If you’ve found you’re no longer disinfecting your hands as often or becoming more lenient toward unnecessary trips outside, you’re not alone.
This unintentional phenomenon is “caution fatigue” — and you have your brain to blame.
You were likely vigilant at the pandemic’s outset, consistently keeping up with ways to ensure you didn’t get infected with the coronavirus or infect others. The threat was new and urgent to your brain. And driven by the human instinct for self-preservation, fresh fear motivated you to eagerly adhere to recommended safety precautions.
Fast-forward three months, and that sense of immediacy may have faded. Caution fatigue “occurs when people show low motivation or energy to comply with safety guidelines,” said Jacqueline Gollan, who holds two professorships at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine: one in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and another in obstetrics and gynecology.
“It’s reflected when we become impatient with warnings, or we don’t believe the warnings to be real or relevant, or we de-emphasize the actual risk,” she added. “And in doing that, we then bend rules or stop safety behaviors like washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing.”