One of the real risks in being situationally aware as it relates to personal protection is a term called normalcy bias.
In 99.9% of our lives, what happens around us is harmless, and there’s a perfectly logical explanation for it. But when that .1% or so happens, the denial of reality can cause real harm.
What is Normalcy Bias?
Normalcy bias is a survival mechanism that is hardwired into our brains so when we detect trouble, our brains often engage in “self-soothing.” That self-soothing says everything is okay and somehow this is all normal. There’s a perfectly harmless explanation overriding the reality of the threat or risk involved.
Normalcy bias is when your brain sends a message of “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” and desperately begins trying to come up with a logical explanation because the reality of the situation is too horrible to absorb.
This bias can be very damaging because it isn’t based on logic or rational thought. Our brain self-soothes us into becoming a passive witness when we need to be 100% active in self-rescue efforts.
Normalcy Bias in Action
Our brains can process large and varied amounts of information each day, but some things are too terrible to process accurately. Examples of normalcy bias include:
- Victims in a movie theater shooting thinking it is some role player associated with the film
- School staff and students wondering if those loud banging noises down the hallway are someone setting off fireworks in the building
- Turning on the lights in the middle of the night to find a complete stranger in your home uninvited and wondering “what are you doing here?” instead of “why is there a large naked man standing over my bed?“
How to Cope
As people who understand we have to be our own first responders, we don’t have the luxury of looking at a catastrophe in front of us and saying over and over “I can’t believe this is really happening to me.”
The first step in solving any problem is an accurate diagnosis of the problem. The faster we can process the reality of a situation, the quicker we can find a resolution, and normalcy bias wastes both time and opportunity.
Awareness of normalcy bias is the first step in recognizing the tempting but false answer when truly hard facts need to be addressed. That leads us to the value of a well thought-out schema.
If you enjoyed this preview and are interested in learning more about normalcy bias, schemas, and how to be your own first responder in a crisis, join the Concealed Coalition today! We have these courses and many more available for you to better equip yourself to protect what matters most.