As COVID-19 cases rapidly spread across the U.S., we’ve experienced rapid social disruption. Schools, libraries, and businesses are closed; bands’ tours and sports leagues are on hiatus; experts recommend we wash our hands frequently and, most drastically, minimize contact with others through social distancing.
Many people are following these guidelines by working from home if they can, canceling trips, and putting up with chapped hands, but others view these precautions as an overreaction. Some have even defiantly run toward the exact things experts warn against, taking advantage of lower travel fares, or insisting on dancing it out at an enormous senior community. Friends tell me about their relatives or colleagues who are still going on vacation or packing into crowded bars and wonder how they can be so callous. Surely they’ve heard the news—why is it that some folks are hunkered down for the long run while others are living life as usual?
While scientists are just beginning their studies on coronavirus attitudes, there’s some early evidence that perceived risk is correlated with action. Gretchen Chapman, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, says that she ran a quick pilot study asking people what they were doing to reduce their risk, and those who assessed lower risks associated with coronavirus reported they were washing their hands less. (This risk assessment also appears to be tied to political beliefs as well. Chapman says Donald Trump supporters in her study gave lower assessments of risk, and another survey from Quinnipiac University found that Republicans were generally less concerned about the virus than Democrats.)
But it’s hard to get across to some people that they could get sick—and that strategy might not work at all if that person is heavily invested in the narrative that all of it is overblown. In that case, some have resorted to appealing to different facts: that precautions like hand-washing and social distancing aren’t about you as an individual but your responsibility to the community. One graphic has been making the rounds to demonstrate the concept of “flattening the curve”: Our collective action could slow the spread of the virus and protect more vulnerable members of the community.
Read the whole story: Slate