To Trust or Not to Trust. That is the Question!

Written by Marion Aufseesser

13 June 2020

Dear Readers,

 Thank you for joining me again.

 To Trust or not to Trust?  

 Last week I wrote about cognitive bias based mainly on the Kahneman’s work. Click here for the link.

Today, I share with you the literature scan I have made, digging further into the phenomenon trying to better understand the diverse human reactions I have experienced in my clients, family and friends before and during lockdown and now during the deconfinement period.

How can I trust the info that is delivered to me?

Depending on your information source, you trust your source or not because of your cognitive bias filter.

Who can you trust?

Digging into the readings, it appears that it is vital to understand the trust versus non-trust aspects of information sourcing.

Stephen Pinker, Dan Ariely and Yuval Harari share with us their understanding of Covid-19. All three of these important scholars are telling us, how influenced we all are by our different biases.

For Pinker, many of us went into “overdrive” meaning our stress (system 1) went totally out of control. Pandemics are “part of life” and not “divine coercion” as was believed in the middle ages and as some groups may still believe today. Ariely points this out, when telling us how special efforts need to be made to get certain groups of people to adhere to the necessary shutdown rules.

Steven Pinker points out that when we are sick and/or threatened by epidemics/ pandemics we tend to become more introverted, xenophobic and prone to emotional disgust

= non-trust.

He explains that in today’s 21st century, our intellectual, cognitive system allows us to act fast. Within 2 weeks the virus’s genome had been identified, hundreds of world class scientists are working round the clock to develop vaccines. Public health care programs are being rolled out all over the world.

Steven Pinker asks why we had no well-functioning “firefighter” brigade ready. Share your thoughts or comments with us!

If I take the liberty to summarise my thoughts after having reread Pinker, Ariely, Kahneman and Harari, I would argue that the main problem today is the fight of misplaced egos of world leaders on one hand, and the scientific community on the other. And even within the scientific communities, opinions diverge.

Right now, it would appear that the population overall would listen more to the scientific leaders (system 2 rational scientists) and even more so when the political and scientific leaders act together as in Switzerland.

Steven Pinker further points out that “your political standing predicts your behavior to health measures” he adds that depending on what “tribe” you belong to, your behavior towards authority will change in the face of a crisis like Covid-19.

The very big question is how to get a large number of the population to be more rational.

Did you know that more people die from bee stings and drowning in the swimming pool for example than from terror attacks and epidemics/pandemics? Check our last week article

Our brain has a hard time to compute the exponential character of the pandemic. Somehow at the outset we had a problem to compute the numbers.

The main effort is to reduce the Fear impact which is what gets system 1 irrationality skyrocketing. An old proverb says “Fear is not a good counsellor” and in the case of Covid-19 the pictures and stories told from China and Italy at the beginning of the pandemic seem to have “frightened us to death”, making many of us, as Pinker, Ariely and Harari all say overreact. Fear induced reactions to events are often irrational.

Now it’s time for us all to “calm down and reset our brains” using our rationality.

Going back to the office is a huge step for those who went into Pinker’s “overdrive” during the crux of the crisis.

If you feel that you cannot cope and that your anxiety and stress levels are still out of control, you may want to get professional help.

It would be a shame for society and individuals to recover from Covid-19 but remain vulnerable and develop lasting psychological and somatic damage. Preventing an outburst of phobias, stress and anxiety disorders is now highly recommended.

Many companies are therefore putting in place our webinars as well as offering personalised help lines to accompany staff.

In many languages there’s a saying that translates into “trouble never comes alone”. This appears to be true in some cases now. Many of the clients calling our help lines, call for personal reasons that got out of hand during lockdown and conflictual relations at work. In my personal experience few are complaining about home working. Those suffering from home working are mainly doing so either because of the work load especially at the beginning of the crisis and child care issues. In our sample we find that many people actually have a longer list of positive outcomes from the lockdown than negatives. Our tool PNKR© allows to analyse this in a qualitative and quantitative SWOT analysis.

Finally, it is always a good idea to cross check information and never rely on one source only. Whether political or scientific.

We wish you all a great week,