How People Think Differently Post-Pandemic

Diana J. Smith

People experienced the “pandemic pause” as either a positive or a negative experience—physically, emotionally, and financially. But there was one point of common ground: it gave everyone time to slow down and think. Many people re-evaluated their work-life balance in terms of career goals and priorities, contributing to the “great resignation.” Others became so comfortable with the teleworking lifestyle they switched careers in order to capitalize on flexibility.

But beyond balancing family and finances, research reveals that some post-pandemic personality changes focused on priorities and personal values.

Shameersrk on Pixabay

Source: Shameersrk on Pixabay

Priorities and Personal Values

Ella Daniel et al. (2022) examined how priorities and personal values changed during the pandemic.[i] Reporting longitudinal data from an Australian sample, they noted that higher-order values were stable pre-pandemic, while conservation values, emphasizing order and stability, increased in importance during the pandemic. They noted that openness to altering values, underscoring self-direction and stimulation, decreased during the pandemic—a finding which was reversed in late 2020 when self-transcendence values, emphasizing care for nature, society, and close others, decreased. They note that these changes were heightened among people who felt worried. Daniel et al. recognize that their findings support the psychological theory of values as something that is usually consistent, but also capable of adapting to environmental change.

In November to December 2020, Daniel et al. note that people who were worried about the health impact of the pandemic reported a decrease in their overall care for other people. Daniel et al. note that their results may stem from less social interaction during the extended lockdown, or a shift toward self-preservation and personal safety at the expense of concern for others. They note this is consistent with the concept of learned helplessness, suggesting that at least for some people, worrying over an extended period of time may lead to withdrawal.

Shared Humanity

For many people, pandemic restrictions and lockdowns changed their view of the concept of shared humanity. Experiencing the phenomenon of being “alone together” as a global community led many people to reimagine what a post-pandemic world would look like, and what it should look like. Researchers investigated how such views have translated into post-pandemic philosophy.

Özden Uluğ et al. (2021) examined the extent to which shared humanity as well as an awareness of socio-economic privilege predicted support for equal socio-economic policies.[ii] They note that pandemic-related unemployment exposed longstanding inequalities in areas such as health care services and working conditions, which had a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty.

The research by Uluğ et al. focused on pandemic-related social identity and social class-related factors that can predict the level of support for policies promoting economic equality post-pandemic. Consistent with their hypotheses, they found that a greater degree of identification with all humanity, heightened awareness of the existence of socio-economic status-based privilege, and less endorsement of classist attitudes were predictive of a higher degree of support for socio-economic policies of equality post-pandemic. They found this to be true even after controlling for participants’ socio-demographic and socio-political characteristics.

Historical Past, Healthy Future

For many people, priorities and values have evolved over the historically significant pandemic as a result of both reflection and recognition of community vulnerabilities and inequality. Consequently, the desire to re-engage responsibly fueled by a sense of shared humanity will prompt the application of lessons learned in the past to promote a healthy future.

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