Catherine Tinsley comments on why the risk of contracting coronavirus is not enough to keep people apart in Fox News Feature

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“The ways in which we process information about risk make it difficult for us to understand how risky it is to be in contact with others,” professor Catherine Tinsley of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business told Fox News. “There is something called a ‘near miss’ bias, which is: when people engage in an activity that they know has some risk but then nothing bad happens to them, they tend to ignore that the good outcome was partly due to luck.”

In fact, said Tinsley, an expert in risk management and decision making, every time a person experiences a “near miss,” they become more likely to discount the risk and less likely to take protective action.

“For example, if I believed there was a 10 percent chance of getting infected by going out with my friends to my favorite coffee shop, that may feel a little bit risky to me, but I really want to hang out with my friends so I go anyway,” she said. “The more I go, without any negative repercussions, the more likely I am to think that a 10 percent chance of infection is not very risky at all, and therefore not only am I more likely to go out to the coffee shop, [but I am also] more likely to go out elsewhere because the chance of infection no longer feels risky. These ‘near-miss’ experiences play on our gut-level feelings of whether or not something is dangerous.”

And with COVID-19 incubation period of up to 14 days, Tinsley said the lag between the risky behavior and negative outcome makes it more difficult for people to associate one with the other.

“If you mingle with others and do get infected, the result is usually known several days later,” she said. “This time lag makes it more difficult for people to believe that any particular action five days ago was responsible.”

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