Op-Ed: Quarantine Fatigue Is Overtaking Us. We Could Have Done Better.
People are getting bored and longing for human contact. We should have guidelines that recognize this.
I’ve spent the majority of the last decade lecturing and consulting on the motivational factors that drive human behavior through the prism of behavioral design and gamification. Most of this work has been in service of industry, civic engagement, and health.
One of my consistent observations has been the terrible way most “hard” scientists communicate with the public, and how their lack of grounding in behavioral science undermines their efforts. This is particularly apparent in the discourse around environmental behavior change, where well-intentioned experts have fostered a culture of nihilism in the populace. They don’t seem to understand that saying “the world is going to end in 12 years” will cause a substantial percentage of people to respond with “might as well get while the getting is good.” This idea, closely related to The Tragedy of the Commons, is taught in first-year psychology and sociology university courses, but seems to be routinely ignored by climate scientists and advocates.
We see this tension playing out now in our approach to the coronavirus. This time, however, politicians and the social media mob have joined the fray — with a marked lack of insight about how people behave.
I thought it might be instructive to look at some of those issues, as they will only increase in seriousness over time. Most of what ails the world today is driven by human behavior. There will be more calamities, more crises, more panic. Science must learn how to persuade if it is going to be a force for good.
The need for physical touch is ingrained in most humans from an early age, and there is a lot of research to back up the deleterious effect of an absence of it in social-emotional development. One-hundred twenty million Americans went into quarantine alone, and many of them are starved for minimal necessary physical affection. Most public health messaging has reinforced “absolute social distancing” without any consideration for the human need for touch. Only a few weeks in, a backlash…