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Why we find it difficult to recognise a crisis

Groupthink

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.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

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:

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.

...
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.
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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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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Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy Theories

In the earlier times, conspiracy theories were a convenient way to cover up the inadequacies of the government, and putting a set of helpless people as a scapegoat, cloaking the misdeeds or mismana...

We Love A Good Story

The organic and unpredictable nature of conspiracy theories had led many researchers to investigate the cause of the phenomenon.

  • Successful conspiracy theories always tend to invent a great villain, have a backdrop or a backstory, and a morality lesson that can be easily understood by most.
  • Great stories are by nature more magnetic and appealing than the truth.
  • Human beings think and understand in stories. For thousands of years, fairy tales, legends, anecdotes and mysteries have helped our brains make sense of the world.
Collective Hysteria

Every society has its own, unique anxieties and obsessions, and the conspiracy theories that gain good mileage are the ones that tap into these primal fears.

Example: Many people fear vaccination of the children due to fears that the mass drive to vaccinate such a large population has some ulterior motive, like a mass medical experiment. The dodgy past record of the health care system, and the fact that the vaccination is free of charge, of course, adds fuel to the fire.

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The Common Cold

With over 200 different kinds of viruses that make up the common cold, Science is struggling to find a cure.

Adults suffer this elusive, widespread, and infectious disease 2 to 4 times...

The 7 Identified Virus Families

Scientists to date have identified seven virus families that cause the majority of colds:

  • rhinovirus
  • the new 2019
  • influenza
  • parainfluenza
  • adenovirus
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • metapneumovirus.
Vaccines vs Drugs

For Doctors, vaccines are preferable to drugs as they protect the host even before any infection.

For Pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma), vaccines don't spell money, as much as over-the-counter drugs and treatment do.

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Concept creep

... or moving the goalposts, it happens when problems never seem to go away because people keep changing how they define them.

This can be a frustrating experience, because you don't r...

Relative comparisons

These comparisons often use less energy than absolute measurements. For e.g, it’s easier to remember which of your cousins is the tallest than exactly how tall each cousin is. Human brains have likely evolved to use relative comparisons in many situations because they often provide enough information to safely navigate our environments, with very little effort.

Wisdom Of The Crowd

Collective intelligence or group thinking is an idea that by many minds working together, we can correct each other's errors in judgment and provide good results.

Companies employ intelligent...

Groupthink

The phenomenon of 'Groupthink' leads to ego clashes and reinforcement of existing biases. They somethings fail to reach any decision and may complicate matters further by incorporating all points of view. Design by Committee is something best avoided.

Brainstorming, on the other hand, involves creative, divergent thinking, which is different from the restrained, critical thinking that may be required to come to a decision.

Collective Intelligence

An extensive study in 'Groupthink' which included testing the social sensitivity, as well as the IQ of the individuals, showed that:

  • Equal participation was a key ingredient of better performance. Group dynamics can get worse if team members clash frequently.
  • If team members are pitted against each other for a common prize, like a promotion, then group work suffers.
  • If team members are not open to ideas from other members or are interrupting them, it can sabotage group performance.
  • Teams with a higher proportion of women have better collective intelligence.

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The habit of shaking hands

Taking into account the current situation created by the new virus, disease experts state that we should all consider removing handshakes from our habits from now on, as they could only increase th...

Giving up on handshakes

While shaking hands reveals the need to connect with the other and be socially engaged, several disease experts are encouraging us to find a substitute that would endanger less our health throughout periods of pandemics and not only. For instance, greetings such as simply stating how much of a pleasure it is to meet a person could actually do the trick.

Adapting our social habits

While disease experts support the idea of removing the handshakes from our cultural customs, several University professors claim that individuals are surely able to adept their customs, even if these have been practiced for generations to come. Therefore, giving up or just adjusting the handshake, should be no major issue for our civilization.

State Of Emergency
The ongoing pandemic is more than just a gigantic health crisis. The global economic order, for the first time in several decades, is on the path to an imminent restructuring.
Th...
Resolve

The measures to stop the spread of the virus are well-known by now: staying home in lockdown, working from home as a default option, schools switching from physical classrooms to e-learning models.

Not every country has been able to make these choices fast, due to a combination of hesitation, inaction, and paralysis. Before any decision is made, the first thing to do is determine what needs to be done and at what pace and scale.

Resilience

As the current health crisis steamrolls into an economic crisis unparalleled for the last 100 years, the decline in economic activity is already at par with the great depression.

This crisis of global proportions requires resilience, both for near-term issues like liquidity and cash flow, as well as long-term issues like uncertainty, personal financial stress and recovering from multiple challenges that were already present and are now further complicated due to the pandemic.

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