Mindset - Normalcy Bias Jun 28,2017

Fundamentals ( Psychology )

Normalcy Bias


Continuing with our theme of combat mindset, let’s discuss normalcy bias. Normalcy bias is present when things continue to operate the same way without major disruption, causing a person or group of people to have a “head in the sand” approach to life. Essentially, it’s the mental state you enter in to that underestimates the possibility or the result of some form of disaster (natural or manmade) leading you to think things will function the same. It’s not only applicable to people living in the U.S. but also to people living abroad. Even in troubled places such as Libya and Syria, a normalcy bias to bad things develops. For example, a neighborhood next to you is bombed yet you continue with your daily activities, gathering water and food to survive. While this is an extreme sense of the definition, warriors in the military also become victim to normalcy bias, including in heavy combat areas.


A magazine with an admittedly religious tone and, arguably, an agenda published the article about normalcy bias, which draws attention to solid historical examples. Despite the religious overtones, I’ll use their examples as they assist in the development of my description. The point to these examples is that America has changed in major ways in a relatively short period of time; yet, most Americans don’t perceive the change as abnormal. As far as most American society is concerned, such things are accepted as normal. And, such acceptance allows for the further deterioration of what’s considered normal now in 2017. Which makes me question what can society accept and tolerate 20, 30, or 50 years from now? Consider these examples:

 The United States has proven to be without civil war, coups, or invasion from a foreign government (September 11, 2001 excluded). But the events on 9/11 changed the world. New York City was the first example of this lives changed within minutes. That includes, of course, the people who died and the families affected, but we can’t forget others, especially for New Yorkers. At the time, I was living in New York City and taking my wife to work that morning. I witnessed the attack and with that a city forced to change after the event. In this instance, normalcy bias was interrupted and people got it for a short period of time. The citizens of New York and the Tri-State area were forced to make substantial changes, just like someone getting punched in the face who gets knocked down (or at least takes a step back) then takes stock of what they were doing wrong and makes radical changes to change their path. As the twin towers collapsed, the people stuck downtown were told by Mayor Rudy Giuliani to go north. And, they did. People walked from the World Trade Center area all the way out of Manhattan and into the Bronx to escape the city, which I assure you is not a normal daily walk for the average New Yorker. People were told to wrap plastic with duct tape over their windows to protect against chemical attacks. And, many did. Many Americans had never witnessed an event on the magnitude of 9/11. Most haven’t been caught in a major storm that devastated an area. Due to living in America, most Americans will suffer from normalcy bias and continue to believe everything is going to be okay, even when common sense should alert them that something’s going wrong. 

It appears that most humans need such normalcy to fall into a perceived daily routine that provides a sense of purpose, even when it’s not good for them. Most Americans and pretty much the global community have patterns of normalcy. Traffic patterns, the time we get up, and go to work, when we eat, and where we shop are all examples of normalcy we come to rely on. So, falling into this trend (or rut as I call) it leads to complacency and danger for you and your loved ones.


Today, we see a growing change in our country, with citizens not understanding right from wrong, not being able to distinguish what is normal and abnormal. That’s a problem and you need to be aware of this to ensure you and your loved ones and groups are not caught up in the trend. One of the largest concerns attached to normalcy bias is important things are replaced with trivial concerns. Americans are overwhelmed with trivial concerns today while there are real concerns but all we see are silly people doing silly things. And, when asked why or what they are protesting or doing, most are without words to provide a logical explanation. In a growing world of wolves (crime, terrorism, and opportunists) the sheep fall into a condition referred to as normalcy bias. We only need to pick up the paper or listen to the news where we see people caught in this tragic condition. One of the reasons this bias is so frequent is that we, as a society, have failed to remember what normal was, mostly because the abnormal conditions of today have become most people’s normal, thus causing the bias.


So, now you’re probably asking how to combat normalcy bias? Know that it’s only the sheep dogs that remain vigilant, ready for the harsh conditions of the world. You should question your situation; look at your environment to see just how much is out of place there. What are you overlooking that’s abnormal? Are you prepared for the worst or are you like the other sheep that insist it’s not going to happen to me? Start to reinstall your situational awareness and alert yourself to what’s going on. Take my word, there are indicators all around you, some are visual while others are in your gut, a feeling that something’s just not right. I get these often and they usually prove true, so make a point to manage those senses better. Know that often, we have time to be proactive, even in an attack. There are always indicators there and you need to study how to read these. It still comes down to proper mindset and having that combat mindset I have discussed. Living in a heightened state of alertness is a good thing. But, you don’t have to be looking for the ninja around every corner.  Yet, you should be able to read the indicators present prior to an event. These indicators need an entire article dedicated to this subject but they can be simple. A hurricane warning, what are you going to do? Just because you have not had a significant storm in 10 or 20 years does not mean this will not be the one that kills you. Many thought Katrina was nothing, until the levees broke and then lives were changed. So just think, listen, watch, and heed your intuition and what it tells you. Stay alert, stay alive.






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