How did lockdown change our personalities?
There wasn’t just one lockdown – each person had their own unique experience over the three and a half months that were unlike any before. Some were involuntarily forced into months of solitude, while others were holed up in close contact with family members. For some it was a chance to slow down while for others it meant taking on far more pressure in their work or family life than usual.
Despite what we might think, our personalities are far from stable. Modern psychological research demonstrates that while we may have some relatively stable personality traits, they are flexible. They continue to evolve throughout our lives and in response to major life events, something the coronavirus lockdown certainly was for most of us.
When lockdown measures were announced at the end of March, people were, en masse, forced out of their comfort zone and daily routines. Wiebke Bleidorn from the Personality Change Laboratory at the University of California speculates that this sudden shift to different daily patterns could have encouraged us to develop new norms that, over the long term, will shape our personalities beyond the Covid pandemic.
It’s possible that you will have emerged from lockdown with some new personality traits, be they likes, dislikes, passions or changes to how you socialise.
As we have only just exited lockdown, psychologists haven’t been able to collect enough long term data to firmly identify any behavioural trends that might have emerged.
Some psychologists say there won’t be an average effect on our personalities that the majority of us will share because of the uniqueness of each person’s experience of the pandemic.
However, there is speculation that lockdown might have turbo-charged our personal growth.
The additional time to reflect might have increased our ‘self concept clarity’. This term refers to the degree to which we develop coherent beliefs about ourselves and our goals in life. Ultimately, this could lead people to follow paths and make choices that resonate with them on a more profound level post-lockdown.
Psychological studies about long periods in isolation that preceded lockdown, which focused on people staying in the Antarctic or on simulated missions to Mars, reported long periods of isolation as causing depression and other detrimental effects on participants’ wellbeing.
However, recently released studies on loneliness during lockdown show little adverse effects on people’s wellbeing. Researchers from the University of Durham and the University of Reading speculate that this was because many used the solitude that lockdown forced upon them as a time for reinvigoration, where people took action in order to stop their wellbeing deteriorating.
What’s more, modern technology gave people more ways to stay in touch with one another. Social media and technology meant many friends and families still found time to socialise virtually. Families across the country made an effort to virtually socialise each week.
Broader scientific literature shows us that people are highly adaptive and generally develop when placed in difficult circumstances, suggesting that, again, we’ll find a way to cope with lockdown if measures are reintroduced following a second wave.