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Please remember: The idea that when disaster strikes people panic and social order collapses is very popular. It is also a myth. A huge research literature shows disaster makes people *more* pro-social. They cooperate. They support each other. They're better than ever. 1/x
But the myth matters because it can lead people to take counterproductive actions and adopt policies. The simple truth is we are a fantastically social species and threats only fuel our instinct to pro-social behaviour. An overview here:… 2/x
Incidentally, this point is made, and is forgotten, after every disaster. Remember 9/11? Everyone was astonished that snarling, greedy, individualistic New Yorkers were suddenly behaving like selfless saints. No need for surprise. That's humanity. That's how we roll. 3/x
Advice for leaders: In a crisis, forget petty calculation. Appeal to people's better angels. Tell them you have nothing to offer but "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." Urge them to come together to work and struggle and sacrifice, as Lincoln and Churchill did, and they will.
Forgot to mention the most dramatic illustration: It was widely believed in the 1930s that mass aerial bombardment of cities would produce panic and social collapse. It didn't. Anywhere. In fact, it created the "Blitz spirit" everywhere strategic bombing was inflicted. 5/x
Thanks for great responses. Some folks object by pointing to looting, etc., in Hurricane Katrina. No one claims there is *no* anti-social behaviour in crisis, but we tend to zero in on it and overlook the vastly more common pro-social behaviour.…
I should also mention that people who study and plan for disasters are really annoyed by the disaster myth. Like, really annoyed.…
Here's Dr. Mark Keim, a physician whose career is devoted to disaster assistance.…
Something tangential but related: An essay I just wrote about the psychology of uncertainty.…
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