DISTANCING BLUES: The world after COVID-19: Will we ever hug again?

Maintaining your distance demonstrates empathy and respect for others. It’s a way of protecting strangers, as well as friends, family and ourselves.
DISTANCING BLUES: The world after COVID-19: Will we ever hug again?


Yet it feels wrong to cross the street to avoid contact with others. We refrain from hugging friends and family — at parties, when reuniting after a long time apart, and in general. We even shudder when we see crowds of people in movies, all while we are longing for closeness.
Numerous studies show how much social distancing is negatively impacting us. SARS-CoV-2, while a tiny virus, takes a toll on our immune system and every conceivable area of our lives, especially the psychological one. The pandemic is like an endless car ride, with the occasional unexpected traffic jam, leaving us wondering, “How much longer? When will we finally get there?”
In the end, we expect relief, the well-deserved rest after an extremely draining time. We expect a return to good old normality — without masks, without keeping a physical distance from one another.
But will we ever get that normalcy back? Steven Taylor, professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and author of “Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease,”is also concerned with this question. Speaking to DW, Taylor says, “Many people find it difficult to imagine such a return to normalcy, which is due to a cognitive bias.”
Anchoring bias, or anchor effect, means that we cling to the first part of a piece of information, and then base subsequent actions — such as assessments, arguments, conclusions — on that. “Today, in 2021, we have difficulty imagining a future in which we shake hands, hug, and attend concerts because we are psychologically anchored in a present in which such things are forbidden and uncertain,” the psychologist explains. With COVID-19, we all had to get into the habit of wearing masks. The situation in Western countries was different than in Asian countries, where mask-wearing had already become an established habit as a way to prevent the transmission of colds. “The 2003 SARS epidemic in some Asian countries (e.g., Taiwan) likely had a lingering influence and prepared those countries to impose lockdowns quickly and early with the onset of COVID-19,” Taylor states.
Shortly after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a kind of short-lived “Roaring ‘20s,” Taylor predicts. “Those will be characterised by particularly intense sociability, but even that will pass as things return to the way they were before COVID-19.”
“The majority of people will again shake hands, hug each other, go to crowded pubs and restaurants, and attend crowded stadium events such as soccer matches,” Martin Grunwald, head of the Haptics Laboratory at the Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research at the University of Leipsig, is confident. “At the first signs that contact with another person is no longer dangerous, we will revert to our old behaviour,” says Grunwald. Grunwald sees touch as essential for our species . “The human organism develops only in the closest physical contact with the social other. This is, so to speak, a fundamental experience of our species,” says Grunwald.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle

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