With the onset of Covid-19, aspects of our lives have changed overnight. No more kissing and handshakes. On the job side, there is room for teleworking and videoconferences. If some people see it only as temporary measures, it is however probably futile to hope to find our former life quickly.
According to psychologists, waiting for a return to normal rather than facing a new reality can be dangerous. For Thomas Devenport, professor of computer science and management at Babson College in Massachusetts, “We keep telling ourselves that the Covid-19 pandemic will end soon. Therefore, we don't feel the need to change our attitude permanently. ”
The “normality bias” explains the tendency of humans to think that change is temporary, and that the future will look like the past. We often feel reluctant to change our habits and our points of view. According to Thomas Devenport, those who refuse to wear a mask perfectly illustrate this phenomenon. They perceive this intrusion into their lives as a fad that does not need to be adopted.
Survive through hedonic adaptation
If the human species is sometimes reluctant to change its habits, part of its brain allows it to adapt quickly to change. It is then the desire to survive that prevails.
“Hedonic adaptation” explains our ability to survive unfortunate events. It is about our aptitude to accept in our environment something which, a few weeks earlier, would have greatly upset us. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California at Riverside, “When happy or unhappy events happen, we first feel intense emotions. Then we get used to it and get back to our routine. However, people do not adapt as well to negative changes in their lives. ”
Hedonic adaptation works both ways. Therefore, behavioral changes adopted for a month can be abandoned very quickly, when they are no longer needed. According to the psychology professor, our new habit of wearing a mask in public places could therefore be easily forgotten, when it comes time to return to normalcy. On the contrary, behaviors that have become automatic can continue. For example, washing your hands more frequently will likely remain part of our daily routine.
Sonja Lyubomirsky recalls that life is a series of changes to which humans must adapt. While they are sometimes temporary, others are anchored over time. As with everything, we will find a way to be resilient in the face of the current health crisis. The future, even if it will be different, may once again appear normal to us.