Are you a denier, an innovator, a warrior? Maybe you’re a spreader or a hoarder?
A new study by a Norwegian researcher suggests there are 16 COVID-19 personality types, which, like age, race or gender, can be used to determine how individuals interact with the virus and how and where it will be spread.
In her article published Jan. 27, Mimi Lam argues that response to and communication around the pandemic must be tailored to resonate with different people’s values, needs and interests. She says that globally, people have naturally formed into 16 different behavioural groups:
- Deniers: downplay the threat, business as usual
- Spreaders: believe herd immunity is the best, fastest way to return to normal
- Harmers: may spit or cough at others, call COVID-19 the ‘Boomer Remover’
- Realists: recognize the risk at hand, adjust behaviour accordingly
- Worriers: stay informed and safe to manage anxiety and fear
- Contemplators: isolate and reflect on life and world
- Hoarders: panic buy goods to subdue insecurity
- Invincibles: often youth, partiers, beach-goers who believe themselves immune
- Rebels: oppose social rules in the name of individual freedoms
- Blamers: push fears and frustrations onto others, discriminate against certain groups
- Exploiters: exploit the situation for power, profit or brutality
- Innovators: design or repurpose resources, like distilleries producing sanitizer
- Supporters: show support for frontline workers and others through claps, songs, rainbows
- Altruists: help the vulnerable, elderly, and isolated
- Warriors: combat the virus head-on, like health care workers
- Veterans: have lived through a different virus and are willing to comply
Lam then groups the 16 types into three categories: non-compliers (deniers, harmers, invincibles, rebels), partial-compliers (spreaders, blamers, exploiters) and compliers (realists, worriers, contemplators, hoarders, innovators, supporters, altruists, warriors, veterans). She suggests that by focusing on these behavioural groups, the viral curve can be flattened. For example, partial-compliers are more likely than non-compliers to change their behaviour, so communication should be targeted to them and their concerns.
Lam points out that in Norway, four days after national lockdown, the prime minister held a national press conference for children where she addressed their fears. Similarly, in New Zealand and parts of Canada, the Easter Bunny was declared an essential worker and children were reassured their treats would still be delivered.
Although less vulnerable to the virus, children can still be carriers and their compliance with measures impacts their parents’ ability to comply as well. This, Lam said, is one way that communication can be used to target specific groups and tackle the spread of COVID-19.
She emphasized that the pandemic can only be properly tackled when it is recognized that in a pluralist society, such as Canada, people’s behaviours vary by their different beliefs and values.
“The COVID-19 pandemic thus can unite us in our common humanity, but only if we adapt to recognize the dignity of all individuals and value the human diversity currently dividing us,” she wrote.
Lam’s full article, United by the global COVID-19 pandemic: divided by our values and viral identities, can be read at nature.com.
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