The pandemic and our biases

The threat, uncertainty, and anxiety related to the pandemic lead us to make short-sighted decisions:

  • we crave more information so we are spending a lot of time looking for news updates relating to the virus and its spread. But too much negative news causes stress and distraction.
  • the lack of agency causes people to seek out actions that will make them feel more in control. Early on, this took the form of buying hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.

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Slow Down to Make Better Decisions in a Crisis

hbr.org

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Decision-making obstacles
Psychological reasons why we find decision-making difficult right now:
  • The realness of the present threat: the new virus is really contagious and people are dying from it around the world.
  • The amount of uncertainty about the virus: the real number of infected people, the speed of its spread, future projections.
  • We have little control over the situation. This creates anxiety. In addition, we may be doing our part, but it is hard to know which actions and programs are having an impact on creating the absence of the disease.

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There is a lot of information out there right now about the virus and how to react. 

Take the time to read and digest it (maybe even discussing it with an expert) before making important personal and business decisions.

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To make good decisions in troubled times, it's best to slow down, even if our fears urge us to take action.
Most of the actions you are likely to take will not be prudent in the face of a potential pandemic. By slowing down, you can use deliberative reasoning with data.

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People want to take action quickly, even when inaction might be more prudent.
Faced with anxiety, some are making quick decisions about finances as well and started fear selling their stocks. But this is taking a paper loss in the present that is likely to come back in the future (given the way stock markets have acted in the past).

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The virus outbreak has people stirred up in anxiety, with canceling of travel plans and events the world over. 

In this ongoing public health emergency, it is easy to overreact, as things remain unclear and potentially dangerous.

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How to Distinguish Between a Public Safety Crisis and a Personal Anxiety

forge.medium.com

Research has shown that the typical person makes about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. Most are minor ones and we make them automatically. But many have serious consequences.

That's why making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop.

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6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

hbr.org

Missing the signs

There are many known psychological processes that cause individuals and organizations to miss the signs of a coming crisis – even when the signs are noticeable.

One reason is known as the "optimism bias" where people think they have a better than average prospect or are overly optimistic about their own future.

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Why we find it difficult to recognise a crisis

bbc.com