McGill University psychology professor Ross Otto says there is a well-established psychological principle that may explain any decision by Canadians to flee to the North.
In the early 1970s, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman stated that humans have trouble estimating the likelihood of something happening to them because they are influenced by examples that come readily to mind.
People may overestimate their chances of dying of terrorism, for example, because of how often that kind of violence is reported on the news. And, Otto said, they may underestimate their chances of dying of more common — but less talked about causes, such as bowel cancer.
Today, there is such a deluge of information about COVID-19 infections and deaths that “people are going to overstate or overestimate their own chances of dying of coronavirus-related causes,” Otto suggests.
In some cases, that will spur people to flee to remote areas and put others at risk, to hoard toilet paper or behave in other ethically questionable ways. But, Otto said, that distorted judgment can actually help society by facilitating self-isolating behaviour.
The fear of death prompted by photos of coffins in Italy and stories of doctors having to ration ventilators can make even the most selfish person act in a way that benefits the greater good.
“The more afraid you are of death, the more it behooves you to self-isolate,” he said. And the more people isolate, the less the virus spreads.
Source: Canadian Press