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Why Has Americans' Bad Behavior Increased During The Pandemic?

During the pandemic, disorderly, rude, and unhinged conduct has caught on. Bad behavior of all kinds —everything from rudeness and carelessness to physical violence—has increased, The Atlantic reports. In other incidents, last week, a man was arrested after he punched a gate agent at the Atlanta airport. In a viral video, a skier slid around the chairlift-boarding area of a Canadian resort, one foot strapped into his snowboard as he flailed at security guards and refused to comply with a mask mandate. Americans are driving more recklessly, crashing their cars and killing pedestrians at higher rates. Early 2021 saw the highest number of “unruly passenger” incidents ever, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Health-care workers say patients are behaving more violently. Homicides, carjackings and car thefts are up.


One likely explanation for the spike in bad behavior is the rage, frustration, and stress coursing through society. Christine Porath, a business professor at Georgetown University, collected data on why people behave in rude or uncivil ways and found “the No. 1 reason by far was feeling stressed or overwhelmed.” The pandemic has created a lot of “high-stress, low-reward” situations, said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at Stanford. Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay who studies anger, said, “Americans don’t really like each other very much right now." Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri St. Louis said, "We’ve got, I think, a generalized sense that the rules simply don’t apply,." He said police arrested fewer people during the pandemic, and “when enforcement goes down, people tend to relax their commitment to the rules.”