News Detail

Susan Joslyn is quoted in this HuffPost article about staying vigilant despite pandemic fatigue.

The End Of The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Coming. Don't Get Careless Now.

We're all fatigued, and our resolve is slipping. But this is also the most consequential point of the coronavirus crisis so far.

By Catherine Pearson


...The fact is, we already know most of what we need to know about protecting against the spread of these variants and others. And it all comes back to the same public health measures that experts have been trying to drill into American minds for months.

“If everyone stayed in their house, in a room, by themselves, no one would have coronavirus. Obviously that is completely unrealistic and not reasonable, but there has to be a happy medium where we as a society go, ‘OK, I’m going to keep social distance. I’m going to wear a mask. I’m going to wash my hands,’ there is a real ability to limit the spread of this virus dramatically — which we have not been doing,” said Eric Vail, director of the Molecular Pathology program with Cedars-Sinai in California. “If we don’t give the virus a chance to mutate, it won’t.”

What experts worry about now is the impact that time has had on Americans’ personal calculations about what is safe and reasonable to do during the pandemic, and what is too risky.

Susan Joslyn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington who studies how people make decisions in uncertain times, explained how we humans tend to use two cognitive systems when making choices. One is intuitive and not necessarily conscious; the is more deliberate and involves cost-benefit analysis. It’s the first system or process that she worries about most now.

“If we do something and nothing bad happens, and then we do it again and nothing bad happens, and then we do it again and nothing bad happens, our intuitive estimate of that risk goes down over time,” Joslyn explained. “It’s good for some things, but not for rare, very bad events — like contracting COVID.”

So we have to deliberately remind ourselves that just because we have not yet caught COVID-19 from, say, small social gatherings does not actually mean the outcome wouldn’t potentially be, as Joslyn put it, “very, very bad” if we one day did.

Read the entire article here.