How our cognitive mind makes the coronavirus scarier then it actually may be

When you are sick does your mind automatically go to the worst possible situation? Even if it is just a tiny cold does your mind make you believe other wise. Sometimes out mind tricks us in believing something is worse than it actually is due to fear and anxiety. For my blog post I read an article by David Ropeik that looked into “How our brains make the coronavirus  seem scarier than it is.” I thought this was very interesting because all we are seeing in the news headlines these days is the coronavirus. He points out that numerous news headlines ask “should we be worried?” He explains that there is two contagions upon us, that is the actual disease and fear. Wondering why there are two contagions? Let me explain

First I want to explain the meme I added. This meme basically is showing that the Corona virus has reached the US and has cause fear and panic among many, so spongebob is heading out. When hearing about new diseases our memory goes through a process that creates a situation of worry and shuts out actual everyday dangers.

The most recent talked about disease were Ebola in 2014 and Zika in 2015. Anxiety almost spreads faster then the disease itself and thats what these two did. Ropeik explains that when mentioning those past diseases they come to mind so quick and faster then wed imagine. This can be an example of source memory, when hearing about this new epidemic you engage in all memories with the old epidemics, it is a feeling of familiarity. The scarier a memory is the deeper it gets encoded in our memory. Encoding is one of the three parts in the memory process, and is the initial learning of information. This leads to it coming into your relevant thoughts and this is called the availability heuristic. This is known as a shortcut that we really on to compare examples, in this case the diseases. This process of memory involves encoding, storing, and retrieval. When we learn something new we process it, store it, and then retrieve it. When bringing up other epidemics we go through this process but it just makes the fear worse. This raises questions, why do we fear new viruses over actual ones like influenza. It is the aspect of not knowing that creates more fear, we are unfamiliar. Another cognitive psychology aspect is representative bias, this is determining the likelihood of an event. Another reason is we pay attention to what people are already paying attention too.

This example with the corona virus provides information on life in general if we worry more about the new risks we forget about the old ones which can be more dangerous. Ropeik believes that our risk perception has gotten us this far but we need to look and be worried about reality rather then whats in the media.

I think these people did a great job with this article. They had much knowledge on prior disease to compare the corona virus too. They were very organized throughout and used well language to help readers understand. He backed up all his points with other cognitive psychologist and their opinions as well. I think this topic was very interesting it caught my eye because the coronavirus is so relevant today. But always raised question with me why do we fear this more than the flu, when the flu can be much more deadly. Its very interesting how the process of memory and heuristics can take over our ability to worry or not worry about something.

Ropeik, David. “Perspective | How Our Brains Make Coronavirus Seem Scarier than It Is.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 Jan. 2020,

4 thoughts on “How our cognitive mind makes the coronavirus scarier then it actually may be

  1. mlbrody

    The title of this blog post itself really intrigued me, because I- myself have been freaking out about the coronavirus, even though the influenza is much more contagious and much more deadly. The amount of social media that is shining down on this virus, is creating more chaos than the virus itself. It is very true, that if we focus our worries onto preventing it rather than freaking out about getting it and not having a cure, we would be so much better off. This post is very current and on-topic, overall great topic and post!

  2. mhart2402

    Unfortunately there’s so much political turmoil behind this thing too, and you hear conservatives throwing out hateful rhetoric towards “stupid liberals” and conversely the liberals are doing the same with “ignorant conservatives.”

    That being said though, and getting back on topic, I find myself often as a glass half empty kind of guy but even I acknowledge that fear mongering from the media and intentional widespread panic is really just an unnecessary response to this whole thing. The media, for some reason, is just trying to instill fear in all of us and for what reason? To further a capitalist agenda? Who can say, and I don’t want this to stray too far into tinfoil hat territory.

    Back when the whole Ebola scare was going on, everyone was treating it like it was end of days but… I just went to work. I didn’t even really think about it, and even if it did somehow affect me I was one of the many nihilistic people that responded with, “Well I don’t have convenient medical insurance or anything, so I guess I’ll just die.”

    But, you know… It’s one of those things where you kind of have to look at it in a certain perspective. If you let the fear control and take over your life then you’ll probably die from an anxiety attack before you ever die of an actual disease.

  3. vleonled

    This is an interesting take on a current event! Cognitively looking at it, taking in the news articles, social media posts, and emails from the school can be taken in and introduced in other parts of a person’s life. Statistically looking at it, I have seen multiple news articles expressing that the flu has caused more deaths in a year than the coronavirus has. Regardless of how true or how seriously this information is, people are still worried about the virus that seems to be brought up a lot in daily life. Although people may not be consciously thinking about the coronavirus, it is something that could affect how people are looking at their symptoms and handling them. For example, I am sure more people are going to their doctor for their cough and cold symptoms, along with buying more medicine for themselves and their children. Another important aspect that I think I should bring up is the increase of discrimination against Asian people. In the news, it has been expressed that people have said racist and discriminatory things to people on public transportation, or simply avoided them in public. Looking at it through a cognitive perspective, people are categorizing a group of people into who they think can be seen as dangerous and unhealthy, which is not true and is racist. Acting a certain way towards a group of people that can be depicted wrongly through the news and media can change people’s thought process and affect their behavior. This brings me to believe that the media has a large impact in people’s behavior and wrongfully changes it.

  4. ccragun

    This post caught my eye because of all the talk about the corona virus going around, when really its not much more deadly than the flu. With all the talk thats been going on about it its made me think of all the other major viruses and diseases that have happened that were made a huge deal, the one I remember most vividly is the swine flu. Thinking about all the other one though, I remember them happening, but don’t remember a similar panic happening with them, maybe because its happened on different occasions that I just dont feel the need to remember? Its interesting how much the news and media can rile up a situation and cause such a panic. Great post!

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