The Danger of Attribution Bias: Dissecting the Reaction to the Damar Hamlin Story

As a parent of an athlete in contact sports, I was horrified by Damar Hamlin’s collapse on the football field this past Monday. Amidst my prayers for his recovery, I spent some time trying to grasp what happened on the field. Of course, the initial videos and reactions were best guesses. I watched some interesting videos developed by physicians that helped me learn more about commotio cordis, which provides a plausible explanation for his sudden cardiac arrest. However, I know it will take some time to figure out what really happened, if we ever get a complete picture. I watch that process unfold while I continue to root for his recovery.

However, one of the sad statements on the state of our world is the number of people who jumped to the conclusion that this terrible event was somehow tied to COVID-19 vaccination. As the article below describes, nonmedical professionals got on social media diagnosing this cardiac arrest as a COVID-19 vaccine side effect. Many people shut these people down quickly, but what is troubling about this is that it reflects what I see as a growing proliferation of unscientific attribution bias. We live in an age in which people look at the world through a filtered lens, and they tout these biases whenever they can, applying them to every medical situation they encounter. Some of these voices are the loudest, and we need to collectively take a step back from all this politicization on health topics. It’s human to want to grasp on to something that you think you understand during times of stress, but it’s also important to have humility and critical thinking skills. That’s why we need to know where to go for vetted medical information and partner with our trusted healthcare providers when unraveling medical mysteries. The alternative is just too distracting, unproductive, and scary.

Damar Hamlin’s Vaccination Status Isn’t Relevant, But Anti-Vaxxers are Spreading Misinformation

The COVID Corner: Installment 1