Hoarding Toilet Paper Is an Example of Horde Mentality
As COVID-19 threatens to infect a significant portion of the global population, Filipinos are busy emptying grocery shelves of rubbing alcohol, disinfectants, face masks, and hand sanitizers.
But while Filipinos are panic-buying germ killers and personal protective equipment, the rest of the world is determined to wipe out the global supply of… toilet paper?
Rich Countries Determined to Wipe Out Supply of Toilet Paper
Of all the things that people are deciding to mass purchase (food, water, sanitizer), many people in the first world are going for toilet paper, and the buyers are not even sure why.
Developed countries such as Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.S., and the U.K. have seen mass buying of toilet paper and paper napkins, acting as if the pulp would protect against the most infectious virus the world has seen in centuries.
In some supermarkets abroad, the situation has become so ridiculous that a security personnel had to be stationed at the toilet paper aisle to keep people from hoarding the supply.
Demand for toilet paper at Mount Druitt Coles is so high today there’s a security guard stationed permanently in the toilet paper isle to monitor the situation. “We’re going through a pallet every ten minutes or so,” he said. #coronavirus #panicbuying pic.twitter.com/Rk69I2BhyJ— Matt Wade (@MattWadeSMH) March 4, 2020
On March 10, a stampede occurred at a Sydney supermarket after people tussled to get their hands on toilet paper. But why? Psychologists weigh in on the possible reasons.
Hoarding is an example of horde mentality
Horde mentality is the behavior that people adopt when acting as a group or collectively as a society, and is typically characterized by people being influenced by others to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.
In the current situation, people are making irrational decisions in response to the threat of COVID-19. When they observe others hoarding toilet paper for no reason, they can feel compelled to act the same way.
Buying toilet paper provides some sense of control
According to Steven Taylor, clinical psychologist, the mass hysteria surrounding COVID-19 is causing anticipatory anxiety among the public, and this has led to people stockpiling on what they think their family would need in case things get worse. One of these things is toilet paper.
"People become anxious ahead of the actual infection. They haven't thought about the bigger picture, like what are the consequences of stockpiling toilet paper." said Taylor in a report by CNN.
In the same report, another psychologist shared his thoughts. Baruch Fischhoff, psychologist and professor at the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, says people are acting out of fear. The purchase of toilet paper gives them a sense of control to a situation that seems uncontrollable.
Using toilet paper is less healthy than using water
Toilet paper does not, in any way, help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, using toilet paper could actually spread more disease. Studies conclude that using water (tabo, bidet) to clean up is safer and more hygienic than just using toilet paper.