The normality bias is an intriguing psychological concept that helps explain why people are often surprised by changes that they should have anticipated. We often look back in history and wonder why people didn’t anticipate this great thing coming. The most obvious example is during WWII, when you look at everything that was going on and have the benefit of knowing the outcome, you wonder how people didn’t do something. How could they have missed what was coming?
Why didn’t they plan better and act sooner? The answer to much of this is that they were all fighting the normalcy bias. What exactly is the normality bias? It is the assumption that everything in our lives will remain constant within a standard deviation of normal. As a result, everything will fluctuate slightly up and down. It is impossible for someone to take over the government and accomplish what Hitler did.
The concept that the economy will significantly shift or that utility infrastructure such as water and power will cease to function is implausible. The difficulty with this assumption is that major things happen very frequently outside of one standard deviation. Looking back from 1900 to 2000, we had two virtually three world wars, the stock market fall and depression, the Vietnam and Korean wars, the Cuban missile crisis, 9/11, the 2007/08 crash, the Russia/Ukraine issue, and, of course, the Covid issue. I’m not trying to scare you, but whenever your brain tells you, “ehh, that big scary thing can’t possibly happen,” remember it can, and you might want to figure out how to prepare for it.
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Dr. Matt Chalmers
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