What is the Semmelweis effect and how does it affect the adequate perception of reality

The Semmelweiss effect describes a phenomenon in which people refuse to let new information into their lives that can distort their understanding of the usual order of things.

The history of the term

In the forties of the 19th century, the death rate of women from puerperal fever increased significantly on the territory of the hospital of St. Roch . The indicators grew only in one of the two departments, which for many doctors and health workers seemed very strange and inexplicable. This question was decided to study by Ignaz Semmelweis , who worked as an obstetrician at the time. He was interested not only in the cause of such a phenomenon: he sincerely felt sorry for the poor women who suffered so much and died a painful death.

A chain of logical conclusions led him to the doctors who took birth in the first department. In their free time, they actively honed their skills by working with corpses in the morgue, which was located directly next to the building, where women fell ill after childbirth. Observing their activities, the doctor noticed that many of the obstetricians do not have time to thoroughly disinfect their hands after autopsies, but only wipe them with a clean handkerchief. Semmelweis ordered all those who come into contact with pregnant women to wipe their hands with bleach solution. His theory was confirmed: after thorough disinfection, mortality rates dropped significantly.

Wishing to help women in childbirth all over the world, the professor hastened to share his already confirmed observations with his colleagues. Their reaction surprised him: not only did they begin to reject him, they began to mock him and poison him in every possible way. It got to the point that Ignaz was forbidden to perform surgical interventions and work with living patients. There is an explanation for this paradox, and it sounds like this: those who so actively rejected the professor’s position were simply afraid to admit the fact that a doctor can harm a person, and even infect him with a deadly disease.

The professor died of mental illness, unable to prove to the whole world the correctness of his research. Only many years later, when this issue began to be actively highlighted in scientific papers, Semmelweis was finally remembered. In honor of him, they decided to name the phenomenon, which explains the reaction of the population to information that breaks their idea of \u200b\u200ba real-life order of things.

Distinctive features of the effect

The Semmelweiss effect characterizes the complete rejection of the new, even if the data is scientifically confirmed. This is because people are accustomed to living according to well-formed rules and traditions that resonate in their souls. Imagine: you have believed all your life that the Earth is perfectly round. This was written in school textbooks, it was said by all teachers, teachers and parents. And at one moment you will learn a scientifically confirmed fact that our planet only remotely resembles a circle, and its entire surface is rough and deformed under the influence of various natural factors. How long will it take you to cross out and get out of your head what you have been told for so many years?

For scientists , the Semmelweis effect is an absolutely normal phenomenon, since researchers question all new information. They tend to adapt old theories to new data, rather than accept the indisputable fact of the existence of a completely different reality. A distinctive feature of the phenomenon is that the population tends to perceive new information with sharp aggressiveness and literally poison the author for his ability to take a fresh look at the world.

What kind of people are prone to the Semmelweis effect ?

The trap of cognitive distortion tends to fall into those who:

– Has an inflated self-esteem and sincerely believes in the correctness of his beliefs;

– Possesses narrow thinking, does not let anything new into his life;

– Adheres to conservative views;

– Completely denies the benefits of progress and innovation, preferring the established and proven.

As a result, such people biasedly assess the situation and burrow tightly into their own cocoon. To minimize the impact of the Semmelweiss effect , you should expand your own perception of reality. Do not look at everything through the prism of your own doubts, let new emotions and information enter your life that will feed your knowledge and make you a more conscious person.

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