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Why we find it difficult to recognise a crisis

Optimism bias

One possible reason for the "optimism bias" is found in the way we learn new information. People are quicker to change their beliefs when the information is better than expected, compared to information that is worse than expected.

  • If people were told that lockdown would be eased in two weeks, people would quickly update their beliefs. But if experts said it would last longer, people would be less likely to update their beliefs. They will make statements like "I don't really believe it" or "things change."
  • People may underestimate their personal risk of infection.
  • People may fail to adopt precautions like social distancing.

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Why we find it difficult to recognise a crisis

Why we find it difficult to recognise a crisis

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200409-why-we-find-it-difficult-to-recognise-a-crisis

bbc.com

7

Key Ideas

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.

Optimism bias

One possible reason for the "optimism bias" is found in the way we learn new information. People are quicker to change their beliefs when the information is better than expected, compared to information that is worse than expected.

  • If people were told that lockdown would be eased in two weeks, people would quickly update their beliefs. But if experts said it would last longer, people would be less likely to update their beliefs. They will make statements like "I don't really believe it" or "things change."
  • People may underestimate their personal risk of infection.
  • People may fail to adopt precautions like social distancing.

Outcomes bias

Outcomes bias it thinking that because things turned out reasonably good, we can underestimate how close they came to going wrong.

In the past 20 years, there have been two outbreaks of diseases caused by the new viruses. The outbreak of 2003 killed 774 people before it was contained, and the Mers outbreak in 2012 has killed 858. The new virus has far surpassed both.

Confirmation bias

Even if people are given clear evidence that a crisis is unfolding, they may deny the reality of it. 

If people want to believe something, they may only look for evidence to support that point of view, and ignore or dismiss anything that contradicts it.

Groupthink

In uncertain conditions, we look to each other for guidance, even if the people are not the best guides. People are tending to do what they see is the social norm. It may explain panic buying.

At government level and other large organizations, the tendency to conform unconsciously make intelligent and experienced decision-makers stop discussing options and uncritically accept whatever plan they think everyone else is settling on.

Functional stupidity

Organizations often hire smart and talented people, but then create cultures and decision-making processes that do not encourage them to raise concerns or make suggestions. 

Everyone is encouraged to look at the positive interpretations, which leads to "self-reinforcing stupidity."

The best-prepared organizations

Five characteristics of the best-prepared “high-reliability” organizations:

  • They are preoccupied with failure. They think a lot about the ways they could miss their mark.
  • They encourage employees to avoid simplification and embrace complexity.
  • They encourage their employees to tackle problems and not hiding them.
  • They focus on the here on now.
  • They have flexible decision-making structures.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The State Of The Virus

Life around the world is changing dramatically as we practise social distancing, staying away from our friends and avoiding going to our favourite places, or even being unable to work. We already l...

Uncertain Time Frame

Top experts say the virus is going to be circulating for a year or two and can keep infecting people, causing outbreaks until there is a vaccine or treatment to stop it. If we drop the unpleasant and strict measures, the virus outbreak can know no boundaries or limits of infections. It won’t simply go away in two weeks.

Guidelines by WHO

  • Wash your hands regularly, and for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of it properly.
  • Clean and disinfect doors, handles and objects that are touched all the time.
  • Contact a health professional if you have symptoms; fever and a dry cough are most common.
  • DON’T touch your face.
  • DON’T go out of your home.

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Decision-making obstacles

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 ...

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.

Financial decisions

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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5G and Pandemics

5G and Pandemics

A bizarre conspiracy linking 5G and the new virus has taken hold in the UK.

The theory holds that the rollout of faster 5G internet is either causing or accelerating the spread of the v...

5G

5G is the next generation of mobile broadband and offers faster speeds than 4G and 3G.

Conspiracy theories revolve around the supposed harm of 5G radio waves. The basic idea is that 5G is more powerful than 4G or 3G, and therefore more dangerous to humans and animals.

No evidence

There is no evidence that 5G or any other kind of radio waves are harmful to people.

  • Your phone relies on radio waves. These waves are on the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum and produce non-ionizing radiation. This means they do not damage the DNA in cell tissue, nor do they cause cancer.
  • The International radiation watchdog has developed new guidelines for 5G after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops, and public consultation. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to exposure in the 100kHz to 300 GHz range.

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