What is Normalcy Bias?

We looked very briefly into ‘normalcy bias‘ during out situational awareness guide but wanted to explore this today a little further.

There isn’t many people out there that like to admit that they have biases, idiosyncrasies and prejudices. We like to think of ourselves as rational human beings. An even few number like to admit that our brains are deceptive.

Take for example witnesses recalling an event. if you ask ten witnesses to tell you what had happened exactly, you will get told the event in ten different ways and the more that they retell the event, the more it will change. Why is this? Neurologists understand that we do not actually ‘recall‘ memories. Instead, we recreate them each time that we supposedly ‘remember’. We fill in more gaps every time that we remember the event.

I hope that made sense as I am about to tell you something else that may burst a bubble. Just as there is no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, there’s also no such thing as a rational human being.

There is no computer in this world that is able to match the incredible power of our brains. However, that doesn’t mean we are free of biases. Many of our biases are useful in everyday situations by providing us with short-cuts and assisting our decision-making process.

The problem is that these ‘helpful‘ biases can also be just as dangerous when they are used in the wrong situation. The first step in being able to address and confront our biases and fears is by actually recognizing them. There are disasters happening almost daily from hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, floods, terrorist attacks, economic collapse, etc. We think it won’t happen to us … until it does.

When we are familiar with certain things it is natural to gain comfort and security during those situations. We are creatures of habit. This is why, when we are faced with something out of those familiar settings, our stress levels increase to the point where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ instincts kick in.

This desire for the status quo is called the ‘Normalcy Bias’ and although it can be a natural defense mechanism, normalcy bias is one of the most dangerous biases we have.

With a normalcy bias, we project current conditions into the future. It is a form of denial where we underestimate the possibility and extent of a looming disaster even when we have incontrovertible evidence that it will happen. We assume that since a disaster never has occurred, then it never will occur. Consequently, we fail to prepare for a disaster and, when it does occur, we may be unable to deal with it.

Our brains will deceive us into believing that just because it never has happened, it never will.

Our media and politicians lie to us continuously so that we are never told exactly what is happening. This is one of the many reasons why so many people are attached to inaction and delusion (“it may happen but not to me”) and in turn they refuse to accept that disaster, even when it’s staring them in the face.

Normalcy bias causes people to act as if life is going on as normal while the world is falling apart around them. They’ll say everything will pass as the disaster worsens.

There are many examples of such denial throughout history. Here are just a couple of examples of normalcy bias to better help you understand:

The Nazi Holocaust

The Nazi Holocaust provides us with an horrific example of normalcy bias. Normalcy Bias explains why so many of those Jews ignored and underestimated the obvious signs of danger even after the fact that they were required to wear yellow stars, possess a ‘J’ stamp ID card and discriminatory laws targeted them and their businesses. Many of those Jews could afford to have moved but they stayed and perished because of their Normalcy Bias.

Mount St. Helens Volcano

When Mount St. Helens volcano began to rumble in 1980, Park Rangers issued warnings for the residents to evacuate and they blocked access to keep the people out. Some of those residents chose to ignore the warnings and other campers and sightseers walked or drove around the barricades to get into the park. The issue was that they had camped there many times and since they had never encountered a disaster there before, their normalcy bias prevented them from understanding the possibility of one happening. Sadly the volcano violently erupted and 57 people lost their lives.

As you can see, some people will never take preventive action even when they have a disaster staring them right in the face. Too many people succumb to negative inertia and do not act until it is too late.

Prepping has gotten a bad name over the years not made any easier with certain TV and media companies. They may be seen as kooks for their perception of growing government oppression and their potential for armed resistance against a tyrannical government. The upside of this is that it encourages preppers to be secretive so the fewer friends and neighbors know about their prepping the better and the less likely that they’ll become the victims of robbery or overrun with freeloaders. On the downside, preppers who are simply trying to be responsible might be afraid to admit what they’re doing thus depriving other people of this best practice.

We live in an ‘instant gratification’ culture that makes it difficult preparing for a rainy day. In addition, the elitists ridicule people who prepare in response to the ‘chicken little’ survival industry; an industry that has cried “Wolf” so many times that people are discouraged from preparing. Nor does it help that we’re inundated by the ass media’s stories of a so-called recovery. Plus, our slow-motion economic train wreck makes it difficult to gauge our slowly declining standard of living.

Peer pressure also plays a part to the normalcy bias and the fear of being labeled as a nut. They may know that a disaster is imminent but are uncomfortable with the possibility that they will be scorned by their friends or co-workers.

How to Overcome Normalcy Bias

As with most things, there are also ways that we can reduce or overcome normalcy bias. If you think that you cant overcome human nature you’re wrong. You are already taking the first step by reading this guide. By reading up and gaining the knowledge of what normalcy bias actually is, you will be in a much better position to identify it in yourself and others as well as guard against it. The fact that you’re on this blog and reading this article means you are either already awake or at the very least are waking up to some of the threats that face us.

So how can you go about overcoming normalcy bias? Read our tips below to find out:

  • Learn to think for yourself – you can’t just rely on the authorities to tell you what to do. And don’t expect them to come to your assistance in a disaster. Disasters will overwhelm them and their resources. Take the marathon bombing as an example, it took 10,000 government security personnel, martial law and the lock-down of the city of Boston to find one single nineteen year old kid. Learn to think for yourself.
  • Acknowledge and learn – understand what normalcy bias is. Admit that you and your loved ones experience it to one degree or another.
  • Be aware – who exactly is pushing your buttons? Humans gravitate toward comfort-driven messages and avoid unpleasant news. Being told our lives are in danger is distressing but ignoring such news could be deadly.
  • Situational Awareness – pay more attention to your environment and the people around you at all times. You can learn more in our situational awareness guide.
  • Practice – practice by doing thought experiments anticipating possible problems and getting mentally ready for them. What would you do if you were mugged? How would you handle a job loss? The more you practice this, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to choose between fight or flight rather than freezing up or surrendering.
  • Real vs fake threats – all threats should be treated as if they are real until safe to assume otherwise. Ask yourself objective questions. How likely are we to get hit my an asteroid? It’s not impossible but it is highly unlikely. How likely are we to lose our jobs? That would be a much more likely scenario. How likely is the government and its media handmaidens lying to us that our economies are on the mend?
  • Stay focused – start by taking baby steps. Stay focused and don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Don’t let the media scare you – you have a much greater chance of being struck by lightning than being killed by a terrorist. Yet the media would have us believe that there’s a terrorist hiding around every corner.
  • Be honest with yourself – wishful thinking and denial can be deadly. Hope is not a plan; hope is for the hopeless. If all you have is hope; you have nothing.
  • Do a search – search for survival or prepper websites. Use your judgement to decide what make sense and what doesn’t.
  • Plans – create and write down survival plans. What would you do in the event of a fire? Write down plans for various scenarios and practice them regularly to help you memorize them. Also, keep phone numbers handy for you and your children to call in addition to 999/911 i.e. friends, relatives, reliable neighbours.
  • Understand peoples needs – take into account different individual’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs when you develop your plans. Plan on making everyone part of the team.
  • Teamwork matters – ask your family or team for their ideas. You don’t know it all; nobody does. Several heads are better than one. Different people have different perspectives. Even children have ideas; not always the best but asking engages them, encourages them to think and makes them part of the team.
  • Buy what you need beforehand – as you plan for various disasters, write down the gear, equipment or supplies you will need but that you don’t have and start to acquire them. For instance, many people do not have surgical, particulate or N95 face masks. The time to buy them is before you need them. Leave it too late and the stores will be cleaned out.
  • Meeting points and communications – develop plans and meeting points if communication is out and practice them to uncover shortcomings and bottlenecks and alternate routes in the event of roadblocks.
  • Have the right attitude – it is attitude that will help you to survive. You could have all the latest gear and skills but they are useless if you have the wrong attitude. What’s the right attitude?Never Give Up‘.

If you believe that the government will save you during a disaster, you might as well kiss your behind goodbye. Don’t forget the epic failure of martial law in Boston after the marathon bombing where 10,000 donut eaters couldn’t locate a scrawny 19 year old kid until an old man found him hiding in a boat in his back yard.

What are your thoughts? Do you have something that you would like to see added for others? Let us know by getting in touch with us over on Twitter. We love to hear from our readers.


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