University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

‘Worse than useless’ to warn against panic

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Apr 23, 2012

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If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to calm a crowd, it may be counter-productive to say “don’t panic”, a Sussex researcher has suggested.

Dr John Drury, a member of the Sussex psychology department and an expert on crowd psychology, made a post last month on his blog, “The Crowd” entitled “The logic of panic-buying”.

Dr Drury wrote his article, which summarises some of the research he has been conducting, in response to media reports that consumers were “panic-buying” petrol after warnings of strike action by fuel workers.

These reports came amidst a backlash against the government for causing what some perceived to be unnecessary concern over petrol supplies.

In his blog post, Dr Drury describes the phrase “don’t panic” as “worse than useless”, going on to say that the word “panic” in itself just suggests that there probably is something to panic about.

He also criticises the popular usage of the word, explaining that panic is actually a clinical condition of extreme anxiety, and that people who are stocking up on petrol are not in fact panicking but making a rational, considered decision.
The main thrust of his article is that this kind of language undermines “the collective interest” by encouraging individualistic behaviour.

Dr Drury argues that inappropriate references to panic and panic-buying are likely to “sow mistrust” and cause people to act selfishly.
The full text of the article can be found at

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