This question comes up time and again in the media.

Has Covid changed the way we think?

How about what we expect and actually do?

Human beings are impressionable creatures. We’re not immovable type or fixed computer programs. We’re somewhat flexible, fluid, and ‘plastic’ as the neurologists tell us.

So what does this mean?

Are we simply products of conditioning or do we also have innate tendencies?

Psychologists have grappled with this question for many years and the current consensus seems to be

  • we have innate tendencies and predispositions
  • we are also conditioned

The confluence of these two points is perhaps most evident with language. On the one hand, we are globally pre-wired to learn language especially when introduced to it at an early age. But just what particular language that is and how it sounds to the listener depends, obviously, on conditioning.

More recently researchers add an interesting wrinkle to the nature-nurture question:

  • learned and innate tendencies can be physiologically modified by experiences

On this point, I urge readers to take a look at two important terms in 21st-century neuropsychology

cdc.gov via Pinterest

With regard to Covid changing my own thinking, expectations, and behavior, I think it has. At least, it has promoted issues I was already concerned about. Issues like hygiene.

I have always been concerned about the outer surfaces of plastic bags and cardboard boxes coming into contact with food, even before the pandemic. I figured that if a store clerk wiped their nose – or worse – and then touched a product bag or box, we would be wise to wash our hands and keep that outer surface away from the foodstuffs we are about to ingest.

In today’s Covid world, we pretty much all think that way—at least I hope so.

Similarly, at Catholic Mass if someone coughed nearby and did not cover their mouth, I would physically get up and move to a more distant area of the church. I would also change lines for receiving the Eucharist if a sniffling priest wiped his nose with the hand he was distributing the host with. Not exactly a great situation, and my actions raised a few eyebrows pre-pandemic.

Hopefully today those careless and unthoughtful folk who perhaps judged me harshly will realize I was just ahead of the game, especially since I live with a high-risk person who could perhaps die not just from Covid but from the flu.

mayoclinichealthsystem.org via Pinterest

What about that other ‘pandemic’?

Okay, let’s shift gears from the Covid pandemic to another serious problem, that of hostile spies, criminals and operators dragging good countries down to a lower level, both morally and economically.

Consider a terribly oppressed country, let’s say one occupied by a communist power or plunged deep into horrendous poverty. Would it be fair to ask if some percentage of the population would learn as kids to expect less and grow up as adults more desperate and willing to make ethical compromises for perceived status and economic security?

Put differently, if individuals are raised in a country or environment where making a good, honest living is next to impossible, might some percentage of them be less likely to consider earning a living without engaging in some kind of corruption or worse?

Can we really consider an option if, for all intents and purposes, no such option exists?

“The Wife” S1 E2

Statistically speaking, it would be interesting to find out if thinking, expectations, and behaviors were significantly degraded among a given population living in extremely oppressive social conditions during the formative years of their psycho-social development, and to what extent those unhealthy cognitions and behaviors might carry on into adult life.*

This may not be a ‘polite’ or politically correct question but it seems worth considering given the dramatic rise in violent crime in major Canadian cities.

* I didn’t include the key element of “spirituality” here because it seems more independent of early conditioning. People undergo religious conversions at any age. As adults, atheists become believers or a believer may swap their traditional faith for something new.