Long-term lockdown could mean behavioural changes are here to stay - professor

Long-term lockdown could mean behavioural changes are here to stay - professor

The coronavirus pandemic will have triggered a change in mindset for most people, affecting buying habits which could see an even greater reluctance to use cash, an expert has said.

Ben Voyer, professor of psychological and behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said many people's individual habits will have changed during lockdown, as evidenced by stockpiling during March as Covid-19 tightened its grip on Europe.

He said shoppers switched from "a pleasure-seeking mindset to a pain-avoiding one" amid concerns the virus was more serious than first anticipated.

And he said changes in behaviour were more likely to become part of everyday life post-lockdown, the longer current restrictions remain in place.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to set out what rule changes should be brought in for England on Sunday after seven weeks of lockdown.

Prof Voyer said: "The pandemic will likely have triggered a change in mindset for most people.

"Generally speaking we have evolved to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

"In a pandemic, you suddenly shift from promotion to prevention - you pay much more attention to what could go wrong, and that change of mindset affects a lot of decisions you are making.

"If you are not somebody who naturally stockpiles, you might start to stockpile."

He added: "In addition to this, one could add a rise in anxiety levels and stress, which also affect buying behaviours.

"However, the effect of stress and anxiety varies from one individual to another, with some individuals ending up buying more, or comforting themselves with consumption, while others buy less or stock."

Many businesses that have remained open during lockdown have tried to limit the spread of coronavirus by prioritising cash-free transactions.

Prof Voyer said the lockdown could see more customers move away from cash payments, something which has been happening generally in society through the advent of contactless payments.

He said: "The divide in consumer use of cash is already generational - with older people using more cash than younger people.

"The fact that vulnerable people are asked to keep sheltering while younger ones join back the working force could mean that shops accelerate the transition as they find consumers readily accepting this and being able to use dematerialised payment.

"In addition, vulnerable people may find it is perhaps better for them to adopt a different form of payment to be and feel safer."

But he added: "If bank notes and coins are found to play a minor or no role, once more research becomes available, this could mean people revert back to older habits."

While some of the behavioural changes triggered by lockdown will be temporary, Prof Voyer said long-term restrictions on people's freedoms are likely to have a lasting impact.

He said: "If by September we are back to normal life, it is unlikely a lot of the things we have had to change to cope with the last few weeks will stay.

"But if it stays over 12 months or more this will have a more long-term effect."

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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