By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I often watch political happenings with my behavioral medicine hat on. It confirms the eccentricities of human behavior over and over again.

One side of a question believes that they are 100 percent correct and the other side is 100 percent wrong. The opposition believes that they are 100 percent correct and the other side is 100 percent wrong.

An alternative narrative is that every time something good occurs it is because of the people that agree with their political stance making it happen. Every time something bad occurs, it is because of people with the opposite political stance making it happen.

Clearly, both sides of the question cannot be right. One of them must be incorrect in their assumptions. Or maybe both of them are and the truth lies somewhere in between.

I have written in the past about the psychological mechanisms at work in these instances. But in light of recent inability to agree on much of anything, it makes sense to refresh them.

The first psychological mechanism is titled cognitive dissonance. This means that when we formulate an opinion, we firmly believe that we are correct. 

Our mind tells us that if we are correct, then we are smart. If we are not correct then we are not so smart. Therefore, if we hear something that disagrees with our opinion, it causes cognitive dissonance.

We are confronted with something that is suggesting that we may not be as smart as we think we are. Our mind does not want that to happen.

This leads to the second psychological mechanism. It is known as justification bias. Once we have an opinion, we want to avoid cognitive dissonance. Therefore, anything that agrees with our opinion must be correct. Anything that disagrees with our opinion must be incorrect.

Thus, we have a bias toward one opinion. Our mind allows us to get rid of cognitive dissonance caused by an opposing opinion by justifying what we believe and ignoring the opposition.

Often other psychological mechanisms come into play. We may deny that the opposing opinion can be correct. We may rationalize why that opinion cannot be correct.

This is normal human behavior. However, like all human behaviors it can be taken to an extreme. We saw much of this related to opinions about COVID-19. 

There were arguments about masks. There were arguments about vaccines. There were arguments about treatments.

Thus holding onto an opinion that assumes 100 percent correctness does not allow for a healthy dose of skepticism. In the long run it is unhealthy from a mental health standpoint. 

Aristotle defined virtue as the means between two extremes. That was 2,500 years ago. In the intervening 2,500 years some people have not yet learned that particular lesson.

COVID update- Sussex County remains low for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Nationally the number of new cases went from 230,000 last week to 254,000 this week. That 20,000 case increase is about the same as the previous week. There were no Sussex County updates on the website over the Easter period so there is no new data on number of local cases.

Israel continues studying the effects of the second booster on their population.They now have data on over 563,000 patients. Of that group about 58 percent (just over half) had received a second booster.

The numbers are very similar to the original ones that showed four deaths per thousand for one booster and one death per thousand for two boosters.