23:50 GMT28 November 2020
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    Many have claimed that we should have prepared for a pandemic long before its arrival. Psychologists who authored a new report however claim that the bias inherent in humans for short-termism meant that “in the absence of dead and dying people” such talk was only ever going to appear as “morbid speculation.”

    The social scars of Covid-19 will far exceed deaths tolls to include plummets in birth rates, and people staying single for longer, among other issues, according to new scientific research.

    Experts from across the United States have surveyed 90 different studies to make sense of the psychosocial impact of Covid-19 on a range of issues, to include gender norms, including among people who have not even contracted the potentially deadly disease.

    The experts from across the scientific milieu, including evolutionary biology, psychology and neurosciences, predict that those looking to start a family will put off having children and getting married, which, alarmingly, will lead to the shrinkage of some nations’ populations. As a consequence, it is possible that the decrease in child birth rates may mean a reduction in the available workforce, and therefore eventually less job opportunities in the long-term.

    The research’s authors note that, “the psychological, social and societal consequences of Covid-19 will be very long-lasting…The longer Covid-19 continues, the more entrenched these changes are likely to become.”

    Covid-19, the researchers say, “has become a worldwide social experiment,” and one whose final results are yet to be seen.

    Covid-19 in the long-term is likely to usher in a social conservatism when it comes to the roles of women in society, the researchers claim.

    They note that even before the pandemic, women were typically more bogged down with the obligations of both marriage and career, and thus often suffering higher levels and stress and anxiety than their male counterparts.

    Now, however, with the increase in school closures, women are being heaped with the extra responsibility of looking after the children at home for longer hours than before, and even providing them with at-home education.

    The research suggests that the roots of women assuming a heavier burden than men in such a manner run deeper than the construction of traditional gender roles.

    “Throughout evolutionary history, a woman’s reproductive fitness hinged on the success of each individual offspring to a greater extent than a man’s. Women evolved stronger motivations to attend to the details of childcare and may feel pressured to accept more childcare and homemaking responsibility when others, such as teachers and childcare workers… cannot,” the report says.

    Consequently, we may see what the report’s authors describe as a “large-scale backslide” toward “traditional” gender norms where men once again become the “breadwinners.”

    “A consequence of the pandemic, therefore, could be a reduction in tolerance across a range of issue,” which the report says includes, “non-monogamous mating arrangements, legal abortion, and rights for sexual minorities-who violate traditional gender roles and are also stereotyped as promiscuous.”

    More broadly, the report says that a range of factors, including “cultural evolutionary forces” and the fact that the human race has not evolved to “seek the truth” have rendered us less prepared to effectively respond to the virus outbreak.

    “Humans evolved in small groups under threat of starvation, predation, and exploitation by outsiders-and generally lived brief lives, favouring short-term strategies for consuming resources that could support successful reproduction. We have not evolved to think clearly about long-term threats like pandemics-which are statistically abstract and global… Unfortunately, most of us are terrible at weighing risks presented as abstract probabilities. We also heavily discount the well-being of our future selves, along with that of distant strangers and future generations… We’re highly susceptible to conspiracy thinking, and display an impressive capacity to deceive ourselves, before doing the hard work of deceiving others. These predispositions likely endowed our ancestors with advantages, but they also suggest that our species is not wired for seeking a precise understanding of the world as it actually is.”

    The authors say that although these psycho-evolutionary predispositions did not cause Covid-19, “they are, at least in part, responsible for the pandemic that ensued.”

    Tags:
    gender, pandemic, Birth Rates, COVID-19
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