Paul Slovic discusses Ebola and public fears with NYT, NPR

Paul Slovic
Paul Slovic

UO psychology professor Paul Slovic was featured in a New York Times article Oct. 15 that discussed the public's worry over the Ebola virus now that it has been found in the United States.

The article focused on the public's confidence in the ability of the government and medical officials to contain the virus and how it can be eroded by the appearance of new cases. Slovik noted that when public trust starts to erode, “the next time they tell you not to worry — you worry.”

Slovik also appeared in a National Public Radio story Aug. 22 that discussed American’s fear of deadly diseases, focusing primarily on Ebola.

With NPR, Slovic talked about the “dread factor,” or how scared the public is likely to get over a possible outbreak. Slovic said that the "uncontrollability, catastrophic potential, fatal consequences and involuntary exposure" of a disease are the variables that influence the dread factor. With the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Slovic said that "Ebola would be extreme on the dread factor."

Slovic and NPR are quick to point out that public panic over Ebola “may spark counterproductive activities.” Ebola is an extremely dangerous pathogen, the story said, but hysteria over it could create an unnecessary toll.   

—By Nathan Stevens, Public Affairs Communications intern