Shortly before the outbreak of the coronavirus on the planet, Australian psychologist Stephen Taylor published a book that later turned out to be prophetic, and it became a kind of guide to fighting the pandemic. However, at first, the author’s predictions were not taken seriously.
In October 2019, about a month before COVID-19 began spreading from the industrial city of Wuhan, University of Vancouver Australian psychologist Stephen Taylor published The Psychology of Pandemics, which turned out to be a surprisingly prophetic book.
Even its publishers doubted the relevance and market potential of the book novelty. But in the 22 months that have passed since then, the book has become like a guide to a pandemic, The Guardian writes.
Stephen Taylor’s book, as stated in the foreword, is a picture of “how human factors influence the spread of disease and emotional distress.” This includes, inter alia, prejudice, the role of the media, attitudes towards vaccinations, how society manages rumors, and the psychology of conspiracy theories.
The book was prophetic, moments related, for example, to the problems of vaccination in the West, which has an enviable access to health care opportunities compared to most of the planet. “Uncertainty about vaccinations doesn’t really explain the motivational reasons why people don’t want to get vaccinated,” Taylor told the Guardian.
Data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) showing that rates of transmission of COVID-19 in urban and rural areas are closely linked, as well as the widespread availability of vaccines in much of the western world, suggest more serious psychological complications associated with “ indecision ”rather than described by political or economic orthodoxies to explain why 90 million American adults are not protected by any vaccine.
Stephen Taylor writes that the preferred term, which has been used by psychologists for nearly 60 years, is psychological reactivity – a motivational response to “rules, norms, or attempts at persuasion that are perceived to threaten someone’s autonomy and freedom of choice.”
Even so, according to Taylor, what people say about vaccinations is often different from what they do, and pre-vaccine studies predicted less spread than it actually did when faced with a deadly pandemic. This is in many ways an optimistic sign, as are signs that vaccinations are on the rise again as the number of Delta variant coronavirus cases rises, especially among the unvaccinated population.
Obviously, Taylor believes that anger directed politically or personally at groups that have not decided to get vaccinated is likely to be counterproductive. Especially if the available vaccines are eminently safe and highly effective.
“Psychological reactivity has been a problem with any public health recommendation, whether it is increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables, following good oral hygiene or vaccinations and wearing masks,” says Taylor. “The” you are not my boss “reaction is especially noticeable among people who grew up in cultures that pride themselves on freedom and individualism.”
He added: “The more you try to push and convince these psychologically reactive people, the more they will resist because they believe their freedoms are under threat. Although they may be a minority, they are also very loud, and therefore we see that all kinds of people are joining us.”
This circumstance, in turn, leads to what psychologists call “motivated thinking”, in other words, fantasy thinking, in which COVID-19 or climate change is considered a hoax, so that people can tell themselves positive stories that everything will be fine. and nothing threatens their freedom.
What has often been portrayed as conservative individualistic intransigence is actually a replacement for various groups, including conspiracy theorists, white evangelicals, some historically traumatized communities of color, natural immunity advocates, and others who believe vaccines are a scam of large pharmaceutical companies to maximize profits. … The list goes on.
“From an evolutionary point of view, the ingestion of a foreign object into your body with a needle is an infection of yourself. Of course, it is not, but you can see how some people have formed views that this is obvious and true, says Stephen Taylor.
Taylor, who has studied anxiety disorders for 30 years, including excessive fears and phobias or hypochondria, decided to write Psychology of a Pandemic back in 2018 after reading about the 20th century Spanish flu and disease modellers’ predictions for the next pandemic.
According to his interpretation, pandemics “are essentially a psychological phenomenon related to the behavior, attitudes and emotions of people”, and “the psychological consequences are greater than the medical ones.”
This conclusion, according to Taylor, is not made to downplay the importance of the disease to those who fell ill or died, but because many more people were psychologically affected. The analysis was fleshed out in another academic article published in Canadian Psychology, in which he wrote that “pandemics are not just events in which a harmful microbe” goes viral.”
The author wrote:
As noted by The Guardian, the publisher of Taylor’s previous books rejected The Psychology of Pandemic, saying the topic was “interesting, but no one wants to read it.”
Ironically, this attitude was characteristic of Taylor’s thesis that people tend to be too preoccupied with the present to make plans for the future, and this made the world extremely unprepared to cope with the pandemic. However, he says, “I was confused. Psychology is extremely important for pandemics. “
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its psychological implications, remarkable or not, are fully consistent with previous pandemics, including the “Russian flu”, “Spanish flu” and SARS outbreaks.
“I was very surprised that almost everything in the book came true,” the author admits. – These were not Nostradamus predictions – they were predictions of reactions based on research into what happened during previous pandemics. Therefore, it was reasonable to expect that with a pandemic like this, with social constraints, you would get broadly similar phenomena.”
What makes the current coronavirus pandemic different, Taylor said, is that all of the major phenomena seen in the past have happened on a broader, grander scale. Part of the reason, he said, is due to social media and the 24/7 news cycle that can fuel these movements. Looking back at the anti-masking league in San Francisco in 1919, the reasons given then were the same as they are today.
“Protests against isolation, against wearing masks and against vaccinations have become much more prevalent than they were 100 years ago, even if they were motivated by the same reasons,” the psychologist said.
One exception, Taylor says, is the prevalence of conspiracy thinking: “Many conspiracy theorists who have tended to communicate with each other have stepped out of their silos to push their theories more widely and, I believe, as a result of COVID-19 of people”.
Taylor theorizes that with the rise of the Coronavirus Delta variant, any return to isolation could trigger exaggerated backlash and protests – part of a psychological phenomenon commonly known as pandemic fatigue. Lockdowns are not a long-term strategy for dealing with pandemics, he said. “They are a necessary evil, but if we have another wave where people have just tasted freedom, it will demoralize people and be bad for their mental health,” he said. Likewise, he said, people’s desire to return to life before the outbreak of the pandemic speaks no more about health sustainability than about a psychological response. “The consequences of people rushing to communicate prematurely is part of the uncertainty, especially for people who consider themselves invulnerable or healthy,” notes Taylor.