Are We Overreacting to Coronavirus?

This article goes into detail about how human brains calculate risks in times of crises, such as the pandemic we are all currently experiencing. In passing, it addresses the mechanisms of memory (recency effect, Von Restorff effect, self-relation effect) on how people are reacting to the coronavirus. It uses these aspects of memory to argue that many people are overreacting to the virus, overestimating the threat it poses to them as individuals.
There are many biases that can influence memory. Three of these effects, briefly mentioned in the article, are the recency effect, Von Restorff effect, and self-relation effect. The recency effect is the prevalence of recently learned information in the working memory – the more recently we heard it, the easier it is to remember. The Von Restorff effect describes how an unusual item or occurrence may stick out more in the working memory, because it is abnormal. Examples from the article include the deaths of young individuals from COVID-19. The last effect, self-reference, refers to the prevalence of information that has some relation to oneself – for example, if an individual you knew passed away from COVID-19.
While the author backs up his argument with reputable sources, I do not agree with his overall message. Based off of CDC warnings and the statistics from countries around the world, I personally believe that people are not overreacting to the threat posed by the coronavirus. As a matter of fact, I would argue that until recently, a considerable number of Americans have not known many individuals who passed away from the virus, which has led to people not taking the warnings seriously enough. If he was making this argument with regards to supply hoarding, I would completely agree but he does not explicitly make this point in the article.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2020/03/19/this-is-the-biggest-mistake-people-make-when-assessing-the-risk-of-covid-19-say-psychologists/#1b9ad6a3ba1e

2 thoughts on “Are We Overreacting to Coronavirus?

  1. wharris2

    Even though I have not read the article, I would have to agree with your standpoint on the importance of taking the Coronavirus as seriously as possible. I hope that this notion of “overreacting to Coronavirus” doesn’t continue and that as a society we can flatten the curve. Before reading your blog post I had never heard of the Von Restorff effect but I can understand now why an unexpected occurrence would stick out more in my working memory.

  2. mhart2402

    I say it’s both extremes and no real middle ground. People are either overreacting to the Coronavirus or completely under reacting and not taking it seriously enough. The ones who are overreacting are the ones you see claiming this is the apocalypse, buying up every single bit of toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, big jugs of water, canned goods, dry goods, etc. And the ones who are under reacting are the ones still partying down in Miami Beach or going to liquor stores every day as part of their typical Tuesday afternoon ritual. The main issue honestly are the ones that aren’t taking it seriously enough and are just casually gallivanting out as if there’s not an airborne virus amongst us, and it’s for that reason it’s likely to take even longer for this entire thing to get resolved.

    I’m definitely trying to be a part of the middle ground and not giving into the obvious panic that some people are in, but I’m not trying to be casual about it either. I acknowledge that there is a serious issue going on, but I’m trying to just live my life normally to the best of my ability. There are a lot of outside extenuating factors that make this a lot harder for people to try and go about a “normal day” though, and that probably just has a lot to do with how “people” act versus how an individual acts.

    “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” Yes, that’s a quote from Men in Black but it’s shockingly accurate social commentary that is very accurate with how things are going as of late.

Comments are closed.