Corona Behaviors

Ever since Coronavirus hit national news, people have begun to act in a variety of ways. People have jokingly referred to this time we find ourselves in as the “Zombie Apocalypse”, but what they are really describing is the behaviors they imagine people would engage in during any “apocalypse” scenario. It’s based on zombie/apocalypse movies have been prevalent culturally, from The Walking Dead to Independence Day to any “end of the world” movie. We assume that people would go crazy, loot stores, and people would be stuck in traffic jams trying to evacuate major cities. We think of everyone running to loot grocery stores, liquor stores, gun shops, and pharmacies. But we are seeing completely different behaviors from what TV and movies have led us to believe.

A CDC image of what Coronavirus looks like, from

What we are seeing is that people are acting nicer towards each other, although keeping safe distances, and engaging in the behaviors that led to us building communities to begin with. No one has looted and began robbing stores and stealing from others. People are waiting patiently in lines, following social norms and customs, and acting civil and orderly. Instead of people barricading themselves in their homes and becoming aggressive towards strangers and “outsiders”, people are maintaining friendly a demeanor and have to be mindful to keep safe distances from others.

Why this is NOT unexpected

Behaviorally, we engage in behaviors that are beneficial to us. Primarily, this consists of what is beneficial to us personally; secondarily, this consists of what is beneficial to us as a group. We are an animal which relies on being in packs for survival. Maintaining social norms and responsibilities is important to us personally and as a group to sustain our survival. This is why we created towns, cities, laws, and social infrastructures. They help us survive day-to-day, and we rely on everyone maintaining them in emergencies.

If we did not personally and socially feel compelled to comply with our social standards, their would be no “essential personnel”, because everyone would focus on their immediate beneficial behaviors. Police, doctors, fire fighters, grocery store owners, nurses, gas station owners, garbage men, bus drivers, etc. They all go to work during times like this because of a greater good. Yes, they want and need money, but they also know that if not them, who will keep these services running for the rest of us. This mindset also resides in the rest of us. We all realize that behaviorally, if we begin to act wild and cutthroat, it will eventually put ourselves in harmful situations. We all recognize the greater good.

Survival Mode

People tend to expect the worst, as preparation for their own safety. But where is all the looting and robbing? Yes, people are panic BUYING, purchasing extra products from the store. But there are logical reasons why they are, that are not fear based. The grocery stores may be empty, but they are not actually empty. Only certain products have shelves that are cleared out. They include the following …

  • Bread
  • Water
  • Fruits & vegetables
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Toilet paper

I present you with following reasons for the observed buying habits, which have more to do with rational survival, than with panic survival.

  • Children can’t go to school!!!
    • For every child that can’t go to school, their parents must provide 2 additional meals, plus miscellaneous snacks. Most schools provide both breakfast and lunch for their students. This means families need a surplus quantity of meat, lunch meat, bread, condiments, fruit, juice, water, milk, cereal, and whatever else. If the family has 2, 3, or more children, they need much more.
  • People are stuck in the house
    • People used to going to work outside of the home everyday are used to either bringing something small from home to eat during the work day, or going out to eat with coworkers. Just like with the children, they need a surplus of food and beverages.
  • Comfort
    • Why all the toilet paper??? People are being told not to leave their homes, areas are getting locked down, and nobody wants to use the bathroom and realize they are out of toilet paper. Especially if they can’t go to the store and get more. Especially when more people are using the bathroom everyday, now that they aren’t going to work and their children aren’t going to school.
  • Necessity
    • People are not clearing the shelves of liquor, canned goods, frozen foods, juice, or soda pop. They’re clearing them of water and perishables. People are grabbing healthy choices that can sustain their families over prolonged times FIRST, and worrying about non-perishable (super long term items) and unhealthy comfort foods SECOND. This shows that we are valuing health and survival over hoarding pleasure foods and resources.

Back to Behavior … Summary

SO … let’s sum up the behavioral aspects of what we are seeing with how people are reacting to Coronavirus.

– People are acting civil and orderly, which coincides with our social norms of survival, and what we deem to be beneficial to us personally and as a community.
– People are binge buying out of necessity, due to external changes affecting their immediate behavioral needs, not out of fear and panic.
– People are engaging in behaviors that focus on their immediately personal needs, without forgoing the greater community needs.


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