The psychology of pandemics

An interesting look at the psychologist Steven Taylor, who presciently published a book on the psychology of pandemics immediately before the best test-case in human history:

“[Taylor] wrote a remarkable little book back in 2019 called ‘The Psychology of Pandemics.’ Its premise is that pandemics are ‘not simply events in which some harmful microbe “goes viral”’, but rather are mass psychological phenomena about the behaviours, attitudes and emotions of people.

“The book came out pre-COVID and yet predicts every trend and trope we’ve been living for 19 months now: the hoarding of supplies like toilet paper at the start; the rapid spread of ‘unfounded rumours and fake news’; the backlash against masks and vaccines; the rise and acceptance of conspiracy theories; and the division of society into people who ‘dutifully conform to the advice of health authorities’ – sometimes compulsively so – and those who ‘engage in seemingly self-defeating behaviours such as refusing to get vaccinated.’”

It’s not that Taylor had a crystal ball, but rather that the coronavirus pandemic has followed many of the same dynamics of pandemics throughout history, because humans are fundamentally human. As Taylor says:

“Pandemics bring out all these extremes in behaviour. Anxiety, fear, denial, racism, conspiracy theories, the popularity of quack cures, the ‘you’re not the boss of me’ backlash to health directives – these things have all been seen dating back to the medieval plagues.”