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Description: Here is a simple question. How many times each day these days do you seek out and look at the latest COVID-19 statistics (locally, nationally or internationally)? OK, that is what you say but is that really true (be honest with yourself, you do not have to share that with anyone else)? What might regularly checking or not checking the COVID-19 numbers relate to (correlate with) in terms of how people are coming to terms with, understanding, and coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic? Thank about that for a moment and then read the article linked below for one researcher’s recent efforts to address at least a corner of this question.

Source: Is Obsessing Over Daily Coronavirus Statistics Counterproductive?, Ellen Peters, Opinion, The New York Times

Date: March 12, 2020

Photo Credit:  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Article Link:

Now before you dismissively wave your hand at the article linked above and derisively declare it “correlational” maybe place it in a slightly broader context. COVID-19 aside, there has been growing evidence of an anxiety epidemic arising, particularly among emerging adults. A big part of anxiety involves rumination or mentally going around and around with what-ifs and could be and inflationary perspectives on the bleakness of future possibilities. In light of that COVID-19 is a an ideal “worry -toy” for anxiety prone people. Such anxiety fueled rumination over COVID-19 drives our inherent cognitive information processing biases. For example, looking and relooking at the current numbers of those infected and those who have died as a result of COVID-19 tends to have those who do so focused upon the increasing large numbers without proportionally contextualizing them and noting that many, many more people are not and will not become infected and a very large proportion of those that do become effected with survive with little or no discomfort. The researcher who wrote the article acknowledges the correlational nature of her research but indicates that she is following many of her participants longitudinally with is one of beginning to address the causal attribution question. Looking at the COVID-19 statistics CAN motivate us to take requests for self-imposed social distancing and handwashing more seriously but, it can also fuel a catastrophizing bias that, in tern ramps up anxiety. So, check your motives, check base-rates, and review your behavior and perhaps you will reduce your anxiety AND behave in more positive ways.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between COVID-19 statistics checking and anxiety?
  2. How does this relationship relate to general issues of anxiety at the individual and at the socio-historical levels?
  3. What are several thigs people can do in order to reduce their COVID-19 related anxieties?

References (Read Further):

Christie, Tim (March 14, 2020) Study will look at perceived risk of new coronavirus in real time.

Mitchell, Cory (June 25, 2019) Randon Reinforcement: Why Most Traders Fail. Investopedia,

Obrecht, N. A., & Chesney, D. L. (2016). Prompting deliberation increases base-rate use. Judgment and Decision making, 11(1), 1.

Turpin, M. H., Meyers, E. A., Walker, A. C., Białek, M., Stolz, J. A., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2020). The environmental malleability of base-rate neglect. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1-7. Link

Holzworth, R. J., Stewart, T. R., & Mumpower, J. L. (2018). Detection and selection decisions with conditional feedback: Interaction of task uncertainty and base rate. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 31(4), 508-521. Link

Psychology of COVID-19 Part 1: Some Psychological Facts

Psychology of COVID-19 Part 2: Coming to Terms with Anxiety

The Psychology of Risk Assessment: The Case of the Coronavirus