COVID-19 May Change Our Behavior

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Day 148: Stay Safe Minnesota

If history is any guide, the coronavirus pandemic might change some behavior but its long-lasting effect is uncertain.

Our behavior and personalities are built based on our experiences and social interactions. When our social interactions are severely restricted due to the current COVID-19 pandemic lock-down, our behavior might be altered too.

Research over the last few decades, however, has led to a consensus that, while personality traits are relatively stable, they are not completely fixed. Instead they continue to evolve through life and in response to major life events. [..] from a theoretical perspective, there is every possibility that at least some of us will have been left changed by lockdown.

Christian Jarrett in BBC Future

In the Bloomberg CityLab, reporter Lynda Poon writes that history suggests ‘after each epidemic and disaster, our social norms and behaviors change’. The coronavirus pandemic may change our habits of wearing facial masks, handwashing and touching our faces.

Before the late 1800s, habits like sharing cups with strangers and spitting in public even amidst crowds weren’t considered unsanitary. Then a tuberculosis outbreak came, and our behavior changed — in some ways irrevocably and in some ways temporarily.

Linda Poon, Bloomberg CityLab

In the BBC Future, Christian Jarrett quotes Wiebke Bleidorn at the Personality Change Laboratory at the University of California, Davis : “the many months of changes to our routines may have led to changes in our behaviour that will stick long after the pandemic has finished. It ‘may lead to new norms, which may over time also shape our personalities’.”

Pandemics are not static. They’re dynamic, unfolding, and changing events where people’s behavior changes over time.

Steve Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics (source: Bloomberg CityLab)

Pandemic-era Habits

In the Atlantic, staff writer Joe Pinsker writes from his interview of people across the US about pandemic-era habits that most of them planned to keep aspects of their new hygiene regimen long into the future, even after the threat of the coronavirus passes. Following are selected responses of people from Pinsker’s interview :

  • “I will more regularly wash my hands throughout my life and I will never be anywhere without hand sanitizer and a mask,” Leah Burbach, a 27-year-old high-school teacher in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • “I think I’ll wear a mask if I’ve got a cold, now that I understand it’s most effective in keeping me from spreading germs,” said Josh Jackson, a 48-year-old in Decatur, Georgia.
  • “I’ve heard wonderful things about Alaskan cruises and had always hoped to go on one someday. No more,” said Jaclyn Reiswig, a 39-year-old homemaker in Aurora, Colorado.

If what they discovered is overall actually better [than what they used to do], then it’ll stick. In contrast, behaviors like hand-washing and mask wearing would be more likely to abate if the threat of the virus—and thus the reward of keeping up those habits—recedes. In other words, most of us will probably revert to our old ways—except for when, through awful circumstances, we stumbled upon new ones that work better.

Katy Milkman, a behavioral scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (source: The Atlantic)
Coronavirus Pandemic Watch

According to the MDH latest tally (as of Aug 21, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 68,133 (out of 1,340,850 tested) with 1,753 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of Aug 21, 2:27 p.m.) there are 5,607,993 confirmed covid19 infection with 174,924 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 22,789,780 with 795,575 deaths.