Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Novel coronavirus and panic-shopping!! - a brief look at the psychological mechanism

USA, Europe. panic-buying  heraldnet.com
Covid-19 pandemic and panic-shopping. you tube.
The world is in the grip of  fear and mental agony  as the Covid-19 virus' quick  transmission  has begun to double in many countries. Consequently,  rumors and surmises  are  making  people crazy.  In Canada's  British Columbia  higher  health officials are calling for calm after recent episodes of so-called “panic buying” in the province over fears of the quick spread of novel corona virus. Increasing in social-distancing is the only way to curb the pandemic.  The officials' message  to public not  to stockpile food or supplies falls on the deaf ears. They said, ...''the empty shelves in many stores  is a result of intense buying, and we are asking people to show moderation.''  If there is a pandemic or a large scale epidemic why there is panic-buying in the public? Why are people stressed if the situation goes out of control?  Panic buying implies  buying of large quantities of commodities in response to a perceived crisis. It’s  a sort of  a knee-jerk reaction bordering on fear from people who suddenly become concerned with  certain commodities that will become scarce or overpriced as a result of an unexpected  turn of event.  The govt. civil servants and also health officials  need to be extra careful at this juncture  to keep a check on the prices because the inevitable corollary of panic-buying is hoarding leading to artificial hiking of prices.  At stake will be the survival of millions of people who cannot afford to buy in bulk, and are left high and dry only to panic. Further, in an explosive situation,  media people should distance themselves from any sensitive news that may smack of hysteria.
panic-buying. coranavirus. philstar.com

A senior economist at FAO and agricultural analysts said that  panic buying  could  drastically push  world food prices even though there are ample supplies of staple grains and oil seeds in key exporting nations, the lock-downs  and self-imposed curfew to prevent the spread of covid-19 pandemic are good for our families' welfare in the long run. Increasing cases of virus across Europe 
and the United States, with the number of deaths in Italy outstripping those in mainland China  are appearing in media. we need to put up certain inconveniences to control the emerging situation; if not,  it may spiral out  of control  With  over 270,000 infections and more than 11,000 deaths, the epidemic has  tightened the vice-like grip on the world, drawing  parallel  with  WWII and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
panic-buying  www.philstar.com
US Dept. store, panic-buying. coranavirus. washingtonpost.com
 Above image: “It has gotten crazier by the day,” said a Target employee who fulfills online orders at a store in Richmond, Va. “A lot of it is obviously panic-buying, people stocking up on eight gallons of water or 20 kinds of soups. Items are selling out immediately, as soon as they go up on shelves.” (www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/02/grocery-stores-coronavirus-panic-buying). ..............................
Let us take a look at the psychological mechanism behind panic-buying. Driven by anxiety  and confusion in the wake of quick spread of covid-19 virus , panic buying has been rife in many countries in Europe, US, Canada  and in India too.  People are busy stockpiling  grocery, hand sanitizer, medicines, toilet paper, etc. In counties like the UK there are restrictions on hygiene products, not to speak of toilet papers According to Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the university  of the Arts, London the answer lies in the  'psychology of therapy' - we buy with the main purpose of 'managing our emotional state.  ''a sort of taking back control in the  world where you feel out of control. Panic buying is related to ''three fundamental psychological needs'', they are:  01. autonomy or need to control,  02. relativity - the question of ''my shopping'' via a-vis  ''we shopping'' and 03. competence - ability to achieve. when a successful shopping is done in the middle of competition, The person is overwhelmed by the sense of ''self-pride'' - I am 
a successful shopper. Here, the people are pushed to a selfish 
mode.
Sander van der Linden, Asst prof. of social psychology at Cambridge univ, GB says here at play are corona-specific as well as generalized factors.  In the midst of conflicting messages from the powers that be, for example President Trump's downplaying of 

the outbreak of corona virus in the US on Twitter and the reports from the US health department,  Americans are confused over next course of action by the Fed.   According to CDC - Centers of Disease Control the virus is present in 35 states. So, in the case of panic buying, 'fear contagion' was taking the hold' according to  Prof. Linden.
In a scenario like this, the reasoning power of the people is under stress  and vague and they  feel compelled to look at what other people are doing. If others go on a shopping spree, not out of necessity, but out of fear of shortage of food, etc then others do the same. The empty shelves in the supermarkets in many  places  send a clear  signal to them to follow other buyers:  be early before the stores go empty. This kind of mass behavior  is equal to a person encountering a poisonous snake. When he jumps to safety on seeing the serpant,  people behind him do the same. This kind of jungle behavior is  common  in a panic situation.  A few items like sanitizers or toilet papers may get the icon status of mass panic. In the present context  where uncertainty rules the roost,  people will get into a "panic zone" which is conducive to neurotic and irrational behavior. Peter Noel Murray of New York based member of the American Psychological Association says  if authorities send a positive signal about the virus, they can calm the panic-buying trend.  In this situation cognitive factor is cognitive bias that is giving more emphasis on unpalatable stuff triggers the panic button in us.  When a plan crashes it does not mean all planes will crash. The terrible thing is categorization.
Take the case of Spanish flue, Murray says that killed 50 million people worldwide  in 1918. Our emotional side   works overtime leading us to find an answer in "self-affirmation" that we are going to be dead one day and the mind begins to deal with it through the  control mode. 'Self-affirmation'  normally takes over in a stressed situation. This post is based on an article  cited here:   https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html
 
Tit-bits:
01. There have been about 436,000 confirmed cases and 19,600 deaths globally. In the United States, there have been about 55,200 confirmed cases and 802 deaths.

02. Covid-19 cases in India rise to 606 as on 25th March, 2020.

03. 2500 people in Kerala, India  have been arrested for violating lockdown orders.

04.71- year old prince Charles tested positive for the novel coronavirus; now he is self isolating.
https://globalnews.ca/news/6679692/coronavirus-panic-buying-warnings-expert/
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/panic-buying-lockdowns-during-this-pandemic-may-drive-world-food-inflation/articleshow/74742932.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cpp