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(NPR)   Psychologist explains why everyone is terrified of things like viral outbreaks, contagions, Ebola, and shutting down everything in response   (npr.org) divider line 67
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3097 clicks; posted to Main » on 22 Aug 2014 at 12:09 PM (13 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-22 09:54:39 AM  
Sad he's not on the list:

img.fark.net
 
2014-08-22 09:56:37 AM  
Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!
 
2014-08-22 10:09:25 AM  
Because Americans are pussies?
 
2014-08-22 10:15:26 AM  
I wonder if a lot of people still try to avoid Dr. Kent Brantly when he makes his church speech circuit.
 
2014-08-22 10:17:06 AM  
I'm not terrified. I, for one, see the possibility of something decimating the population as a positive thing. Provided it really does kill one out of ten across the spectrum, maybe a bit harder in the senior population. It would solve a lot of problems that I don't want to have to start an economic based murderous regime to carry out.
 
2014-08-22 10:19:07 AM  
I'm not really scared of any of it, but I do know that the scenario of a pandemic of some kind wiping a lot of us out is not that far-fetched. It'll get here sooner or later.
 
2014-08-22 10:43:58 AM  
I am not going to worry about an epidemic until I start having dreams about an old black woman in Nebraska...or you know, the Walking Dude.  Either or.

/Baby can you dig your man?
 
2014-08-22 10:44:25 AM  
ragegenerator.com
 
2014-08-22 11:26:45 AM  
A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it
 
2014-08-22 12:01:37 PM  

cryinoutloud: I'm not really scared of any of it, but I do know that the scenario of a pandemic of some kind wiping a lot of us out is not that far-fetched. It'll get here sooner or later.


That's why Contagion is a far scarier film than Outbreak as far as I'm concerned.  Contagion understands that you don't have to have a doomsday bug, just one that kills about 5% of the population.  If this were to happen, we would have millions of dead and society would be irrevocably altered.  The social, political, and economic consequences would be catastrophic.  That's what's scary - not the bug, but what the bug causes.
 
2014-08-22 12:11:28 PM  
Chickenlittleitus?
 
2014-08-22 12:12:39 PM  
More worried about an EMP attack.
 
2014-08-22 12:16:56 PM  
Is it dying?  Are people still scared of that?
 
2014-08-22 12:17:18 PM  
Is it because I might cough up my pancreas?
 
2014-08-22 12:18:02 PM  

DeaH: [ragegenerator.com image 650x720]


Save this one for next time.......

media.tumblr.com
 
2014-08-22 12:18:47 PM  

paygun: Is it dying?  Are people still scared of that?


I do it all the time. It's no big deal.
 
2014-08-22 12:21:57 PM  
Hmmm. Alcohol, car accidents, and smoking kill millions a year. Nah, no big deal. You can't catch a car accident by sucking the fuel out of a car or having an alcoholic bleed on you.
 
2014-08-22 12:22:54 PM  

ChipNASA: DeaH: [ragegenerator.com image 650x720]

Save this one for next time.......

[media.tumblr.com image 300x300]


Thanks - I did!
 
2014-08-22 12:22:58 PM  

Ennuipoet: Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!


Or just probability.

It also a bit of mind over matter, since our biological nature is to freak out things that millions of years of evolution have innately ingrained into the function of our brains. 

Its how you get cops killing people they're supposed to be protecting because of the nature of their job, while trying to reconcile the actual facts that their death rate on the job is far below that of any other job, and their death rate as a group is actually below that of the entirety normal population.
 
2014-08-22 12:23:20 PM  
I'm more worried about V.D., Aliens and Hillary.
 
2014-08-22 12:24:03 PM  

moothemagiccow: Because Americans are pussies?


If I have to choose between being surrounded by pussies or West African "let's tear down the ebola clinic because our witch doctor told us to" morans, I'll take pussies every time
 
2014-08-22 12:24:50 PM  
"This just doesn't happen [cough] in real life," Morse says. "If it isn't [sneeze] that transmissible [cough], that easily, then [anal leakage] it's not suddenly going to [bleeding from ears and eyes] acquire that ability [fills trousers] and suddenly move across [projectile vomiting and bleeding pustules] the entire globe the way [coma in pool of blood] the fictionalized outbreak has it [death rattle] doing," he says.
 
2014-08-22 12:26:16 PM  

Katolu: Hmmm. Alcohol, car accidents, and smoking kill millions a year. Nah, no big deal. You can't catch a car accident by sucking the fuel out of a car or having an alcoholic bleed on you.


No, but i might have another sort of accident if the fuel is sucked out of me...
 
2014-08-22 12:26:52 PM  

wildcardjack: I'm not terrified. I, for one, see the possibility of something decimating the population as a positive thing. Provided it really does kill one out of ten across the spectrum, maybe a bit harder in the senior population. It would solve a lot of problems that I don't want to have to start an economic based murderous regime to carry out.


Culling the weak members of a species can make the species stronger. The problem with advocating that is the socio-economics of who gets culled. Typically it would be those without access to the best health care who would be culled by disease the hardest, which makes the advocate seem classist, if not racist when the social classes are formed along ethnic lines.

The benefits of a mass cull include freeing up wealth, social positions, and resources for the survivors as well as reducing competition in the labor market, which results in a general rise in wages.

However, looking on the bright side makes you an asshole because people are dying.
 
2014-08-22 12:28:40 PM  
The viral outbreaks that scare me are mass hysteria phenomenon like the "ice bucket challenge."
 
2014-08-22 12:29:03 PM  

MaudlinMutantMollusk: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it


Came to say this.

Now everyone look right here a moment, so I can indeed be the first person in the thread to say it.

cdn9.staztic.com
 
2014-08-22 12:32:00 PM  

cgraves67: wildcardjack: I'm not terrified. I, for one, see the possibility of something decimating the population as a positive thing. Provided it really does kill one out of ten across the spectrum, maybe a bit harder in the senior population. It would solve a lot of problems that I don't want to have to start an economic based murderous regime to carry out.

Culling the weak members of a species can make the species stronger. The problem with advocating that is the socio-economics of who gets culled. Typically it would be those without access to the best health care who would be culled by disease the hardest, which makes the advocate seem classist, if not racist when the social classes are formed along ethnic lines.

The benefits of a mass cull include freeing up wealth, social positions, and resources for the survivors as well as reducing competition in the labor market, which results in a general rise in wages.


I thought so too until I heard what happened in England after the Black Death.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peasants%27_Revolt
 
2014-08-22 12:34:00 PM  
People tend to fear:

* the unknown over the known
* the sudden over the stealthy
* the unusual over the usual
* the spectacular over the subtile
* loss over potential gains
* a lot of irrational bogey-men

and so forth.

For example, after 911 I did some research to find a cause of death that could be measured in "September 11s".

I found that 9,000 white men a year die in America of cancer of the anus.

I'll give you a moment to chuckle before I point out that this is three 911s a year, every year.

Yet nobody even thinks of cancer of the anus because it is relatively unknown, stealthy and somewhat comical, while it can easily be subsumed under the general heading of cancer and is thus familiar in a way at the same time as being out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

If there were a sudden increase in cancers of the anus among a specific group of people other than homosexuals and heterosexual sodomists, it might cause a panic but this is unlikely.

One 911 a year occurs in the form of deaths of children from firearms.  This panics nobody because most of the children shot by adults are accidentally hit in poor urban neighbourhoods. Also, guns have a powerful lobby, small children do not.

And so it goes through all the causes of disease, injury or mortality. Some are simply more eye-catching.

Ebola makes you bleed, vomit, and crap yourself. It is showy compared to malaria which is far more common.

Diarrhea kills 2.5 million children a year but it's not pleasant to talk about and you can't drag sex, drugs, violence or Jebus into it. A few pennies of salt can save a live through rehydration and a safe source of cheap water can prevent the disease but it is not sexy so even international aid tends to prefer something flashier.

Micronutrients are the cheapest and most cost-effective way to save lives. Vitamins and minerals given to mothers and children are very efficient ways not only to prevent death and disease but mental retardation and the enormous drag it puts on the economics of development and poverty. But nobody is afraid of vitamin deficiency except maybe the locals in the poorer regions of Africa or elsewhere and some health nuts.

Ignorance and stupidity can add to our natural fears and warp them but human nature itself is poor equipment to confront many problems because evolution has not selected for logic, an understanding of probability and statistics, or an ability to reason about risk managment. These are all higher order thought processes that require training, lots of data and impassive reflection and self-knowledge. Few people have the mental furnishings needed to deal with anything new in an evolutionary sense, which means practically everything humans do.

In some cases, threats can be such that the smartest people and the best educated are less equipped to deal with dangers because they are over-confident and capable of levels of dumbth beyond the means of people modestly equipped with reasoning powers and common sense.

Religions, superstitions and a lot of strange beliefs survive because our brains are hard-wired to believe strange things, but also because they sometimes have survival value in the absence of time or materials on which to reason.
 
2014-08-22 12:36:53 PM  
The word did her cradle take a fall
And turned her brains.
 
2014-08-22 12:37:34 PM  
Culling the weak members of a species can make the species stronger. The problem with advocating that is the socio-economics of who gets culled. Typically it would be those without access to the best health care who would be culled by disease the hardest, which makes the advocate seem classist, if not racist when the social classes are formed along ethnic lines.The benefits of a mass cull include freeing up wealth, social positions, and resources for the survivors as well as reducing competition in the labor market, which results in a general rise in wages.However, looking on the bright side makes you an asshole because people are dying.

Its been done. Didn't work out so well
 
2014-08-22 12:38:40 PM  

Ennuipoet: Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!


"You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter's was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach." - Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber.
 
2014-08-22 12:39:07 PM  

Stile4aly: That's why Contagion is a far scarier film than Outbreak as far as I'm concerned.  Contagion understands that you don't have to have a doomsday bug, just one that kills about 5% of the population.  If this were to happen, we would have millions of dead and society would be irrevocably altered.  The social, political, and economic consequences would be catastrophic.  That's what's scary - not the bug, but what the bug causes.


You need to kill a lot more than 5% for that to happen. Spanish Flu killed 5% of the world's population and the only place you hear about it is history books. 5% is an absolute disaster at the time but it's still low enough that society continues on with business as usual and when the plague ends life goes on and everyone forgets about it in a few decades.
 
2014-08-22 12:39:13 PM  

ChipNASA: paygun: Is it dying?  Are people still scared of that?

I do it all the time. It's no big deal.


Osiris nods in approval.
 
2014-08-22 12:42:02 PM  
I'm just gonna take a wild guess and say, general ignorance and paranoia.

Those are pretty solid problems across the board.  As soon as someone hears of something dangerous and new, that usually means that no one knows how to prevent, cure, stop, or otherwise avoid it.  So shutting everything down until there is some clear idea what to do seems like the best plan.
 
2014-08-22 12:44:46 PM  

brantgoose: People tend to fear:* the unknown over the known* the sudden over the stealthy* the unusual over the usual* the spectacular over the subtile* loss over potential gains* a lot of irrational bogey-menand so forth.For example, after 911 I did some research to find a cause of death that could be measured in "September 11s".I found that 9,000 white men a year die in America of cancer of the anus.I'll give you a moment to chuckle before I point out that this is three 911s a year, every year.Yet nobody even thinks of cancer of the anus because it is relatively unknown, stealthy and somewhat comical, while it can easily be subsumed under the general heading of cancer and is thus familiar in a way at the same time as being out-of-sight and out-of-mind.


I believe people also (rightly) fear a situation that can suddenly get much, much worse. Cancer of the anus isn't communicable, and this is true of most of your examples. We're not faced with the scary exponential-growth situation that Ebola, Anthrax, or other communicable diseases could become.

The rational response to cancer of the anus is to devote resources proportionate to the threat.
The rational response for deadly communicable diseases is to devote disproportionate time and resources to shut them down before they have a chance to grow out of control.

brantgoose: Micronutrients are the cheapest and most cost-effective way to save lives. Vitamins and minerals given to mothers and children are very efficient ways not only to prevent death and disease but mental retardation and the enormous drag it puts on the economics of development and poverty. But nobody is afraid of vitamin deficiency except maybe the locals in the poorer regions of Africa or elsewhere and some health nuts.


I think we agree that micronutrients aren't really a problem in the developed world. Why would it be an example of ignorance or stupidity to only consider lack of micronutrients a threat in areas where it truly is a threat today?
 
2014-08-22 12:45:51 PM  
The thing which scares me most is the human capacity to organize hatred and fear to dehumanize other people.

The nastiest and most massive plagues, natural disasters, and wars are nothing to prejudice in terms of their destructiveness.

Plagues have survivors who are naturally immune to the disease(s) in question, natural disasters are usually localized and even if global can be surived with much of the human race's acquired knowledge and wisdom intact. Wars are immensely destructive, especially when they involve hate campaigns, but they do not kill everybody or destroy everything. Ideas can survive plague, natural disasters and wars. But hatred can even destroy ideas, because it can destroy human minds, hearts and whatever souls might be.

.
 
2014-08-22 12:45:56 PM  

Stile4aly: cryinoutloud: I'm not really scared of any of it, but I do know that the scenario of a pandemic of some kind wiping a lot of us out is not that far-fetched. It'll get here sooner or later.

That's why Contagion is a far scarier film than Outbreak as far as I'm concerned.  Contagion understands that you don't have to have a doomsday bug, just one that kills about 5% of the population.  If this were to happen, we would have millions of dead and society would be irrevocably altered.  The social, political, and economic consequences would be catastrophic.  That's what's scary - not the bug, but what the bug causes.


Why do you hate the job creators?
 
2014-08-22 12:48:47 PM  
Gonna take a wild guess...because these things can kill you?
 
2014-08-22 12:51:01 PM  

To The Escape Zeppelin!: Stile4aly: That's why Contagion is a far scarier film than Outbreak as far as I'm concerned.  Contagion understands that you don't have to have a doomsday bug, just one that kills about 5% of the population.  If this were to happen, we would have millions of dead and society would be irrevocably altered.  The social, political, and economic consequences would be catastrophic.  That's what's scary - not the bug, but what the bug causes.

You need to kill a lot more than 5% for that to happen. Spanish Flu killed 5% of the world's population and the only place you hear about it is history books. 5% is an absolute disaster at the time but it's still low enough that society continues on with business as usual and when the plague ends life goes on and everyone forgets about it in a few decades.


It depends on which 5% you kill. Only 0.32% the US died in WWII, and we're still hearing about how nice things were in the 1950s, when violent crime was low and employment among young people was high.*

*We have a violent crime rate today below that of the 1950's, and we didn't have to kill nearly a quarter of the young, unmarried men (the ones disproportionately responsible for violent crime) to do it.
 
2014-08-22 12:51:35 PM  

wildcardjack: I'm not terrified. I, for one, see the possibility of something decimating the population as a positive thing. Provided it really does kill one out of ten across the spectrum, maybe a bit harder in the senior population. It would solve a lot of problems that I don't want to have to start an economic  ALCOHOLIC-based murderous regime to carry out.


ftfm, thanks.
 
2014-08-22 12:56:23 PM  

brantgoose: Diarrhea kills 2.5 million children a year but it's not pleasant to talk about and you can't drag sex, drugs, violence or Jebus into it. A few pennies of salt can save a live through rehydration and a safe source of cheap water can prevent the disease but it is not sexy so even international aid tends to prefer something flashier.


Ah, yes - sexy, sexy diarrh - wait, wut?
 
2014-08-22 12:58:15 PM  
Because they think everything they watch on TV is how shiat actually works in real life?

Sorry, CSI is not a documentary.
 
2014-08-22 01:02:03 PM  

To The Escape Zeppelin!: Stile4aly: That's why Contagion is a far scarier film than Outbreak as far as I'm concerned.  Contagion understands that you don't have to have a doomsday bug, just one that kills about 5% of the population.  If this were to happen, we would have millions of dead and society would be irrevocably altered.  The social, political, and economic consequences would be catastrophic.  That's what's scary - not the bug, but what the bug causes.

You need to kill a lot more than 5% for that to happen. Spanish Flu killed 5% of the world's population and the only place you hear about it is history books. 5% is an absolute disaster at the time but it's still low enough that society continues on with business as usual and when the plague ends life goes on and everyone forgets about it in a few decades.


The world's population is a lot higher today than it was in 1918, and we are not accustomed to dealing with pandemic illnesses as the world was at that time (smallpox, in particular).  If we had a highly infectious disease with even 5% mortality, our medical infrastructure would be incapable of handling the sick.  If 5% of the US population died, we would have roughly 15 million bodies on the street.   The mortuary system would be incapable of handling the dead.  Once bodies start stacking on the sidewalk, you're going to end up with a major breakdown in day to day life.
 
2014-08-22 01:03:04 PM  

draypresct: brantgoose: People tend to fear:* the unknown over the known* the sudden over the stealthy* the unusual over the usual* the spectacular over the subtile* loss over potential gains* a lot of irrational bogey-menand so forth.For example, after 911 I did some research to find a cause of death that could be measured in "September 11s".I found that 9,000 white men a year die in America of cancer of the anus.I'll give you a moment to chuckle before I point out that this is three 911s a year, every year.Yet nobody even thinks of cancer of the anus because it is relatively unknown, stealthy and somewhat comical, while it can easily be subsumed under the general heading of cancer and is thus familiar in a way at the same time as being out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

I believe people also (rightly) fear a situation that can suddenly get much, much worse. Cancer of the anus isn't communicable, and this is true of most of your examples. We're not faced with the scary exponential-growth situation that Ebola, Anthrax, or other communicable diseases could become.

The rational response to cancer of the anus is to devote resources proportionate to the threat.
The rational response for deadly communicable diseases is to devote disproportionate time and resources to shut them down before they have a chance to grow out of control.

brantgoose: Micronutrients are the cheapest and most cost-effective way to save lives. Vitamins and minerals given to mothers and children are very efficient ways not only to prevent death and disease but mental retardation and the enormous drag it puts on the economics of development and poverty. But nobody is afraid of vitamin deficiency except maybe the locals in the poorer regions of Africa or elsewhere and some health nuts.

I think we agree that micronutrients aren't really a problem in the developed world. Why would it be an example of ignorance or stupidity to only consider lack of micronutrients a threat in areas where it truly is a threat today?


I didn't mean micronutrients as an example of stupidity or ignorance (although there are plenty of both involved when even the richest and best educated people follow bad advice or fads and don't eat properly). The next paragraph begins a new thought or line of argument.

Humans are poorly equipped by education and by nature to deal with many forms of risk and our misguided fears reflect the limits of our knowledge and reasoning. Indeed, many forms of panic are "culture bound" as anthropologists would say. They can't be understood or experienced by people who don't share the folk beliefs.

The religious beliefs and superstitions of African mobs today are much better in tune with our 17th century ancestors than they are with our post-bourgeois enlightenment, so we see stupidity and ignorance where the victims themselves might see a rational and natural response. A lot of accused witches BELIEVED in witchcraft themselves and thus might not blame their accusers for hunting witches, only in accusing them. That would make it easier for them to confess (or even come to believe they may have done something wrong) and also to attack or accuse others.
 
2014-08-22 01:06:27 PM  
anongallery.org
 
2014-08-22 01:06:39 PM  
The only thing that pulls in ratings better than hate is fear.  I've listened to 'news' people tell you that the likelihood of your catching Ebola is virtually nil in a voice that says "this is super serious and you should be worried."  They know that it's not just the information they give you, which is usually at least technically correct*, but in how it's given.  They flash a bunch of red and pictures of viruses and people in protective gear and play dramatic music before and after implying, ever so subtly, that there's really no possibility of an outbreak in any developed country.

Journalism in the Western world is farking disgusting.

*someone better jump on that
 
2014-08-22 01:13:57 PM  

Ennuipoet: Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!


Damn straight.  Everyone knows science and critical thinking make Baby Jebus cry.
 
2014-08-22 01:31:01 PM  

Ennuipoet: Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!


No, it is because things like fear and other survival related emotions bypass the logical part of the brain. No amount of education is going to change that.
 
2014-08-22 01:37:41 PM  

brantgoose: I didn't mean micronutrients as an example of stupidity or ignorance (although there are plenty of both involved when even the richest and best educated people follow bad advice or fads and don't eat properly). The next paragraph begins a new thought or line of argument.


Whups - sorry about misinterpreting your point there.

brantgoose: Humans are poorly equipped by education and by nature to deal with many forms of risk and our misguided fears reflect the limits of our knowledge and reasoning. Indeed, many forms of panic are "culture bound" as anthropologists would say. They can't be understood or experienced by people who don't share the folk beliefs.The religious beliefs and superstitions of African mobs today are much better in tune with our 17th century ancestors than they are with our post-bourgeois enlightenment, so we see stupidity and ignorance where the victims themselves might see a rational and natural response. A lot of accused witches BELIEVED in witchcraft themselves and thus might not blame their accusers for hunting witches, only in accusing them. That would make it easier for them to confess (or even come to believe they may have done something wrong) and also to attack or accuse others.


I agree that there are many individuals in every country who are very poor at understanding risk.

Long ramble alert:

But . . . well, let me try an analogy. You'll find a lot of people in every country who don't understand architecture. If you gave me a mindless army of construction robots and asked me to build a large building, it would be a disaster. On the other hand, we have some pretty amazing buildings built by large numbers of people. These buildings have literally hundreds of clever design features (resistance to wind shear, ability to access the most vulnerable plumbing junctions, air flow in elevator shafts, etc.) that came from a large number of people, not a single one of whom could have designed an entire building on their own.

Heinlein and Rand both despised people in large groups, but I believe the evidence shows that large groups of coordinated, motivated people are actually quite a bit better at building things than even the most talented individuals. Frank Lloyd Wright designed some very pretty buildings. The people who had to live in them found a lot of things he'd overlooked, though (small desks, no screens, etc.).

I believe we tend to evaluate risks to society as a whole better as a group than as individuals. Obviously we're not perfect, but the increasing lifespan over the past century indicates that we're getting better at it.
 
2014-08-22 01:42:13 PM  

DerAppie: Ennuipoet: Is it because basic science and critical thinking isn't taught as part of basic education in the United States? (reads article)  Yep!

No, it is because things like fear and other survival related emotions bypass the logical part of the brain. No amount of education is going to change that.


Exactly. I have a friend who's fairly well educated (he's a nurse, and used to be a phlebotomist). It just gives his imagination more facts to use to create panic.

We live in the San Francisco Bay Area. When a potential case was discovered in Sacramento (which has since tested negative for ebola), a lot of my FB friends were all "see, this is what happens when you let these people back into the country!!!" I was like, "dude, you're a nurse. you know how these things work and ebola requires direct contact with a patient's body fluids!" His response: "I'm worried about insect bites spreading it."
 
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