Normalcy Bias v Situational Awareness

The normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of the government to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred that it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

The normalcy bias often results in unnecessary deaths in disaster situations. The lack of preparation for disasters often leads to inadequate shelter, supplies, and evacuation plans. Even when all these things are in place, individuals with a normalcy bias often refuse to leave their homes. Studies have shown that more than 70% of people check with others before deciding to evacuate.

The normalcy bias also causes people to drastically underestimate the effects of the disaster. Therefore, they think that everything will be all right, while information from the radio, television, or neighbors gives them reason to believe there is a risk. This creates a cognitive dissonance that they then must work to eliminate. Some manage to eliminate it by refusing to believe new warnings coming in and refusing to evacuate (maintaining the normalcy bias), while others eliminate the dissonance by escaping the danger. The possibility that some may refuse to evacuate causes significant problems in disaster planning.

Conversely Situational Awareness or SA, is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or motorcycle

Situation Awareness involves being aware of what is happening around you to understand how information, events, and your own actions will impact your goals and objectives, both now and in the near future. Situational Awareness is the combining of new information with existing knowledge in working memory and the development of a composite picture of the situation along with projections of future status and subsequent decisions as to appropriate courses of action to take. SA is the continuous extraction of environmental information along with integration of this information with previous knowledge to form a coherent mental picture, and the end use of that mental picture in directing further perception and anticipating future need.

SA is also the ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of relevant information and the tactical situation including friendly and threat situations.

Situational Awareness is 1 part deliberate environmental cue absorption & 1 part organic intuitive processing

Situational Awareness is also the result of perceiving cues from the MOMENT, being PRESENT & fully AWARE

conversely Normalcy Bias is a filter of the PRESENT via our prejudices based off of PAST experiences & expectations for the FUTURE

Normalcy Bias is fear <~>Situational Awareness is acceptance

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