October 17, 2020

Wired not to harm others

Interesting research study shows that we are wired to avoid harming other humans. The processes in our brains react automatically to prevent harming others, but acts more deliberately if we want to protect ourselves. The scientists felt the two decision making processes were different and came from different areas of the brain. This may help shed light on why some people have problems with avoiding harm to others, described as psychopathy. I find this fascinating and find it congruent with my experiences. The occasional difficult bully or narcissistic person is difficult and harmful, but most people want to avoid harming others and will wear masks and follow guidelines. Newer data shows that up to 80% of people wear masks at least part of the time now. But there are those few who resist, seeming not to care about others.

Other data supports that most people want to help and not harm. The strongest facilitators for helping people follow social distancing guidelines were protecting self and feeling responsible to protect the community. The ability to work from home was also helpful. Barriers for social distancing were most often friends and families needing help with chores or errands, plus loneliness makes people want to socialize more. Lack of community and connection is harmful for many.

Overall this data leaves me with some realistic optimism. Most people do want to help, but often have different and misinformed ideas about what will actually help. This is most likely due to their sources of information, particularly if it is social media. More and more people are understanding the seriousness of Covid-19 as their own communities and families are affected. The IHME projection for total deaths is coming down because of this. We are heading towards better times, as the vaccines are released. Several are moving forward with promising data.

The next steps will be first to avoid “pandemic fatigue” and keep up with our safety practices, while we wait for safe, effective vaccines approved by using the scientifically based route rather than politics. Shining a light on the process is making a difference and the companies so far are not making shortcuts and have resisted the pressure to do so.

We also will need to be vigilant about conspiracies related to vaccines. I am starting to understand more about “vaccine hesitancy” and the concerns related to them. We can do a much better job of communicating about vaccines and their benefits and answering questions. However, we will need help with the dis-information and rumors being spread, even faster than SARS-CoV-2 has spread.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, keep up your hope

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.