Increasing daily exploration is linked to improvements in affective well-being. However, COVID-19 elevated uncertainty when leaving the home, altering the risk-reward of balance of geospatial novelty. To this end, we simultaneously collected real-world geospatial tracking and experience sampling of emotion, prior to and during the first year of the pandemic in 630 individuals. COVID-19 reduced exploration and subjective well-being. Yet, despite the health risks of exploring during the pandemic, the days of highest affective well-being were those when individuals explored the most. However, this was not true for everyone: during the first months of the pandemic, at the height of the uncertainty surrounding the transmissibility and prognosis of a COVID-19 infection, more anxious individuals experienced no affective benefit to leaving home. Taken together, real-world exploration improved well-being regardless of the presence of real-world threat, but anxiety mitigated these benefits.
The Affective Benefits of Real-World Exploration During the COVID-19 Pandemic
T. Rick Reneau, William J. Villano, Brittany A. Jaso, and Aaron S. Heller