General, Research, Technology

How do people behave during a pandemic and why?

Today it’s clear that the pandemic of the newcoronavirus SARS-CoV-2 will go down in history textbooks. At the same time, we have a chance to prevent the worst case scenario. Experts note that in order to stop the spread of CoVID-19, we need to act together, for example, follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and comply with quarantine. However, everything related to human behavior, and especially public behavior, is of interest not only for epidemiologists and sociologists, but also for you and me. Since we are facing the consequences of a pandemic, I would like to understand why some people are worried, others are in a panic, and still others see no reason for concern. Moreover, we understand that in times of global turmoil, people behave differently, but how and why?

The new coronavirus pandemic is a serious test for us all


  • 1 Empty shelves in stores
    • 1.1 1. Survival mode
    • 1.2 2. The effect of deficit
    • 1.3 3. Herd behavior
    • 1.4 4. A sense of control
  • 2 Human Behavior During a Pandemic

Empty shelves in stores

Despite the request of grocery chains andgovernments of different countries do not panic, people around the world are massively buying up food, toilet paper and other goods, thereby creating the effect of empty shelves. For this reason, those who have not taken any action are facing a shortage of certain goods. But why is this happening? According to Ali Fenwick, an expert on human behavior at Nyenrode Business University (Netherlands), panic buying behavior occurs because the brain goes into survival mode, thereby blocking any rational decisions. The scientist shared with Insider four main reasons why people feel the need to stock up on food and goods.

1. Survival Mode

Despite the fact that we consider ourselves capableto control, if not everything, then a lot - including one's own behavior - in an uncertain or threatening security situation, the brain makes decisions. And since his main goal is to save your life, he goes into a “survival mode”, distorting rational thinking. For this reason, despite government reports of an uninterrupted supply of food and other vital goods to stores, people are emptying supermarket shelves. Since most have never faced a similar health crisis, people are simply afraid to stay hungry. In principle, this is not unusual.

2. The effect of scarcity

After the supermarket shelves are empty,there is a deficit effect. Since some goods are massively bought up, creating an artificial shortage - for example, toilet paper - people come to the conclusion that toilet paper is a very valuable product, so we need to urgently buy more. Moreover, since the product is valuable, they are willing to pay more for it. Also, the shortage effect can lead to the purchase of things that you do not even like, but you are sure that they will soon rise in price. So if you ever see people stealing toilet paper from each other from the basket, you will know why.

Empty shelves seem to say - there was a very valuable product

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3. Herding behavior

Of the two previous points inevitably arisesthe third is herd behavior. Fenwick explains that the very fact that others are massively stocking up on products (even those that are not needed) may make you want to do the same. Look around - everything seems rather vague: social isolation, countries close their borders, the streets of major cities are empty. For this reason, you are most likely to follow the example of the majority, even if it may not be right.

4. A sense of control

Agree, when there is complete suspense around,and the future is foggy, the desire to control at least something is quite natural. Scrolling through various options in the head of events, including the most negative ones, we feel calmer from the realization that the family will be fed. In other words, when the unknown is around, buying products gives a sense of control.

Therefore, the bulk purchase of goods andfood caused by various psychological and biological signals that block rational thinking. When the brain is in survival mode, emotions take over and can drive important decisions. Also, do not forget that in uncertain situations, people are more susceptible to social influences. And they, as history shows, may not be the best.

Empty stadiums, streets and cities today are commonplace

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Human Behavior During a Pandemic

When it comes to contagious diseases,human behavior is crucial not only for ourselves, but for society as a whole. Agree, if all people on Earth were completely rational, then the fight against any infectious disease would be easy and simple: prevention, protection and containment would be carried out without much effort. Unfortunately, we are not rational. People are prone to various errors of thinking, this cannot be changed. And in a situation of uncertainty, our fears intensify and emotions take precedence over the mind.

For this reason we must learncontrol emotions and not panic. During the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the most important thing is to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization and observe quarantine - if you have such an opportunity. If this is not possible, remember that personally the life and health of other people may depend on your behavior. Be healthy.