Collective remembering and future forecasting during the COVID-19 pandemic: How the impact of COVID-19 affected the themes and phenomenology of global and national memories across 15 countries

Mem Cognit. 2023 Apr;51(3):729-751. doi: 10.3758/s13421-022-01329-8. Epub 2022 Jul 12.


The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique set of circumstances in which to investigate collective memory and future simulations of events reported during the onset of a potentially historic event. Between early April and late June 2020, we asked over 4,000 individuals from 15 countries across four continents to report on remarkable (a) national and (b) global events that (i) had happened since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, and (ii) they expected to happen in the future. Whereas themes of infections, lockdown, and politics dominated global and national past events in most countries, themes of economy, a second wave, and lockdown dominated future events. The themes and phenomenological characteristics of the events differed based on contextual group factors. First, across all conditions, the event themes differed to a small yet significant degree depending on the severity of the pandemic and stringency of governmental response at the national level. Second, participants reported national events as less negative and more vivid than global events, and group differences in emotional valence were largest for future events. This research demonstrates that even during the early stages of the pandemic, themes relating to its onset and course were shared across many countries, thus providing preliminary evidence for the emergence of collective memories of this event as it was occurring. Current findings provide a profile of past and future collective events from the early stages of the ongoing pandemic, and factors accounting for the consistencies and differences in event representations across 15 countries are discussed.

Keywords: COVID-19; Collective memory; Cross-cultural; Future forecasting; Pandemic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Emotions
  • Government
  • Humans
  • Pandemics