Bad news about the pandemic: in normal condition we will back again soon (Scientific American, USA)

The vast majority of companies and States trying to resume their work and livelihoods. But all together they fell into the trap of the “return to normal”. They do not understand that we have a new wave of restrictions — and all because of the fact that many States too early decided to abandon the isolation.

I must say that some of the earlier opened countries have already returned some of the restrictions. As I predicted at the beginning of March in one editorial, it shows that we will have a wave of restrictions and closures, while in the world there will be a vaccine. In this environment, we need to focus more on virtual communication. In order not to fall into the trap of the imaginary normal condition, we must draw Parallels between what is happening now and what happened in the beginning of the pandemic.

Many prominent business executives and political leaders at an early stage of the epidemic tried to downplay the seriousness of the situation. As a result, most company owners and ordinary citizens at first considered a pandemic of something like an ordinary cold.

This initial impression was strengthened perceptions of threats from the covid-19. Scientists neuroscientists and experts on behavioral Economics like me call these initial impressions starting point. In their thinking they are making a dangerous error in the estimates, which is called the effect of binding or fixing installation. The idea is that we attach too much importance to initial information on the subject, and the rest of the information flowing through the filter this initial impression. Thus, when began to appear new information about the threats covid-19, people still adhered to their initial impressions. They did not want to change their point of view based on new data.

This was most clearly evident in the guidelines for wearing masks. At first, the Center for control and disease prevention talked about that wearing masks to protect themselves and other people from covid-19 there is no need. Over time, when accumulated research data, and it became clear that the wearing of masks benefit, the Centre for control and prevention of the disease has amended its guidelines, stressing the importance of wearing masks in public places. So science works: when the facts change, and studies are changed and guidelines.

But our brain works differently, at least those people who do not know how to critically evaluate facts and data.

What is the result? Many ignored the new instructions, especially if it seemed to them that they are not confirmed by the official figures. As a result of mental bias caused by emotional impact, we tend to take for granted the views of those who consider people of authority. Under their leadership, we can overcome the initial effect of the binding. Without such guidance, we will stick to its original point of view.

There is one dangerous error of judgement that cognitive neuroscientists call a distortion of normality. In this case mental bias is due to the fact that our instinctive reaction makes us feel like the future (at least the upcoming couple of years) will be approximately the same as the past normal.

As a result, we typically seriously underestimate the scope and impact of the disaster in which we find ourselves. Moreover, we hasten to return to normal life even in the case when we need to prepare for the next shock or the continuing disaster.

We know that the best way to finally and irrevocably to win covid-19 — is to find a vaccine against coronavirus. To develop such a vaccine usually takes ten years or even more, because research is expensive and the approval process is inhibited by strict safety rules. Fortunately, the government, market forces and charitable organizations have combined their efforts by directing significant funds to create vaccines and reducing to an absolute minimum to ensure the safety and efficiency of the approval process.

More than a hundred organizations have launched projects to develop vaccines, and some of them have created viable prototypes. But it will be many months before the vaccine will be tested on humans. In the ideal case, if the first few trials of vaccines are successful, and they prove their efficiency, not showing unacceptable side effects (and this is a big “if”), then approved for mass use of the vaccine we will receive by the summer of 2021.

And then what? Well, we will have to mass-produce the vaccine, distribute it among the most vulnerable, and eventually to instill in all. For the production of vaccines for 100 million of the most vulnerable Americans will take several months. There are other obstacles: distribution, vaccination of people and overcoming the resistance of opponents of vaccination. It will take several more months. Total, in the most optimistic scenario, we come to the beginning of 2022.

But tests are very few vaccines, and we should not count on some miraculous luck, because there may be unacceptable side effects and lack of effectiveness. More realistic seem 2023-2024 years. That’s when we will be able to get enough safe and effective vaccine.

This was known back in February. However, due to the distortion of normality is hard to imagine that the world can so quickly get out of whack. In early 2020, political leaders, business leaders and ordinary citizens was very uncomfortable to even think about that win covid-19 we are in the presence of incredible luck can not until 2022, and that a more realistic period is 2024-2025 years. This is despite the fact that such unequivocal statements are made of the best scientific minds.

The distortion of normality, the effect of binding and emotional impact — these are just three of more than a hundred emotional misconceptions that cognitive neuroscientists and experts on behavioral Economics like me are called cognitive distortions. Such distortions can cause us to make incorrect decisions in a variety of fields ranging from professional activities to choosing to purchase. Fortunately, recent scientific studies, including mine, show you how we can effectively overcome such a dangerous error in judgment.

First, we will not achieve anything, if not take a look at the facts. We need to recognize that covid-19 severely disrupted our world, turning it upside down in just a few short weeks in February and March 2020. Unfortunately, this disease will not go away. Believing that she’s gone, we are so deeply enmeshed in this quagmire that flash covid-19 in the United States was one of the worst in the world for deaths per capita.

Next, we need to analyze and understand how each of us fell for this bias, and to assess the pain that we ourselves have caused. Then we need to realistically assess long-term consequences and to develop scenarios based on the probability of serious failures and violations.

So get ready for several long waves of tightening and loosening of the restrictions, given the fact that the fall of the coronavirus can be activated, as the street will be cooler and we’ll be spending more time at home. Remember: even if in the past you’ve made bad decisions in the future, you always have the opportunity to fix things, and happily survive the pandemic, blagodenstviya and succeeding.