Anxiety and hopelessness… how to deal with the pessimistic bias of the corona crisis


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 “Pessimistic bias” is a cognitive bias that makes everything look too pessimistic. We need to be careful about the extremely pessimistic way of thinking that is increasing due to the corona crisis. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of pessimism bias and how to deal with it.

What is Pessimism Bias? Preoccupation with thinking that you want to be careful about in the corona misfortune

I feel that there are more and more people who are overly pessimistic due to the protracted corona misfortune. Even though I’ve been vaccinated and taken preventive measures, I can hardly leave my house because I’m afraid of infection. I feel like the impact on my work will continue, and I’m worried about the future. Because waves of infections hit me again and again, I couldn’t make any private plans, and I lost the feeling of looking forward to the future… I think there are many people who feel this way.

A cognitive bias that takes everything pessimistically and thinks negatively is called “pessimistic bias” . This is the opposite of the “optimism bias” I mentioned earlier. When the “optimism bias” is activated, we lightly think that “I’ll be fine” or “I’ll be able to do it somehow” without grounds. I think seriously, “It’s going to get worse and worse from now on.”

Read Also: What is alexithymia? (Explained)

Advantages and disadvantages of pessimism bias … experience and communication are drastically reduced

“Pessimism bias” is a cognition that works to protect oneself from crisis situations. If you catch it negatively in advance, you can act optimistically and reduce the risk of getting sick or having trouble.

However, humans have the characteristic of trying to understand themselves, others, and the world through many real experiences. It also has the characteristic of strengthening relationships of trust and sharing thoughts by meeting with others.

Therefore, I fear that if opportunities for experience and communication are drastically reduced due to pessimistic bias, the enjoyment and hope of life will be lost, and opportunities to feel the meaning and joy of life will diminish.

Common with Pessimism Bias? Cognitive distortions that increase stress

By the way, “pessimism bias” has a lot in common with cognitive patterns that increase stress, called “cognitive distortions .” There are 10 negative cognitive patterns in the “cognitive distortions” proposed by psychologist Barnes, but what is particularly common with the pessimistic bias of the corona crisis are “overgeneralization”, “mental filters”, and “foresight”. I think that it is an error of (leap of conclusion) “expansion interpretation and reduction evaluation”. Let’s consider representative examples of pessimistic thinking that emerges in people’s minds during the corona crisis, along with each cognitive pattern.

■ Over-generalization
When bad things happen, generalize things like “what happens once happens twice” and “bad things are destined to happen”.
Ex) I can’t believe the future when the pandemic will converge, and I’m worried about thinking, “The nightmare will repeat itself.”

■Mental Filter
Thinking is all about negative things.
Example) I am always worried that I may be infected even though I am taking all possible measures to prevent infection.

■ Mistakes in looking ahead (jumping to conclusions)
Believing that what happens ahead is all unfortunate.
Example: While watching the news about society and the economy, which is stuck due to the corona crisis, I lament and hold my head, “If this continues, Japan will be over.”

■Extensive interpretation and reduced evaluation
Only the bad aspects should be seen in the big picture, and the good aspects should not be evaluated too much.
Ex.) We don’t focus on what we were able to achieve because of the corona crisis, and we only think about the number of things we have lost, saying, “I couldn’t do that because of the coronavirus,” or “I lost so much because of the coronavirus.”

How to deal with the pessimism bias…it’s important to consult multiple sources

In a pandemic, it’s no surprise that the ‘pessimism bias’ kicks in too much. However, it is not possible to act positively only by being swayed by pessimism bias. When you feel that you may be taking an extremely pessimistic view, try to find the basis of your thinking.

If the source of information for pessimistic thinking is always the same (same program report, same person’s opinion, etc.), it is necessary to touch on information and interpretations from different standpoints and perspectives. But be careful with news sources. Be careful not to be misled by information that has no clear basis.

Knowing people’s diverse ways of thinking and behavior relieves pessimism bias

Even in serious situations, people think and act in a variety of ways. Rather than being pessimistic about thinking about it alone or with the same group of people, let’s listen to the opinions of people with different standpoints and diverse values, and broaden our range of thinking and actions.

There are many people who are enjoying the things that can only be achieved during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, there are some people who have been able to deepen their friendships by discovering the joy of writing polite letters precisely because they cannot meet and talk casually with their friends. Some people say that because they can’t meet people, they were able to face themselves and enjoy their meditation time.

Knowing the diversity of other people’s thoughts and actions allows us to free ourselves from the pessimism bias. By all means, while referring to the stories of various people, why don’t you find a way to enrich your life during the corona crisis?