How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic

Marshall Allen and Meg Marco, reporting for ProPublica:

[Psychologist, writer and champion poker player Maria] Konnikova’s psychology expertise tells her that most people have a hard time thinking through the uncertainty and probabilities posed by the pandemic. People tend to learn through experience, and we’ve never lived through anything like COVID-19. Every day, people face unpleasant and uncertain risks associated with their behavior, and that ambiguity goes against how we tend to think. “The brain likes certainty,” she said. “The brain likes black and white. It wants clear answers and wants clear cause and effect. It doesn’t like living in a world of ambiguities and gray zones.” […]

Good public health communication requires testing messages to make sure they are interpreted correctly by a wide range of people, [Carnegie Mellon University psychologist studying risk and decision-making Baruch] Fischhoff said. “Our official communicators have dropped the ball, and they have been undermined by people who don’t have the public’s interest at heart,” he said.