Psychic numbing is a psychological phenomenon that affects the way we make decisions. In other words, we worry a lot when one person suffers, but as problems grow like the coronavirus, which affects millions, we become insensitive.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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The researchers suggest that as the numbers in a tragedy increase more and more, we care less and less. In an interview with KGW News, University of Oregon psychologist Paul Slovic emphasizes a short sentence that summarizes his research results, and it is "the more who die, the less we care," which is also the title of his study: The More Who Die, the Less We Care: Psychic Numbing and Genocide.
Professor Slovic has studied the way humans make decisions for more than 30 years. He explains that when information comes to us in numbers and statistics, it often doesn't convey any feeling because they are just numbers.
That can be a problem because our feelings prompt us to take action like wearing a mask or socially distancing ourselves. According to KGW News, "one of Slovic's studies found that feelings of compassion began to fade as soon as the number of people in need went from one to two."
"We have the strongest feeling of concern and desire to help when there's one person in distress. If there are two people in need, it probably won't feel twice as important to help them as one," he stresses.
When coronavirus cases and numbers increase, we may decide not to help because we feel it won't make a difference.
How to be More Empathetic?
Professor Slovic says that it is critical to focus on the people behind the numbers. It is individual stories that help us appreciate the pandemic's reality and how people experience, cope, and cope with it. The expert reminds us that "helping a little bit can be what it takes to save a life."
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In this case, being more empathetic and caring for ourselves and the people around us can significantly reduce coronavirus cases.
An Example of this Phenomenon
During an Instagram Live, the High School Musical franchise star Vanessa Hudgens appeared to give off some insensitive comments when talking about the current state of coronavirus, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and has millions of people quarantined as the government tries to contain the disease.
The actress said, "It's a virus; I get it. Like, I respect it. But at the same time, even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are gonna die. Which is terrible, but, like, inevitable." Shortly after facing all the backlash for her insensitive comments about the virus, Vanessa took her social media to apologize to her followers.
The polemic caused by the Hollywood star is an excellent example of psychic numbing: what happens is that we care when a person dies, but when it comes to the masses, it is difficult for us to sensitize ourselves beyond the figures' official reports give us.
Thankfully, many people seem to be working on the skill of empathy and displaying it on social media during the pandemic. These days we might even find a meaningful connection online. We are now using these platforms to be vulnerable.
Jamil Zaki, a psychologist at Standford and author of the book "The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World," points out: "we're vulnerable together, which show us all we have in common and how much we need each other."