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Cass Sunstein, an American legal scholar and author, has just been appointed to the World Health Organization’s coronavirus panel and some are critical of the decision due to his previous opinions on the virus.
The 65-year-old published an article with Bloomberg on Feb. 28, claiming that people likely had an amplified fear of coronavirus due to a cognitive bias called “probability neglect.”
Sunstein said, “one thing is clear: A lot of people are more scared than they have any reason to be. They have an exaggerated sense of their own personal risk.”
He went on to explain his theory by saying, “Suppose that a potential outcome grips your emotions, maybe because it is absolutely terrifying, maybe because it is amazingly wonderful. If so, there is an excellent chance that you will focus on it -- and pay far less attention than you should to a crucial question, which is how likely it is to occur.”
Sunstein went on to predict some of the impacts a global pandemic could have due to this cognitive bias.
“Many people will take precautionary steps (canceling vacations, refusing to fly, avoiding whole nations) even if there is no adequate reason to do that. Those steps can in turn increase economic dislocations, including plummeting stock prices.”
The WHO has received significant criticism over the last few months for their handling of the pandemic and their inconsistent advice.
The most notable effect this has had on the WHO is their loss of funding from The United States after President Donald Trump denounced the organization.