Concepts from ‘behavioral economics’ are being used to nudge people into believing Covid-19 conspiracy theories, but WHO and Why?

Concepts from ‘behavioral economics’ are being used to nudge people into believing Covid-19 conspiracy theories, but WHO and Why?

Why is resistance to Covid-19 measures a right wing project? It is not just happening in the U.S., either. Many right leaning citizens all over the world are willfully rejecting the reality that is the current global pandemic. This is no accident and people are being manipulated.

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Today in Berlin, far-right political groups organized a protest march against Covid 19. 17,000 people participated, few of them wearing masks or social distancing.

The march, which was named by organizers as “Day of Freedom — The End of the Pandemic,” included anti-vaccine groups and some far-right and neo-Nazi organizations. On livestreams of the event, some protesters could be heard yelling, “We are the second wave.”

CNN
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That’s right, Nazi’s and antivaxxers are joining forces to march against the pandemic. They are doing this because they believe that it is all a hoax.

Protesters march down Berlin's Friedrichstrasse during a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions.
Germans fill the streets to protest Covid-19 precautions.

The delusional thinking is palpable, and mystifying. How do so many people come to the conclusion that it is all a hoax?

This is happening because right wing groups and conspiracy theorists are being targeted for manipulation. Why this is happening is less clear than HOW it is happening. The HOW is achieved through principles gleaned through ‘behavioral economics’.

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Behavioral economics is a newer branch of economics that studies how people make decisions. Traditionally, the study of economics tends to rely on the assumption that people make rational decisions about what to buy, or how to act in a situation.

For example, when faced with possible infection during a global pandemic, the rational decision would be to follow the advice of medical doctors. In the present case, this means to physically distance, avoid large gatherings, wash hands frequently, and wear a mask. The irrational response would be to run into the streets and refuse to take any precautions at all.

Yet, this is exactly what is happening. People that were presumed to be intelligent and rational individuals are rejecting what most other people conclude is common sense.

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The reality is–and this is crucial–the hoax believers are also acting rationally. The reason why some people have chosen to reject medical science concerning Covid-19 is because they have been given different information to base their decisions on.

The basic theory of behavioral economics is that people make rational decisions based upon the information they are given.

Unfortunately, humans are not as intelligent as they believe they are, and too much and too complex information tends to overwhelm our brains. We need to absorb information in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks.

We are not even kidding. This is happening in your brain right now. I wish someone would explain things better.
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Not everyone has access to the same information. We don’t all have cable news channels, we don’t all have stable internet connections, we don’t all have the same level of education, and we don’t all run in the same social circles. People are being bombarded with information from multiple sources and we just can’t make sense of it. Seriously. Very few humans are very stable geniuses.

So do you want to know how simplistic the information needs to be?

This simple.

This Turning Point USA meme is representing hundreds of years of intellectual thought condensed down into an incorrect, but digestible bit of propaganda. Everyone knows that ‘liberals’ do not hate America, and that ‘conservatives’ are not the only ones who love America, but this is so much easier to understand than reading a bunch of dense academic literature.

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Once people accept the ‘liberals hate America’ premise, it is easier to provide them with lists of taboo political standpoints. Busy with their daily lives, people just accept what pundits tell them. They want their information in the form of memes.

Ohh yeah, its so easy to understand.

Once the list of acceptable values is entrenched in the minds of people, it is easy to simply add more items to that list. All that is needed is a little nudge in the desired direction.

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OH NOES! I better get with the program!

Seriously, that is all it takes to manipulate people into accepting irrational political ideas as rational. Conforming to the hive mind becomes more important than figuring out why we believe the things we do and if these beliefs truly benefit us.

The big question remains, however. Who is doing the nudging and WHY are they targeting right-wing political groups? There has to some sort of end-game and the sooner we figure out what that is the better.

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