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UMN Psychology Research Brings Perspective to the Pandemic

October 2, 2020

During unprecedented times, we as a society turn to what we already know in hopes of clarity. The global coronavirus pandemic is uncharted territory, and as Richard Lee, the associate chair of psychology research, states, “while COVID-19 is an illness, the pandemic is a psychological phenomenon as well.” 

Psychology researchers at the University of Minnesota are using what they gathered through related research to help others comprehend our global circumstances. Although the research may not have started as a way to better understand a pandemic, the psychology field’s flexibility has allowed its purpose to adapt. 

While there are many challenges society faces during a pandemic, many of them can be understood and even made easier through a psychological perspective, as Lee explains. For example, many jobs have moved into a digital workspace as states remain under strict physical distancing orders. Although Dr. Richard Landers’ research started off studying “how we can use virtual reality to improve hiring and training and development processes in organizations,” he now uses this research to explore how the switch to digital work affects employees' performance and their relationships with work.

In addition, many people’s mental health is suffering at this time, which is why Dr. Robert Krueger is using his dataset on mental wellbeing from before and after the 2008 recession to predict how society might handle this hardship. His findings show that the general population will rebound once the crisis has ended; however, those who face work or housing insecurity may still struggle with their mental health and wellbeing years later.

Although this is a time when many feel lost or uncertain, the psychology department is working hard to understand the pandemic and support their community through their research, which, much like everyone’s lives, has changed courses during the pandemic. 

Learn more about our faculty’s timely research. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student in Backpack. Meet the team.