From the 'fragile rationalist' to 'collective resilience': what human psychology has taught us about the COVID-19 pandemic and what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about human psychology

Stephen Reicher*, Linda Bauld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic is dependent on changing human behaviour to limit proximal interactions with others. Accordingly, governments have introduced severe constraints upon freedoms to move and to mix. This has been accompanied by doubts as to whether the public would abide by these constraints. Such doubts are underpinned by a psychological model of individuals as fragile rationalists who have limited cognitive capacities, who panic under pressure and turn a crisis into a tragedy. Drawing on evidence from the UK, we show that this did not occur. Rather, the pandemic has illustrated the remarkable collective resilience of individuals when brought together as a community by the common experience of crisis. This is a crucial lesson for the future, because it underpins the importance of developing leadership and policies that enhance rather than weaken such emergent social identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S12-S19
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Volume51
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date1 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Pandemics
  • Policy
  • Public health
  • Behaviour psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Psychological theory
  • Psychological identification
  • Psychological resilience
  • Consensus
  • Covid-19

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