Whipping up fear is a common tactic in politics. Providing stark, seemingly life or death choices, us versus them, scapegoating, creating a false bogeyman to distract from real problems, using lies and disinformation … fear is used because it often works.
Fear breeds anxiety and stress, and “anxiety increases the attention to negative choice options, the likelihood that ambiguous options will be interpreted negatively, and the tendency to avoid potential negative outcomes, even at the cost of missing potential gains.”
What does this mean? Why does fear work? Fear pushes people to see only the negative, to judge negatively even positive or neutral options, and to even act against their own best interests in order to avoid a suggested calamity.
Fear is corrosive; fear is the friend of dictators and authoritarian/totalitarian governments.
But, fear is also a state that we help create within ourselves. Just as we can allow fear to build and affect our lives, we can also disrupt it (though it is not easy to do that in times of high anxiety). One way to beat fear is through knowledge and understanding. Dig through the slogans and disinformation, get to the facts.
And, go to the source — Anxiety and Decision-Making (Catherine A. Hartley and Elizabeth A. Phelps, Biological Psychiatry, 2012).
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