Making Sense of a Pandemic: Mindsets Influence Emotions, Behaviors, Health, and Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic



As the SARS-COV-2 virus spread across the world in the early months of 2020, people sought to make sense of the complex and rapidly evolving situation. This longitudinal study of N=5,365 Americans assessed three mindsets people formed about the COVID-19 pandemic and what it meant for their lives: ‘the pandemic is a catastrophe’, ‘the pandemic is manageable’ and ‘the pandemic can be an opportunity’. In line with our pre-registered hypotheses, these mindsets were associated with a unique and largely self-fulfilling pattern of emotions (positive, negative), behaviors (healthy, unhealthy, and compliance with CDC guidelines), experiences (connection/growth, isolation/meaninglessness) and wellbeing (physical health, mental health, quality of life). Moreover, mindsets formed in the first week of the pandemic predicted quality of life 6 months later, an effect that was mediated by emotions and behaviors.

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