Epidemic psychology: a model



When the conditions are right, epidemics can potentially create a medical version of the Hobbesian nightmare - the war of all against all. A major outbreak of novel, fatal epidemic disease can quickly be followed both by plagues of fear, panic, suspicion and stigma; and by mass outbreaks of moral controversy, of potential solutions and of personal conversion to the many different causes which spring up. This distinctive collective social psychology has its own epidemic form, can be activated by other crises besides those of disease and is rooted in the fundamental properties of language and human interaction. It is thus a permanent part of the human condition - and widely known to be such.