Don’t say ’don’t panic’
The advice ‘don’t panic’ is worse than useless, according to an expert in crowd behaviour at the University of Sussex.
In a blog post today (Thursday 29 March), psychologist John Drury comments on criticism this week of the government, and sections of the mass media, for promoting so-called ‘panic buying’ of petrol ahead of a possible strike by tanker drivers.
Drury said: “When those in authority say ‘don’t panic’, or even ‘stay calm’, the rest of us know by this that there is definitely something we should be anxious about - for why else would they be warning us in this way?”
Telling people not to panic also sows mistrust, Drury suggests.
“When the government and the mass media tell us that our neighbours are ‘panic buying’, we imagine those around us acting individualistically, rushing to hoard goods for themselves. And if we imagine that everyone else is acting this way, it becomes foolishly self-sacrificial to do otherwise oneself.
“Rather, it becomes completely logical to look after number one.”
But it is journalists, as well as the government, who should be more careful when using the p-word, says Drury. “’Panic buying’ is not panic.