The corona outbreak is a disaster for our society, but it is also an interesting time to reflect on how we treat ourselves and others. When the crisis is over, however, we should let certain behaviours die in peace.
It is very difficult to make predictions about the long-term economic effect of the pandemic outbreak. Interest rates are low, there is a lot of financial stimulation, and all predictions and previous research suggest that the economy eventually will bounce back.
Essentially, there is no reason to be too pessimistic.
Still, and for better or worse, the situation has affected us greatly, both as consumers and on a more personal level. Here are seven interesting ways our behaviour has drastically changed over the last few months:
When asked to respect social distances and stay at home, our willingness to help others by sacrificing some of the pleasures in our own life is an example of a positive behaviour that makes us believe in the human race. For instance, we see very encouraging initiatives that targets vulnerable groups that need our help in for instance doing their shopping.
We have also spent more time nesting and taking care of ourselves and our living spaces. We read more, learn how to bake, do puzzles or work out. Some of us have even cleaned our house properly and finally taken care of that junk we were meaning to get rid of for a long time.
We have entered the experience economy; we spend more money on services compared to products, and we are constantly looking for new thrills and ways to amuse ourselves, such as binge-watching series, “live” online concerts or spending more money than normal on on-line shopping.
4) Eremite behaviour
Interestingly, at the same time, we care less about our physical appearance. We eat more junk food, drink more alcohol and use less deodorant and shampoo. The underlying behavioural mechanism we may be seeing is people becoming more individualistic and less worried about social pressure as we meet fewer people in general.
Slowly, we grow into eremites with more than enough time do no nothing, instead of leading our normal stressed lives.
5) “Primitive” behaviour
Spending too much time with loved ones in a confined space could potentially be more stressful than positive. Although crime in general has declined, there have been reports of an increase in domestic violence and confrontations between neighbours.
Interestingly, reports from the US show that gun purchases have doubled. These behaviours are not as extreme as we may think, as humans are geared to being slightly schizophrenic and on the lookout for threats in our surrounding area. This trait kept us alive in more primitive times and is not just activated in a crisis. When we experience a threat like Covid-19 we use up many of our cognitive resources trying to control the situation, which may make our thinking more primitive than normal.
6) Self-medication and herd logic
Humans have always tried to find quick solutions to complex problems. If we can take a pill instead of changing behaviour, we will always go for the pill. That explains the rise of treatments for Covid-19, such as large doses of c-vitamins, garlic or drinkable silver. We hear that we should increase the heat, not eat ice cream, drink more water and eat more herbs to help our immune system.
Influencers provide self-invented advice on social media, dubious sites spread non-factual news and even American presidents jump on the bandwagon to hand out terrible advice. What is striking in all of this is that the logic of the herd beats the wisdom of science.
We tend to listen more to the advice of people we think we know or look up to, rather than experts that do not belong to our constructed social in-group. Ultimately, people hoard products there is no shortage of and ruin their health from poor advice.
7) Conformist thinking
There are also trends indicating that we have become more conformist and less accepting of eccentricity. Perhaps not that strange, as we are constantly being told what to do and not do by the authorities.
Another issue is the constant reminders that the virus originated in China and that travellers brought it to our country. While possibly true, these reminders have also led to foreigners being harassed or beaten up for allegedly bringing this invisible threat to our doorstep.
When our moral judgments become harsher and more conservative, it could potentially be dangerous as it feeds more nationalism and protectionism.
Post-pandemic life advice
All in all, we should cherish and build on the positive qualities and behaviours that have flourished in these difficult times. Looking ahead, we should also be aware and be more proactive so that some of the less flattering behaviours do not linger on when all of this is over.
This is not the first pandemic we have seen nor will it be the last one. Pandemics are a regular unstoppable phenomenon that occur every 10 to 50 years. It does show us how vulnerable our societies are and how much we depend on each other and the outside world to have a comfortable life.
Hopefully, we will be more prepared for the next one.
This article is written for BI Marketing Magazine 2020.