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Normalcy Bias: Definition, Examples and Effects

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Normalcy bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to underestimate the likelihood of a disaster or other catastrophic event occurring. People with a normalcy bias tend to believe that since a disaster has never occurred before, it will never occur in the future. They consider extreme events to be irregular and dismiss them as irrelevant. This bias can lead to a false sense of security and can have serious consequences if it causes people to ignore potential threats.


Example: Imagine that a major hurricane is approaching a coastal city. Despite multiple warnings from authorities and meteorologists about the imminent threat and the need for evacuation, some residents refuse to leave their homes. They've weathered storms before and think this one will be just like the others. This is an example of normalcy bias, as they're not fully acknowledging or understanding the severity of the approaching disaster, believing that things will remain "normal" despite clear indications to the contrary.


Effects: Normalcy bias can lead to a false sense of security and can have serious consequences if it causes people to ignore potential threats. It can also lead to complacency and a lack of preparedness for disasters or other catastrophic events. Additionally, it can lead to a lack of awareness of potential risks and a lack of action to mitigate those risks.


Do you want to expand your knowledge on this topic? Read our full in-depth article on cognitive biases.


Do you have extra 15 minutes today? Take our fun and interactive quiz to learn which of 16 reasoning styles you use, your overall level of rationality, and what you can do now to improve your rationality skills.

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