Quantifying the Fear Around Toilet Paper

Over the last ten days, we are now experiencing the societal effects of the Coronavirus. We feel a lack of control, and when humans experience a lack of control, they experience panic (fear and anger), and they are motivated to control what they think they can control…”how can I get my hands on hand sanitizer or surgical masks” (which makes sense to protect against the virus). However, toilet paper does not make sense. COVID-19 does not affect a human’s stomach or digestive system, yet people are running to the store to bulk buy TP. On March 17, CNN displayed an article quoting toilet paper manufacturers, “What we are dealing with is uncharted.”

Cognovi AI measures this chaos under the topic of shopping. Never before have we seen fear expressed in regard to shopping for personal essentials.


Cognovi AI measures emotions being expressed by free-flowing textual data from social media, websites, blogs and forums. The chart below measures: joy, anger, disgust, fear, sadness and surprise from the last ten days as related to the subject of panic shopping because of urgency to gain control in a very uncertain situation.



Emotions shifted from highly joyful to extremely fearful within one week. Discussions from the beginning of this timeframe were focused on jokes and memes about selling out of supplies and how crazy everyone was acting. As it started to “get real,” consumer emotions shifted. The first emotion expressed was disgust over hoarding, then anger because they could not find what they needed. Now, consumers are fearful because no one knows what is coming next.


We are all navigating this emotional roller coaster. It is important to take a step back and think about our actions. To apply logic and understand why we feel the way we do. Our feelings predict our actions, and once we understand how we feel, we will understand the actions we are taking at this time of uncertainty. Stay tuned for more emotional analysis from Cognovi Labs.


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