2009 Volume 48 Issue 2 Pages 137-149
The concept of normalcy bias occupies a central position in research on disaster psychology. This paper reexamined the theoretical validity of this concept from a social constructionist perspective. The concept has been useful in identifying optimistically biased decisions that people often make upon receiving a disaster alert. However, we argue that this bias is not strong when people actually face an alert, but it is actually developed after the event, as the result of post-event attempts to gain a grasp of the actual situation surrounding the state of emergency. It is suggested that the misconception of the normalcy bias stems from certain epistemological and practical assumptions that are made when observing and explaining actions of people before and after a disaster alert. Based on these assumptions, both negative and positive consequences of this misconception in conventional disaster reduction practices have been investigated. It is proposed that the "co-construction of social reality" of a disaster event is an alternative way of making sense, one which may replace the normalcy bias, and thereby reshape the contemporary, overly information-dependent disaster reduction practices.