If you have felt like being locked inside during the last 2+ years of the pandemic has made you less creative, you might just be right.

New research from September 2022 has looked at how the Big 5 Personality traits of more than 7,109 people in the USA have changed over time, comparing their results before the pandemic to 2022.

Just as a reminder, the Big 5 Personality traits are the most commonly used ways to assess people’s personality which are used by scientists, and include:

  1. Openness to Experience: how you react to new information, ideas and new experiences
  2. Conscientiousness: how you feel about completing goals and focus
  3. Extraversion: to what degree external stimulation gives you positive energy
  4. Agreeableness: how you feel and act in a group
  5. Neuroticism: how you experience and process negative emotions

The study followed more than 7,000 individuals who took part in the longitudinal “Understanding America Study”, and looked at how their 5 personality traits from before 2020 (pre pandemic) were affected when measured in 2020 (start of pandemic) and in 2021/2022 (well into the pandemic.

Here are the results:

Sutin AR, Stephan Y, Luchetti M, Aschwanden D, Lee JH, Sesker AA, et al. (2022) Differential personality change earlier and later in the coronavirus pandemic in a longitudinal sample of adults in the United States.

What becomes immediately clear is how strongly impacted the younger generation has been, especially as the pandemic has worn on. In contrast, the generation of people in the study over 65 seem to have had their personalities less affected, with the generation in the middle also usually somewhere in between.

People under 30 years old have seen their personalities impacted the most by the pandemic

The younger generation has seen significant drops by 2021+ in measures of conscientiousness (as they do not feel the urge to complete things anymore), extraversion and agreeableness (perhaps due to the change in how people meet up less in public), a sharp rise in neuroticism (as they are more worried and fearful) and a drop in openness to new experiences.

The authors suggest that the impact of the change is about a tenth of a standard deviation, which represents a similar change in personality as we would expect a person to go through over 10+ years, but instead it is happening in 2 years.

It is the last impact, the drop in openness to new experiences, which fell for every generation, and is also the one which could have the biggest impact to innovation and creativity. Because studies show that openness to new experiences is directly correlated with people being more creative.

It seems like the disruption caused by the pandemic, and the way it forced us all to simultaneously change the way we work, live and interact, could have a profound impact on the innovations generated by the upcoming generations.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.