Has your personality changed with the pandemic?

The pandemic has come to disrupt our lives, the way we work and socialize. But what about our personality? While our character traits are expected to remain nearly identical throughout life, a study published in the journal PLOS One and reported on NPR finds several changes in the American population.

At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, researchers had already identified a counterintuitive variation in traits in the United States. Unexpectedly, a decrease in neuroticism – the propensity to experience negative emotions – was observed.

To understand the impact of subsequent years, the team of Angelina Sutin, assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Florida State University School of Medicine, analyzed three main periods: before the pandemic, during the first confinement of 2020, and in 2021/2022. He used the Big Five, a famous psychological model that measures five central personality traits: neuroticism (stress), extroversion (connection with others), openness (creativity and originality), agreeableness (trust, altruism) and conscientiousness (discipline, organization) ).

Unsurprisingly, the results revealed that extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness declined as the health crisis dragged on. In other words, we are seeing a decline in the characteristics that help us manage our social relationships. This is particularly evident among young adults.

This conclusion, Angelina Sutin explains simply: “The support disappeared over time and then hostilities began as the restrictions continued. Furthermore, the daily life of young people was greatly disrupted; school, socialization, work. Adult life was much more stable in general ”.

Long-term consequences?

According to Joshua Jackson, an associate professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, the negative effects can persist in young people, which is a stumbling block: “Agreeableness and conscientiousness are factors associated with professional and relationship success.”

While these findings are significant at the American population level, they should be taken with a grain of salt at the individual level, especially as this study does not have a comparison group (it would have required individuals who have not experienced a pandemic at the same time). In this same period, moreover, other changes took place, such as the transition to teleworking or an increase in social stratification, which could also have influenced the personality.

Before blaming your bad mood on the health crisis, remember that your personality traits are long-term resilient. Even better, the discomforts are definitely not permanent.

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