a restriction that we all follow and not one person think that they’re above it and they’re going to go against it because, “This isn’t me. I’m not the one that’s going to contract this and spread this on.” I’m sure each person that has contracted this thought that they were not the one that was going to catch it either but somehow they did. We all need to work together on this.
Both from the standpoint of understanding what irrational behaviors and unconscious biases we will be dealing with to control those but also is just out there doing the right thing and helping out those that in your community that needs your help. If everybody does this, if we work together to support and hold each other accountable through this and do what needs to be done, we will be far better off in the long run. If we don’t, then we will pay the consequence long-term.
I hope this episode has provided you with some information that will help you to deal with or support somebody else going forward. If you know somebody you feel would benefit from this episode, I’d ask you, please forward it to them. This is such a critical time. It would mean the world to me and not about vanity likes or any of that other BS that’s going around. I would love to know if this episode resonates with you because this is what it means to lead like no other and to rise above your best. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to do both. Peace.