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The more who die, the less we care’ – Why we’re growing numb to Covid-19

Psychic numbing, risk judgment and other concepts may explain why people seem to worry less as the pandemic grows and wears on. (CDC file art)

EUGENE – University of Oregon psychology professor Paul Slovic has spent much of his time during the COVID-19 pandemic writing articles, talking to journalists and thinking about why the coronavirus is so out of control.

To explain why case counts are surging and the virus is growing so rapidly, Slovic has drawn on previous psychological research that he thinks is relevant to the pandemic. 

Slovic said there are a few concepts in particular — including reinforcement theory and psychic numbing — that can help everyone understand why, while the virus is getting worse, it seems the community is becoming less worried.

Fast and slow thinking

Slovic said . . .