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  • Reverend James Squire

Fake News: How to Remove Bandages

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

I am an alumnus of several universities but no one can compete with contact with me than the average of three emails a week that I get from Duke. In a recent email they pictured new faculty and tenured professors who had written new books. I had seen Dan Arielly’s picture before, but it grabbed my attention once again announcing his newest book, Amazing Decisions. I have used his thinking in an Ethics class that I taught as he makes decisions with lateral thinking meaning thinking outside the box of conventional approaches. He has a Ph.D in Business Administration and a Ph.D in Cognitive Psychology. He teaches Behavior Economics at Duke which is a new field that brings a new lens to decision making that is the heart of Ethics.

Arielly was burned over 70% of his body with third degree burns when he was a teenager. Half of his face was burned in such a way that facial hair doesn’t grow there. He literally has a half beard. He spent three years in a hospital and thought about how people make decisions. His first observation actually started him out in this new field of Behavior Economics. It was part of his daily routine that he had his bandages removed and replaced. Most of us operate from the truth that the faster you pull them off the better it is in terms of pain management. I still do that today with band aids. He proved that to be wrong. What he learned was that it is more manageable to remove the bandages slowly over a short period of time. He changed the field of pain management when the experts discovered that most people prefer duration of pain relief over intensity of pain all at once for long term painful injuries. This is counter intuitive and was an uphill climb for some to adopt this technique. It is the standard of care in burn centers today!

He makes important points about decision making and the Pandemic. Most of our systems and our personal behavior is based on efficiency. We depend on the trains running on time. We value getting a plane into the airport, unloaded, leaned and then bring on board food and new passengers in the shortest possible time. The more time a plane is in the air, the more money an airline will make. The quicker a race car driver can have maintenance on his car in the pit during a race, the better shot he has of winning. Think about how much of our life is governed by efficiency. What is the quickest way to do anything or get to any location? Our GPS controls list both the mileage and the time it will take by using various routes. We can decide! We depend on hospitals and hotels to have full occupancy to bring the most profits. It is ironic that that the only thing that is effecient about the Covid 19 virus is its ability to kill. It has been the very embodiment of what has been inconvenient to say the least for us all. It requires resilience.

The dilemma with this efficiency approach in most of our lives is that we have few resilience approaches to life which contain flexibility in how we handle a crisis. We make certain that we know the best way to leave our home in a fire, but not much more. The one system that has built in resiliency is the military with different approaches to different changes that are needed.

During this Pandemic we have juxtaposed fear over fragility. We look at the daily cases and deaths, but after a period of time fear reaches a point of diminishing return. Fear doesn’t last when you don’t know when something is going to end. We have fear fatigue. Going out to dinner once during a spike in cases makes going out a second and third time easier to do. We are built that way even with constant reminders of how bad things are.

If there is a silver lining in the Pandemic, it is that we now have a much greater global understanding that we are all in this together literally around the whole world. That sense of global awareness and responsibility is dependent on a key issue, trust, which is in high demand with not enough of this commodity to go around.

Running counter to this need for trust is a President who no longer sees us as part of a world community and someone who has created a lack of trust every place that he goes. The same is true of other autocratic leaning leaders throughout our world. Without global trust, a vaccine will do little good over the long haul. Time to build our relationships with everyone on the planet. We will rise or fall as one whether it be climate change, the Pandemic, or Black Lives Matter. This lesson has to be learned. There is no time to spare

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