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The psychology of panic buying

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200304-coronavirus-covid-19-update-why-people-are-stockpiling

bbc.com

The psychology of panic buying
Last Saturday afternoon, Kristina Moy decided to swing by her local supermarket in the US city of Seattle to pick up some weekly groceries and supplies for her son's upcoming baseball tournament. What started as a quick errand turned into a three-hour ordeal, navigating checkout lanes packed with hundreds of shoppers stocking up amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

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Panic Buying

Panic Buying

The world is seeing panic buying in supermarkets, with items like toilet paper, milk, soda, hand sanitizers, etc. flying off the shelves, especially in places with confirmed cases of the virus.

Panic buying is a psychological mechanism fueled by anxiety along with a herd mentality. People hoard stuff in panic, due to fear of the unknown, according to experts.


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Downsides of Panic Buying

Downsides of Panic Buying
  • Panic buying makes people feel in charge of the situation, while seemingly mundane measures like hand-washing, which are actually impactful, seem ordinary.
  • The problem comes when people overbuy in their over-panicked state of mind (irrational stockpiling), making the shortages worse than they really are.
  • Speculators also take advantage of panic buying and raise prices of essential items like face masks, forcing companies to take appropriate measures.

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Loss Aversion

Loss Aversion

..is a principle which makes people do things so that they don't feel regretful later. 

People are panic-buying for the same reason too, with social media and news media amplifying the sense of scarcity.

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Fake News And Lack Of Trust

Fake News And Lack Of Trust

Experts point out that panic buying can be a result of a lack of trust in the government.

If public fears are not addressed on time, fake news can induce panic. Better preparedness at all times for possible emergencies can be a way to reduce this among the public.

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The obsession with toilet paper

The obsession with toilet paper

While fighting the new virus, people seem to have got obsessed with toilet paper. However, hoarding toilet paper is nothing new. In 1973 and in 2013 the USA and Venezuela had already gone throug...

People's need to hoard toilet paper

Even though the US has been mass-producing toilet paper since the late 1800s, people still seem to have an issue with this very product and, therefore, buy it in huge quantities, especially during pandemic times.

This is known as 'zero risk bias' by risk experts and it describes a person's behavior when trying to eliminate a superficial risk entirely rather than just reducing a big risk, everything in order to feel safer.

Successfully dealing with shortages

While we are all facing the biggest challenge of our life, the 2020 pandemic, our behaviors are slowly starting to change. For instance, hoarding toilet paper is not something common, at least not in modern societies. Still, it is happening worldwide these days.

Among the most efficient ways to handle shortages of any kind, shops could introduce rationing certain products or even individuals could try and convince each other that there is no real need to hoard staff, such as toilet paper, as we are not talking about unlimited resources here.

Hoarding Isn’t About Stockpiling

Hoarding Isn’t About Stockpiling

Hoarding is a serious psychiatric disorder which has been witnessed by doctors for centuries, and is not some behavioural trait of otherwise normal people.

Symptoms of this...

Confusion Over Discarding

  • Most people would think a hoarder would have clutter all around the house. The reality is that they have difficulties deciding on what to discard, and typically hoard their clothes, shoes, tools, household supplies, newspapers and mail.
  • Hoarding disorder impacts one’s marital life, increases medical illness, anxiety and depression, makes people suicide prone and even cognitively impaired. Not to mention the problems that arise from keeping things stored for long in the basement or cupboard.

Problems With Hoarding

Apart from mental issues, hoarding increases the chances of:

  1. Risk of falls or tripping.
  2. Infestation.
  3. Unsafe living conditions.
  4. Fire.
  5. Lost work days.

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Simulating a crisis

Simulating a crisis

Modeling systems are used to provide a better understanding of a bad situation and how to possibly prevent it.

Groups of researchers, teams of engineers and companies are d...

Why we use models

  • A model is just a series of calculations that abstractly represent some systems in the real world. We use models all the time.
  • We may work out the routes we could take to get to work at a specific time of the day. We use past data to make predictions about what we can expect in the future in a given set of circumstances.
  • As the volume of data and the number of variables increase, the computational task would increase.
  • Powerful models aim to forecast inherently unpredictable events and make use of machine learning to look for patterns in the data that would otherwise be missed.

The accuracy of a model

You can never accurately predict what's going to happen. Some efforts come close.

For example, models looking at the weather can achieve more than 90% accuracy. But crises are about change, and a model working from historical data may miss a dramatic and new change.