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Science Explains Why Some People Find It So Tough To Stay At Home During MCO
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Science Explains Why Some People Find It So Tough To Stay At Home During MCO

Anne Dorall

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Some people have made staying at home sound like a chore and jokes about “cabin fever” have become common place since the movement control order.

Even before the movement control order (MCO) was put into place, Malaysians have done things that didn’t have to be done, like buying large amounts of face masks or hoarding groceries. But there might be a reason why Malaysians are so restless during this time.

According to psychologist Eva M. Krockow, “action bias” is a mental quirk for why this happens.

During times of uncertainty, most people go with the “at least I did something” mentality. Even when there shouldn’t be any kind of action and keeping the course would be best, the human instinct is fight or flight, not to stand still and do nothing.

That’s why when we’re told to “stay at home” and do nothing, we still fret over stockpiling resources and panic over an unseen threat.

Action bias happens all the time. Take, for example, the last time you were waiting in line. Even though you know you shouldn’t move from your line, sometimes you make that impulsive decision to swap lines, which ultimately results in you waiting even longer in another line.

If you think you’re going crazy at home, this is pretty normal.

It’s a human impulse that in times of uncertainty, at least you did something– anything.

The same thing can be said of the MCO right now. For us, stuck in our houses, we keep thinking, what else can we do?

Some people have decided to pour that restless attention into caring for others. This active heroism is valued by our culture in the way we sing praises to those who take the initiative to care for others.

Heroes in our stories are people who have done heroic deeds like police chasing after criminals, doctors saving lives, or even our food delivery riders braving the risk of going outside.

Delivery people have become minor heroes in their own right.
(Credit: Lazada)

That’s why staying at home twiddling our thumbs doesn’t feel like a good thing to do, because this kind of inaction isn’t associated with doing good deeds.

However, fighting this impulsive need to go out and do things is in itself a heroic effort. There’s no doubt that staying indoors will help to reduce the rate of infection and flatten the curve.

We’ve all seen memes saying that staying at home to watch TV shows is easier than going to fight in a war. But waiting while powerless could be just as stressful for us.

So for all of you good Malaysians staying indoors, good job! We’re all heroes here.

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