Expert Predictions of Societal Change: Insights From the World After COVID Project

Igor Grossmann, Oliver Twardus, Michael E.W. Varnum, Eranda Jayawickreme, John McLevey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do experts in human behavior think the world might change after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? What advice do they have for the postpandemic world? Is there a consensus on the most significant psychological and societal changes ahead? To answer these questions, we analyzed interviews from the World After COVID Project—reflections of more than 50 of the world’s top behavioral and social science experts, including fellows of National Academies and presidents of major scientific societies. These experts independently shared their thoughts on possible psychological changes in society in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and provided recommendations how to respond to the new challenges and opportunities these shifts may bring. We distilled these predictions and suggestions via human-coded analyses and natural language processing techniques. In general, experts showed little overlap in their predictions, except for convergence on a set of social/societal themes (e.g., greater appreciation for social connection, increasing political conflict). Half of the experts approached their post-COVID predictions dialectically, highlighting both positive and negative features of the same domain of change, and many expressed uncertainty in their predictions. The project offers a time capsule of experts’ predictions for the effects of the pandemic on a wide range of outcomes. We discuss the implications of heterogeneity in these predictions, the value of uncertainty and dialecticism in forecasting, and the value of balancing explanation with predictions in expert psychological judgment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Psychologist
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • cultural change
  • expert judgment
  • forecasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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