Amid Pandemic, a Sea Change in Personalities

·4 min read

According to a survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, conducted by Oracle, 86 percent of Americans saw a change in at least one of the five major “OCEAN” personality traits as a result of COVID-19.

The “OCEAN” personality traits are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

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As a result of adapting during the pandemic, the most common personality changes were reported as becoming more conscientious and being open to new experiences — with nearly 40 percent of consumers reporting they had seen changes in each. Additionally, 33 percent of consumers said they had increased agreeableness due to the pandemic.

“The thing that surprised me the most about the study are the silver linings that I think we can take with us as we begin to open up again,” said Nate Skinner, senior vice president of Oracle Advertising and Customer Experience. “We became more open to learning new things and more conscientious — those are good things that we can continue to embrace. We had more time to build new hobbies and we progressed in some ways, too.”

Moreover, the increased online activity and new hobbies were making Americans feel smarter, according to the survey. Seventy percent of Americans said they have read more and learned more during the pandemic and feel smarter with only 30 percent reporting that the “chaos of the pandemic distracted them from learning new things.” Specifically, 70 percent of consumers reported starting at least one “trendy hobby” during the pandemic. The most common of these hobbies were starting at-home workouts at 46 percent, baking sourdough bread or banana bread at 27 percent, making whipped coffee at 23 percent and filming TikTok videos at 21 percent.

At the same time, consumers changed largely to adapt to online behaviors. Streaming media or streaming social media were found to be the media consumers spent the most time on at 58 percent with only 20 percent of consumers reported spending the most time watching traditional television. And while 32 percent of respondents reported they had participated in some “binge shopping,” 30 percent said they had actually decreased the number of personal belongings during the pandemic.

Notably, more than half of consumers who participated in loyalty programs said they are concerned that the accrued points will expire.

Still, due to social distancing and quarantine measures Americans reported a significant impact on relationships with friends and family. While 34 percent of Americans said relationships with friends had become less connected, compared to 15 percent of people who said they had become closer with friends, more than half of respondents said they had made no new friends in the past year. Additionally, more than 70 percent of Americans said relationships with their family had changed with 22 percent of respondents feeling less connected with family but 30 percent believing that the pandemic has brought their family closer together.

“Think about how many people were forced to take doctor’s visits over Zoom, ordered groceries online or used digital payments for the first time because they had to, but ended up realizing it worked better in a lot of cases,” said Skinner. “We don’t all of a sudden have to change overnight and not everything has to go back to what was ‘normal’ ­— what was normal in many ways was not working as well as it does now.”

According to Oracle’s survey, Americans are excited to get out again and are ready for post-pandemic experiences. In fact, 96 percent of Americans said they are planning to enjoy at least one previously restricted activity when it is safe.

However, respondents also reported they have not missed “old work rituals of commuting or being professionally dressed.” Nearly 40 percent said sweatsuits and pajamas have become the most popular attire for Zoom calls.

“Our lives were impacted in ways we couldn’t control, and our rapidly changing consumer habits make it hard for brands to keep up,” said Skinner. “The experiences of the last year will continue to have massive implications on our consumption and buying behavior as we move forward in a post-pandemic era.”

Notably, consumers reported the most popular services or habits formed during the pandemic to include delivery at 51 percent, increase spend on groceries over restaurants at 48 percent, contactless or cashless payments at 46 percent, curbside pickup at 44 percent and virtual doctor appointments at 40 percent.

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