Grandma Killers and Doomers: Societal Divisions & Covid-19



Why do people disagree on Covid-19 matters? Why do they see the same number and come to different conclusions about its severity? Why do some people seem willing to endanger others’ lives while others exhibit prosocial tendencies? This (disciplined) provocation will present multiple research findings suggesting that laypeople tend to: 1) moralize Covid-19, which leads them to place greater value on Covid harms (vs. comparable other harms), 2) largely over (rather than under-)estimate Covid-19 risks, which leads them to endorse severe restrictions in perpetuity, 3) embrace scientism (i.e., elevate scientists to roles akin to high priests), which leads them to believe supported and unsupported claims about Covid-19, and 4) scapegoat unvaccinated people, even after accounting for competing explanations and risk profiles. The seminar traces these consequences to initially well-meaning forces to contain the spread and respond to an unknown threat. Gone unchecked and unchallenged, however, well-meaning actions can lead to rigidity, censorship, and failure to be resilient to future threats. Maja and her collaborators invite people to go beyond this quasi-religious scientism, temper their convictions on Covid-19, and evaluate all (mis)information with equal rigor.


Maja is interested understanding what influences people’s perceptions of visible and invisible harms in their social environments. If there are vast differences in perceptions of what is harmful, whose reality should guide social norms, and how should organizations respond to conflicting perceptions? Maja and her colleagues have been exploring the implications of such questions for contexts ranging from allegations of non-physical mistreatment at work to Covid-19. Their work is published in outlets such as Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Psychological Science.

We are offering 1:1 sessions to meet with our speaker. Furthermore, we will be taking Maja for dinner after her seminar. Sign-up for the 1:1 sessions and the dinners can be found here: