Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates is a blog maintained for Wiley Publishers by me (Mike Boyes) in relation to the topical contents of nine Psychology textbooks aimed at different content areas within Canadian Psychology courses and covering Introductory Psychology, Child, Adolescent and Life Span Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Health Psychology.
The blog focusses on Psychological stories and research that arise in the news through a wide array for formal and online media sources. I post three times each week on stories, topics and recently published research that may be of interest to, or of personal use by, students participating courses in any of the areas of Psychology noted above. As one of the authors on Psychology Around Us, I am committed to the core focusses of that book including making sure that students can see the relevance of Psychology to their current and future lives, that they can understand how links can be seen and explored across Psychology’s subdisciplines and in so doing become more useful in reflecting upon and making sense of their experiences and the world around them. Each post is cross-sorted according to the topic sections it links to across the nine textbooks noted above. As well, each post is key word tagged so that students, instructors or anyone can search Psychology topics that interest them and find things to pique their curiosity within the over 600 postings on the site.
Each post contains an introduction to the issues raised or addressed by an article or research paper and suggests some things the potential reader might want to consider in order to optimize their experience in reading the article or paper. A link to the article or paper is then provided. Following the article link some closing observations are offered followed by three questions that could be used by individuals to focus their reflection on the article, by classes or groups to get a discussion of the article and its points and issues started or as possible starting places for a student paper or an instructor lecture segment relating to the article’s topic area. There are links to a number of relevant Psychology research articles provided at the bottom of each post for those who would like to dig more deeply into the topic.
I (Mike Boyes) am a Developmental Psychologist with 35 years of experience teaching Introductory and Child, Adolescent and Life Span Developmental Psychology. I have conducted, and continue to conduct, research into Identity Development and issues involved in positive (or not so positive) student transitions to Post-Secondary life and through and beyond college or university educational experiences into adult life.
With that as background I want to tell you about what I have been doing lately on the Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates site. Since early March I have been posting almost exclusively in a general topic area I have called The Psychology of Covid-19. As of today there are 38 posts in this topic area and you can see them all by searching “Covid-19” using the search bar at the top of the opining page of the Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates site (http://wileypsychologyupdates.ca ). Whether you are a student taking a Psychology course, an instructor teaching a Psychology course, or anyone interested in what Psychology might be able to tell us about our experiences related to Life the in the Time of Covid-19 (or in what the Time of Covid-19 might suggest to us about our Psychology), The Psychology of Covid-19 looks at some areas where Psychology can help us to make sense out of and perhaps to cope effectively with our personal, social and societal experiences over the past 6 to 7 months.
The purpose of this post is to point out what seem to me to have been a number of recurrent issues or themes in our individual and general responses to Life in the Time of Covid-19 that that might be illuminated effectively with a few Psychology links or which might, as they have played out, provide good examples of Psychology in action within us and in the world around us.
How do we Think about a Pandemic?
We know from research in cognitive psychology that thinking is only logical and rational at the best of times and sometimes not even then. Our thinking is rife with biases and expectations based on past experience and those sorts of things can get in the way when we try to come to terms with a “100 year” event like a pandemic. For example, we do not do a good job thinking clearly about and making decision in relation to risk data and our thing about risks associated with Covid-19 has proven to be no exception:
Especially in the early going we tended to be overfocussed on the numbers (rates of infection, illness and death) without a context in which to make sense of those numbers and without a means to link those number back to our personal experience:
Direct and Indirect Stress, Anxiety, and Uncertainty
The pandemic has given rise to many, many things that are stressful and that raised our anxiety levels. Many of the stress related effects have arisen from direct/obvious concerns to do with personal health, the health of friend and relatives, personal and societal losses of employment and income, the disruption of school and work and the deep loss of any sort of work/life balance we may have managed prior to Covid-19. What is harder to see are the indirect, less obvious ways, in which Covid-19 has added to our levels of stress and anxiety. These include having to spend much more time with family and house-mates than we were used to, it involved NOT being in direct face-to-face contact with extended families, friends, and co-workers and it involved innumerable ways in which we were required to get on with life while doing many things differently such as attending classes and meetings via Zoom, wearing masks when shopping, watching for direction arrows in stores, and most impactfully, dealing with significant jumps in uncertainty about how to do previously basic stuff, about what is going to happen next, about what even the short term let alone the medium and long-term futures are going to be like for us, for our families and for our communities, our country and the world. How can we cope and how will we adapt and cope going forward? Here are some sorted links to posts in these areas:
Direct Covid-Related Stress and Anxiety
Indirect Covid-Related Stress and Anxiety
Focus on the Broad Impacts of Uncertainty
The broad uncertainties associated with shifts in the social norms that we have assumed and acted under since childhood and the uncertainties associated with the foggy and unpredictable nature of the future are a huge parts of the category of Indirect Covid-related Stresses and Anxieties. It is potentially very instructive to note that the uncertainties we are all facing right now actually provide us with an opportunity to see, experience and reflect upon a key feature of the Identity struggles of many emerging adults (18 to 25-year-olds) these days – our students. While there are a large number of factors contributing to the increases we have seen in levels of anxiety and stress among emerging adults over the past 5 to 10 years, such as social media and smart phone use, drops in face-to-face contact, overprotective parenting etc. another large contributor to this sub-population anxiety bump is the increasing pace and breadth of changes in the social landscape and in possible career paths and job markets. Covid-19 has given us all a change to glimpse what emerging adults are having to content with wholesale in the process of forming up their personal identities, mapping out their ways forward and getting engaged in that process. Uncertainty is a bigger deal that we have previously noted.
Zoom Is Not New Anymore
Many of us had to jump onto a steep learning curve in March and figure out how to use Zoom to do facsimiles of what we were doing before Copvid-19 such as teach, meet with students or colleagues or to have a beer with some friends. While business told us that virtual meetings via videoconferencing could work as well as face-to-face meetings AND could save commuting time and bring more diverse teams together than before. The problem with Zoom that contributes to our Indirect levels of stress and anxiety is that it is NOT face-to-face social engagement or at least Zoom does not work well in faithfully transmitting the sorts of social cues that social and developmental psychology tells us we learned about as children and practiced into adulthood in order to be able to do well in face-to-face interactions. Things like social norms of eye-contact, body language, pause length, side-conversations, turn taking, many of which can be managed in business settings with a clear pre-meeting org-chart and a detailed meeting agenda are not managed well in new or less formal group sessions. Zoom is NOT normal (yet or perhaps ever). As a consequence, many of us began to talk about things like Zoom fatigue. Agencies and institutions that rely on meeting new people and building trust and engagement in group settings (from parenting programs to university courses) are not finding that Zoom or related videoconferencing platforms work for them the way good old face-to-face engagements did. Meeting outdoors is a short-term option but winter is coming and Covid is not going away and so our indirect stress and anxiety levels increase.
We can address uncertainties and shortfalls in engagement if we can name them and share them and work together to come up with work arounds. The fall is going to be interesting indeed.
Developmental Issues: Children and Covid-19
My own interests in developmental Psychology had me keeping an eye open for pieces that spoke to the impacts the situation was having on children. Here are a few links to posts in that area:
Beyond the thematic areas noted above there were a few areas that were more stand alone but still, in my estimation, with considering:
Research Design, Ethics, and the Future
And last, but not least, what did people dream about while in locked down social isolation?
Are there other areas of Covid-19 related impact you would like to see addressed from a Psychological perspective? If so use the comment function on this site (below) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will see what I can find.
Mike Boyes, PhD