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Overcome Your Normalcy Bias

November 20, 2013, by Ken Jorgustin


Normalcy bias is dangerous, and most everyone has it. You might say it is somewhat normal to have normalcy bias, but here’s why you should do your best to overcome it…

Normalcy bias is a mental state people enter when facing the possibility of a crisis or disaster. Because it has never happened before (to them) it is assumed that it never will.

It causes people to underestimate the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster.

The assumption that is made is that since a disaster never has occurred, then it never will occur.

It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before.

People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, convincing themselves that it is a less serious situation. Therefore, they think that everything will be all right.

It is similar to the Ostrich effect, the avoidance of accepting risks by pretending they do not exist. The Ostrich effect comes from the common legend that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger.

Having a strong normalcy bias will prevent someone from preparing or planning for a disaster.

Perhaps the very first survival skill that someone can have is that of eliminating their normalcy bias; the realization that things can change, and change rapidly. It is quite impossible to think about or plan for disaster if your mind cannot accept that it could actually happen.

People are creatures of habit. We go to work the same way every day. Our routines are nearly the same (the weekday routine and the weekend routine). We tend to do everything the same or similar way we did the last time. Think about the things that you do in your life in a given week… most of you do the same things from week to week, even with the same schedule. Year in and year out…

It goes against the grain to think or act beyond our ‘normalcy’. I can tell you though, that once you take the ‘red pill’ (Matrix reference) and break through that old way of thinking, it is exciting (and can be a bit scary) to see what you will see, sometimes outside of your comfort zone. It is only then that you can truly begin to realize what is happening outside of your bubble, as well as the risks (and opportunities) that are present there.