Most Refuse To Believe An Emergency Is Happening – When It’s Happening

normalcy bias when people refuse to believe an emergency is happening

Apparently, a majority of people refuse to believe that an emergency is happening, when it’s actually happening.

Approximately 70 percent of people will move dazedly through normal activities in a crisis. Not sure of the exact number (I read it somewhere). And surely there are circumstances such that most people would essentially be forced to take action. However, due to my life experiences, I tend to believe that generally – most people (at least initially) may refuse to believe or accept that a real emergency is happening, when it’s actually happening.

I filed this under ‘security’ because this type of behavior could be a security risk to others during an emergency.

When confronted with an emergency or disaster, a small percentage will effectively deal with it. Some percentage of people 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 has past them by. Or that nothing is happening or has even happened.

Change is something that most people are uncomfortable with. We humans live with our familiar routines and habits. We may have some difficulty with situations that are out of the ordinary (e.g. an emergency), and out of our ‘comfort zone’. Because we want things to be normal.

I have read that people (in an ’emergency’ situation) may seek approximately 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 and say something like “What’s going on?” If and when someone tells them to evacuate, or to take some sort of action, many will not comply or take appropriate action – while continuing to ask other people the same question. “What’s going on?!” or something to that effect.

Why? Because they want someone to tell them that everything is okay, and will keep on asking or delaying action until they get what they want to hear. Or, until..

Or, they’ll wait until about four different people tell them to take whatever is the appropriate action.

Interesting huh?

Maybe it’s the result of a jumbled combination including panic, disbelief, normalcy bias, lack of confidence, a lack of situational awareness, lack of instinct, denial of the situation, or simply having no idea of what to do next – coupled with the fact that most people are simply ‘followers’ with no desire to be the first to take action.

Do you have any examples where you have observed this type of behavior?

[ Read: Analogy Of The 20 Titanic Lifeboats ]