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Last week will remain in my memory for many years. Not because of the exponential raise of coronavirus Covid-19 cases around the world, nor the closing of the borders to contain its propagation.
This past week will remain in my memory because of the irrational reaction of millions of people on the face of this global threat: the purchase, in bulk, of toilet paper.
Watching pictures of empty shelves and endless lines outside of supermarkets are not new to me. On the contrary, they are a reminder of our annual hurricane season in Florida, the state where I reside.
However, in the last fifteen years that I have been here, I never heard that toilet paper was one of the non-perishable goods that was selling-out, turning market aisles into MMA fight cages to score a package of six rolls!
For this reason, I decided to research the biology of fear in an attempt to explain this human response to the coronavirus.
Among the massive amounts of literature dedicated to this subject, I found one article titled, “What Happens in the Brain When We Feel Fear“, written by two psychiatrists, Arash Javanbakht and Linda Saab, and published by Smithsonian Magazine. (Read article)
The doctors explain that fear originates in the amygdala region of the brain and describe it as, “this almond-shaped set of nuclei located in the temporal lobe of the brain is dedicated to detecting the emotional salience of the stimuli – how much something stands out to us.“
In other words, the amygdala is the integrator center of emotional behavior and motivation. They continue exposing one of the factors that modifies fear: context. They use the following example.
Compare encountering a lion in the wild African savannah and seeing a lion in a zoo. The animal is the same, but the fear is different. The lion in his natural habitat represents nothing but a threat. The lion at the zoo generates curiosity and can even generate tender feelings, when we watch it behind the glass or across a wide mot.
Another factor the psychiatrists mention is that fear can be learned visually or through the written word. Think of this example. Imagine watching somebody being attacked by an aggressive dog. Now imagine walking by a sign on a fence that reads, “Danger. Beware of the dog.” In both cases–perhaps on different levels–fear is instinctively learned and activated.
These examples helped me conclude that, even though the fear triggered by Covid-19 and the population’s preparations are a normal survival response, it is also manipulated by many in the media. They have changed the context to amplify their panic message and are teaching anguish and despair.
So, as much as we need to be informed at this time, it is better to mute cable TV and silence the mainstream media. Follow the local authorities’ social media accounts and listen and support your neighbors.
Stay safe. Thanks for reading and sharing.
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