Friday, May 13, 2005

Changing minds in a crisis

There is a two-part diary at Kos that addresses a searingly important topic - how to snap people out of the mass psychosis that enables them to pretend the Bush administration is "business as usual."

Without rehashing too much, the author riffs off a piece about surviving plane crashes and other profound disasters. She likens the current administration to a slow-motion disaster on an epic scale, but nevertheless a disaster sharing the same characteristics as, say, a plane crash in terms of our human reaction to it:
  • When faced with disaster, most people do not respond by fighting or fleeing. Their first response is to disbelieve.
  • To overcome this stage of disbelief, people seek advice from others nearby, especially people they trust.
  • Even when disbelief has been overcome, most people do not flee, they FREEZE.
  • This sort of "trance" reaction is surprisingly common. In one study, 45% of people "shut down," when asked under pressure to perform unfamiliar but basic tasks. Unfortunately, this inability to act can mean the difference between life and death.
  • People are more likely to act if they have previous experience with disaster or are properly informed.
  • People can escape their "trances" if helped by others -- either by being told what to do or by being helped to act.
She goes on with specific recommendations to help people overcome each step of this disbelief. The whole article is a must read.

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