Death by Normalcy Bias

How flawed thinking is leading to terrible errors

Normalcy bias is the tendency to think that tomorrow will look very similar to yesterday. That kind of thinking works most of the time.

It won’t work now.

“The last ‘pandemic’ was a joke. And this one isn't even worthy of the label pandemic. So just chill out.”

The WHO declared a pandemic in 2009 due to the H1N1 flu. That virus is estimated to have infected a billion people, but H1N1 really wasn't any more deadly than the seasonal flu.

The WHO looked like fools for raising the global alarm for H1N1. They were the 'boy who cried wolf' at that time. And because that's the collective experience of a pandemic, people are naturally inclined to assume the coronavirus is "like the flu". AKA no big deal.

Our inclinations are made worse because the WHO has twisted themselves in knots trying to avoid calling this virus a pandemic despite the obvious reality that it is.

It’s not a China problem. It’s a global problem. The number of confirmed cases still small, but growing at an exponential clip.


Without clear communication from trusted institutions, people are left thinking this isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, there are very few (if any) trusted leaders or credible institutions right now.

We hear only: “We got this.” or “It’s like the flu.” or “We have almost no cases here”. Or this big one…“Global markets … should calm down and try to see the reality,”

These statements reveal the ignorance, hubris, and simple deceit of the people ‘in charge’.

This has nothing to do with Trump or Pence or Pelosi or Bernie. This has to do with the fact that our institutions - across the board - are ineffective and overly concerned with optics.

I could use any of a dozen examples to make the point, but I think this one does the trick…

We need Leadership and Action. Not messaging.

And we need to make sure our own recency bias isn’t clouding our thinking. It’s time to be alert. It’s time to pay attention.

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