Social Psychology of Crisis

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Times of crisis can bring out the best in people. It may also reveal the strangest parts of human nature.

While restaurants in six states offering free toilet paper to those in need In response to barren toilet paper shelves at many local grocery stores, the US today reports that police station in Newport, Oregon, released residents urgently stop calling 911 when they run out of toilet paper, "You will survive without our help," the department said.

Meanwhile how New York Times reports young people continue to travel despite restrictions and state and local governments close businesses to prevent people from gathering in public places, older groups, including the Florida retirement enclave and parents of a new york writerto a large extent opposed to behavioral behavioral relationships that can protect their health.


“This outbreak is a classic example of a social dilemma,” said Stephen Drigotas, professor and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences. He is an expert in social psychology, and he says he is likely to extract from them news reports for material to be included in its introductory course.

Drigotas explains that when people panic due to a lack of toilet paper, there are two things in the game.

First, the purchase of panic during a pandemic is a classic example of a social dilemma: an inborn conflict between a person’s personal interests and the benefits of the group as a whole. In this case, the accumulation of goods is an example of the public domain dilemma, which is based on 19th-century reports on farmers who overgraded cattle on state lands reserved for government use. Farmers could bring as much cattle as they wanted, but many farmers came too often or with too many animals, and soon the land was stripped, which required a period of lack of grazing to grow and replenish.

“For the individual farmer, the dilemma was that they wanted to maximize grazing for their herd and ensure that their livestock were fed, but if too many farmers acted in this way, the resource would be exhausted for everyone,” Drigotas explains.

According to him, during this outbreak of COVID-19, shared resources, such as food, toilet paper and other essentials, may be depleted if people do not exercise restraint.

“The problem arises when people start to think that they donate or miss, and see that other people benefit,” says Drigotas. “This essentially changes their thinking, and they really will begin to feel that they are using it. It makes people react – panic can be a strong word – but it changes their motivation to become more selfish or overestimate what they need. In this case, it's toilet paper, total. "

According to Drigotas, another element in the game is called the law of scarcity, which refers to how consumers think about products that are delivered in limited quantities or available for a limited time. Marketers will often use this sense of urgency to inspire people to shop that they would not otherwise have done. People are especially susceptible to the deficit law when they don’t put in much cognitive energy in decision making, for example, during nightly commercials or during a stressful last-minute trip to the grocery store.

The challenge here, Drigotas explains, inspires people to resist the influence of the law of scarcity on their thinking and exercise restraint when buying.

“The more reports there are about how we should behave and how we should respond to this dilemma of a coronavirus outbreak, the more we realize that restraint is what we need to do,” Drigotas says. “Moreover, if you see evidence that other people show restraint, people are more likely to say yes, we can all work together in the face of this crisis.”

However, important groups of people may ignore these key messages of restraint. Business Insider reports that millennials snapping up cheap flights despite travel warnings from the US Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drigotas says that a fair amount of such behavior can be attributed to the recklessness of youth, but there may be a different phenomenon. “The probability is that if you are young, you are unlikely to have poor results from contracting this disease,” he says. “I suspect that when we begin to see more evidence of how this disease affects people, and young people begin to recognize people who become infected, they will begin to show a little more restraint in their actions.”

But paradoxically, media reports there was also an indication that many baby boomers don't want to cancel cruises or apply social distance measures despite a higher risk of developing a serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19.

“People do not know how to assess probability,” says Drigotas. “In this population, it may be thought that COVID-19 infection has high consequences, but low probability. young peoplethe assessment will be that contracting for the use of COVID-19 is highly likely, but with a low level of impact. This may explain why these two groups may abandon social distance measures. ”

Drigotas warns that it is not yet clear how statistically significant these reports are about baby boomers and millennial behavior – there is still much to learn and study, he says. He plans to continue monitoring the outbreak and seek evidence of principles. social Psychology in the game, but he, like his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, will do it with the comfort and safety of his home.

Panic consumers seek control in a crisis

Buying panic, ignoring security measures: the social psychology of crises (2020, March 20)
retrieved March 21, 2020

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