Change is something that most people are uncomfortable with. We humans live with our familiar routines and habits, and we have some difficulty with situations that are out of the ordinary and out of our ‘comfort zone’. Because we want things to be normal. This is normalcy bias.
To make matters worse, when confronted with an emergency or disaster, something interesting happens. A small percentage will effectively deal with it, a percentage will ‘lose their minds’, however a surprising percentage of people will act as though they are not affected, that the incident is somehow over or past them, or that nothing even happened… They are not accepting in their minds that ‘it’ happened or that they are, or may be, involved in any way or that action may be prudent or required on their part…
I recently read that “people seeking shelter during tornadoes and hurricanes are often called back, or delayed, by people doing normal activities, who refuse to believe the emergency is happening” (gizmodo.com). This is normalcy bias. Apparently about 70% of people in a disaster do it. “Although movies show crowds screaming and panicking, most people move dazedly through normal activities in a crisis.”
I have also read that people will look for about four opinions on what’s going on and what they should do before taking any action — even in an obvious crisis.
For example, during an emergency people will likely call out to others: “What’s going on?” If and when someone tells them to evacuate, or to take shelter, they fail to comply and move on, asking other people the same question.
Why? because they want someone to tell them that everything is okay, and will keep on asking or delaying action until they get it what they want to hear… or about four different people telling them to evacuate (or whatever the appropriate action).
So what can you do to beat your own normalcy bias?
1. Tell yourself (force yourself) to recognize and acknowledge that you have normalcy bias. We all do to varying extents. Recognizing and accepting that you are affected is the first step.
2. Teach yourself Situational Awareness. When you know what’s going on around you (near or far) it will enable you to more quickly recognize that a situation is about to occur or is occurring right now. It gets you out of your normalcy bubble.
3. Trust your gut, your instincts, your senses, and the facts. Do not deny or hide from them.
Sounds easy enough?