Professor Tom Froese from the Embodied Cognitive Science Unit at OIST has recently launched a survey examining how social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected human experiences.
The research is a collaboration with researchers from three UK institutions – the University of Bristol, the University of York and the University of Birmingham.
“In this survey, we give people the opportunity to provide reports of their own personal experience with social distancing and how it has affected the way they think or feel about themselves, others and their everyday lives,” said Prof. Froese. “We want to try and understand the factors that have made social distancing so hard.”
As an embodied cognitive scientist, Prof. Froese believes that interactions with others are an integral part of the mind and human experience – an idea originally at the fringes of mainstream philosophy and cognitive science.
“When we think about our emotions, thoughts and perceptions, we usually think these experiences are our own and only depend on ourselves. We take it for granted that we are surrounded by other people and interact with them,” said Prof. Froese.
Prof. Froese thinks that this undervaluation of human interaction stems from the difficulties of collecting evidence for embodied cognition.
“Our social life is usually pervasive and can’t easily be bracketed off. But suddenly, due to external circumstances, we are in a situation where millions of people have been cut off in some way from society. So now we can do a real-world study of how prolonged social isolation changes how we experience ourselves, others and the world,” explained Prof. Froese.
Prof. Froese hopes that this research could also provide insight into positive effects of social distancing on people’s mental well-being.
“This period of isolation from the outside world has also had positive impacts,” said Prof. Froese. “So we also want to explore whether people felt calmer, had more free time, re-connected with loved ones or used this disruption of their everyday routine to re-evaluate their life priorities.”
The survey, which will run until the end of July, is open to participants worldwide who have been affected by social distancing measures and who are above 18 years of age. If you are interested in taking part, please click here.