Why Are People So Stupid During A Crisis?


    By Kennedy Shelley

    As the coronavirus crisis gets worse, some people’s behavior seems to be getting more and more irrational.

    There is a scientific reason why.

    Science shows that under pressure and stress we lose the equivalent of 10-15 IQ points.  Thankfully there is a solution.

    The part of your brain that controls rational thought is the Pre-Frontal Cortex, and brain imaging shows that it starts to shut down when we are under stress.

    Now maybe the hoarding of toilet paper starts to make a little more sense.  If you think people are not acting rationally, you are right.  That part of their brains has shut down.

    This is why mass panic is so darn dangerous.

    Mobs are stupid and people are smarter than that normally.

    But panicked people are not rational.

    And it’s not just concerns about a virus, it’s also things like the inability to temporarily not be able to pay a bill.

    Financial stress according to a 2013 study published in the journal Science showed that people lost on average 13 IQ points when they were not sure how they were going to purchase something they needed.

    What is less clear is how much the effect is when you add financial worry on top of the stress of involuntary confinement and unknown health risks.

    But some scientists do believe the effect is cumulative, which means more, and different stresses tend to lead to less rational thinking.

    Unfortunately, government leaders are not immune to this either.

    They also are under stress from media scrutiny and demands from all sides because there might be a pandemic, so they are prone to make irrational decisions.

    How do you prevent the loss of your IQ during a panic?  Thankfully there are some things you can do to help slow the spread of stupidity.


    The vagus nerve is what controls much of the anxiety we feel.  It’s important, it’s what sets off the fight or flight response that helps us during real short-term emergencies.

    But when it stays constantly stimulated under stress, it taxes our body and mind.

    But it is possible to calm it down by simply breathing deeply and holding your breath for 5-10 seconds.

    You may notice when you are agitated your breathing gets quicker and shallower.  Do the opposite for a minute and you will feel yourself getting calmer.

    That is taking control of your vagus nerve and that is the first step to regaining your IQ points.

    #2 – GET MINDFUL

    Mentally pulling away from your reactions and just thinking, “I am doing this,” is basically what mindfulness is.

    What scientists have noticed is when people start narrating their behavior, they get away from their reactive brain and start tapping into the logical prefrontal cortex of the brain and that breaks the panic spell.

    While all this seems ridiculously simple, it is remarkably effective in breaking a panic trance.

    You can’t make everyone at Walmart calm, but you can at least control your own reaction to life’s events.