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Coronavirus stopped us from hugging and companies from growing. What should we learn from it?

Coronavirus is not only a sensation of the last weeks and a life-threatening disease, but also it opens a new chapter in everybody’s life. This new era will embrace new ways to protect nations, businesses and relations between countries. We address a few questions to professor Dan Ariely, who is a well-known psychologist lecturing on manipulation, truth and lies. How should we act upon a new era coming?

Zaneta Geltz: You are educated at psychology, you give lectures on manipulation, truth and lies. We see the global health challenge, and the patterns that European and American government undertook are copied from China, assuming they are the only efficient way of stopping the coronavirus. Do you think there are no other ways to stop the spread of the virus without paralyzing the economy? 

Dan Ariely: Sadly, we don’t know exactly. We need to isolate the people who are sick and the people who are in danger of being sick. But I am not yet sure the strategy of quarantinne of everybody or nearly everybody if efficient way  or the best way to do. The issue is that it is difficult to make a step back. If you release poeple, then it is difficult to change your mind later.

Politicians don’t like to regret of not doing something, that somebody could blame them. So, that’s why I think they took up very severe precaution means here. Once you quarantine a country, it is important that you adhere to the rules. Because if a small number of people do not adhere, it can harm others.

Many countries chose to make it so aggressive, so I hope that everybody will adhere, so we can early move on into a near future!

Z.G.: Do you think there is any chance for people to obey the rules in new times, that we will wash our hands each time we come back home (and touched handles, doors, etc)?

D.A.: I don’t think that people will do it all the time, but we could get into new habits. The key word is the new habit. Basically habits are the way to protect us. Habits are the „Nature’s” way to make us do things automatically without thinking too much. I think habits are very often our enemies, but they can also be our friend. I think it is time we should be very careful. So, we should create these new habits that will protect us.

Z.G.: Media are creating a global panic by showing statistics of deaths, comparing countries, telling only negative news. This causes people are stressed and even more exposed to the virus. What should be our self-defense strategy and how to really learn the science and not the noise?

D.A.: The thing about media is that when we find something intersting, we start to read more and more, So, now everything about coronavirus is interesting. When last time you were reading something about malaria? Long time ago people were dying from malaria or cigarettes.

So, my advice is that we should not listen to media too much. We should ignore some news. During the day we should go on normally, and focus on reading the news only in the morning. So, during the rest of the day we should concentrate more about our behavior and not so much about our knowledge.  We should wash our hands, be careful, do the right things, but avoid of getting into the cycle of the curosity – keeping reading and stressing and so on.

Z.G.: What is your opinion about political issue in the issue of coronavirus. Do you think we witness the new type of economy war between USA and China as some commentators say?

D.A.: There is no question we are approaching a new economic situation, many countries in the world will be dramatically weakened. China will probably will not be weakened as much, they will rather go ahead! I don’t think they planned that. This is really an issue of resilience.

When you make an economic system that is built on efficiency, meaning that everything needs to work, in order to move on. When one thing break, the whole system breaks, like a very delicate clock. And American economy is more or less like that driven by efficiency. And when something happens, like 2008 or coronavirus today, the whole system collapses. The Chinese economy is very much different, because it has much more resilience. They have resources, so when they are ran out of something in one province, they can supply from another region. So, their economy is not so much exposed to shocks. So, we could also analyze how to make our economies more resilient. That is for me a very interesting question.

Z.G.: How to imagine future and not get crazy with so many limitations, like not being allowed to shake hands, share hugs, avoid meetings, treat others are potential virus-vectors, how to plan careers, company development and life planning in these uncertain circumstances?

D.A.: The good news is that pandemics come and go. The virus will go away, we will create our immunity and new viruses will come, and hopefully we will be prepared for them. The world is collaborating, so I hope we will learn how to be careful and still, I hope we will be able to hug each other.

is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He is the founder and director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His work has been featured in many recognized press titles such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe and others. He is an author of the folloring books: „Dollars and Sense”, „Payoff”, Irratioanlly yours”, „The (honest) truth about dishonesty”, „The upside of irrationality”, „Predictably irrational”. Dan Ariely lives in Durham, South Carolina with his wife Sumi and their two creative children, Amit and Neta.