Risk behavior can be learned

How people react to crises

Renn: We have to see that there is no one population, but rather very different groups. From psychology we know three archaic reaction patterns of people: killing, fleeing and fighting. This seems obvious, but it has serious consequences that have been well proven in research.

The people who tend to play dead reflexes consider themselves invulnerable and are convinced that the virus will not hit them. These are the people who are now saying in public: The measures imposed from above are unnecessary and completely exaggerated.

People who flee hide themselves because they stay at home for fear of falling ill and have the food delivered. Refugees try to avoid exposure.

Fighting people, on the other hand, want to do something against the aggressor. And since they cannot attack the virus directly, they look for replacement objects. It is they who tend to buy hamsters, for example. The need for specific activities can also go in the direction of scapegoats. Many address Asian-looking people, for example, who have often been stigmatized since the beginning of the crisis. Or they curse "incompetent" politicians. Other representatives of this type also tend to moralize in this situation, as can be seen well on the Internet. There you stylize yourself - in contrast to the bad neighbor - as a moral hero who obeys all the rules to avoid contagion and who rises to be sheriff over others who allegedly do not obey these rules.

We have good evidence that there are people who are generally more inclined to one type or another, but it also depends on the situation. Whether you encounter a lion or a gazelle, regardless of type, leads to situation-dependent behavior.