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Vanderbilt behaviorist: 'How badly people want to feel normal, it’s scary to me'

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  A Vanderbilt consumer behavior expert says she believes Music City’s honky-tonks will be packed immediately the minute they are allowed to re-open.

Vanderbilt’s Dr. Kelly Goldsmith says she fears just how badly all of us want to return to pre-pandemic life. Dr. Goldsmith says behavioral research suggests our desire to see things return to normal will quickly suppress our fear of coronavirus.

“Knowing how badly people want to feel normal, it’s scary to me to think about how quickly the wheels could come off the bus here with respect to all the (social distancing/hygiene) behaviors we’ve been working so hard to put in place.”

Dr. Goldsmith believes “Safer-at-Home” restrictions - currently being eased in Nashville and across the state - have reduced the need for individuals to exercise self-control until now. With those restrictions being lifted, she worries self-restraint will quickly become too difficult for most people to maintain.

Adding to the problem, Dr. Goldsmith says the independent streak Americans value so highly complicates decision making in the current crisis. Our penchant for personal freedom means some will prioritize choice over safety.

“...now we’re leaving consumers to their own devices. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but I have a hard time betting on people’s self-control.”

Dr. Goldsmith says the only option policy makers have is to keep people informed about the current situation and the associated risks. After that, she concludes we can only hope people “do what’s best for them.”

You can read the full pandemic Q&A with Dr. Goldsmith here.

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