Covid-19 and its effects on Decision Making
Has the Coronavirus impaired our ability to make a rational decision at the polls, in social gatherings and beyond? The Coronavirus pandemic came at a time when no one had anticipated the disruption to life that it brought to all. Many aspects of life have been disrupted. These include the pursuit of academic advancement, business ventures, and our personal life plans such as weddings, vacations, birthday parties just to name a few.
At the same time, the pandemic has induced a high level of fear and anxiety in many. Front line workers are fearful for their lives and that of their families in the case of transmitting the virus to them. Civilians are fearful of contracting a virus of which not much is known about its long-term effects. Business owners and investors are fearful of losing money already invested and taking massive losses. Policy makers are grappled with fear of making the wrong decisions which can have a ripple effect of devastation of lost life, economic ruin, nationwide panic and personal liability.
The implications of Covid-19 on risk taking has been an area that many experts are researching and looking at. Loneliness brought on by stay at home orders and quarantine has been said to have profound impacts on many aspects of human cognition. This is due in part to the fact that humans are social animals. They were not meant to survive alone or in isolation. Hence, when isolated, decision making tends to become less rational. We are more prone to thoughts of staying safe, we are at our most vulnerable to encouragement that an extremist behaviour might mitigate loss or allow us to avoid loss altogether.
Another factor that contributes to decision making with a covid-19 context is the pleasure principle. With a great fear of the unknown and social isolation contributing to depression, many persons are now making decisions based on short term pleasure or gratification to escape negative feelings associated with their depression and/or anxiety, instead of looking into the long-term consequences. More impulsive behaviour is evident in the squandering of stimulus checks on items of pleasure, binge—eating and binge-watching television shows and increased domestic violence as opposed to other healthy, constructive alternatives. While risky behaviour is minimized for many, we also see greater risks being taken for gratifying the isolated, depressed soul in rioting, terrorist plots and Covid parties. This is understandable, as isolation wreaks havoc on the mental and emotional health of humans.
Mental health experts encourage the healthy venting of feelings such as frustration and anxiety as well as practicing structured self-regulation within this uncertain season. Impulse spending and other unhealthy behaviours will have consequences on the mental and economic well-being on individuals eventually. While Covid-19 is a time of uncertainty, it can also be used as a time of reflection and introspection which can position us to be empowered to make wise, profitable decisions.
The only way though for individuals to learn to manage the side effects of this pandemic is to acknowledge that they are having a difficult time managing thoughts and impulses. Virtual counselling is an effective way of receiving therapeutic support. Reach out to loved ones and engage in online games and family virtual meetings. Continue or begin online dating without meeting face to face. Write someone a letter or create a quarantine collective (a group of extended family and/or neighbours that you limit your contact to). It is important that you keep your wits about you and resist the drive toward delusional thinking and impulsivity.
Monique Knight, LPC