World after
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Douglas Kenrick, Evolutionary Psychology


Evolutionary Psychology

Douglas Kenrick


Douglas T. Kenrick is President’s Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University.  He has studied human social behaviors and choices ranging from altruism and economic decisions to aggression and homicidal fantasies. He is author of Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, The Rational Animal (with Vlad Griskevicius), and of Social Psychology (7th edition, with others).

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Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

You’re probably going to see an increase in relationships between kin because those are the people now that we’re spending more time with. We’re concentrating on a smaller number, instead of hanging out at bars with 50 people, we’re now hanging out with smaller groups with people and the easiest people to hang out with are your kin because we feel most comfortable around them, we see them most frequently. Tighter family relationships would be the most positive outcome of this.

What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

In North America, there’s this tendency to think you’ve got to stand on your own, you’ve got to be separate, people move out of their home, even when they don’t need to, when not getting married, they’ll move out of a perfectly large house with five bedrooms, and they’re the only person living there because they need to be separate. And so I think there’s a force in our society that says you need to separate yourself, but I think that’s sort of the one obstacle is that look, it’s okay to be friends with your kin. You can trust your kin and it keeps the network of potential infections smaller. So again, I think people will do it naturally. And the only wisdom would be, don’t pay attention to your cultural value that you should separate yourself from your family.

Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

There’s going to be more aversion towards outsiders. When people are concerned about disease, they’re especially likely to want to distance themselves from people, from foreign places, and that’s particularly true of foreign places that they’re not familiar with. Americans and Canadians will probably get over the border between us. But people from strange exotic places are going to experience more prejudice by people from other places. And so I think there’s going to be more ethnocentrism, not necessarily ethnic, but kind of, geocentric, there’s going to be more geocentrism. We’re going to like the people around us and be averse to hanging out with people from faraway foreign places.

What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

I think that you’re going to have to be considerate about who are the people that you’re interacting with. It is going to be automatic wisdom: once you become familiar with somebody, they’re no longer a foreigner. You know, they’re sort of a member of our ancestors. You had people come in occasionally from other villages, most typically, a guy would marry a woman from another village. At first, she’d probably get excluded, but then eventually she became a familiar face, she became part of the group. And I think that, if you’re an outsider and you want to be accepted, don’t necessarily push too quickly, just become familiar, say hi from a distance. Let people get to be familiar with your face, and who you are and recognize you as a part of the neighborhood and then eventually you will be a part of the neighborhood.

What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

My advice is that, not to be too panicked about it. We’ve been through this before, and just stay relaxed, enjoy the time to contemplate, not being so overwhelmed by crowds of people. I guess what I would be thinking about is to what extent can I get into things like media outreach, there’s going to be a lot more online learning, there should be opportunities that open up in terms of technological communication between people. And if I were young and had a job as a waiter or waitress, I’d be trying to learn some of that stuff. So that I can be ready for the future, we’re never probably going to stop interacting online the way we are now because it’s so convenient. Learn about these things, learn about this technology, because there’s going to be some money in it.
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