"Post-Corona World And Turkey: Social Psychological And Political Impacts Of The Pandemics.”
In coping with Covid-19 pandemic, government policies in the world displayed considerable differences. While some governments implemented social distancing through emergency laws, others approached this as a matter of personal choice and ventured into persuading their citizens towards self-confinement, with mixed success. In the fight against the pandemic, the success of the government policies became increasingly dependent on the behavior of their citizens. Civic activism was curtailed along with the decline in the citizens’ ability to come together, organize and advocate. Nevertheless, new civil society actors and a novel type of civic activism emerged in attempts to provide essential services such as food and masks, stop the spread of incorrect and harmful information as well as protect the disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
What were the social psychological factors in understanding the impact of perceived threat of spreading Covid-19? Did the pandemic increase potentially maladaptive collective defensive behaviors, such as stigmatization, xenophobia, social isolation, fear of job loss, distrust toward health system and governments, as well as adaptive social behaviors, such as, social cohesion, creative collective actions, and altruism?
What were the factors behind the adoption of such different government policies and citizen behavior in the face of the pandemic? Did the pandemic trigger novel government policies and citizen behavior or rather lend more credence to the already existing tendencies and status quo? What were the impacts of societal underpinnings such as the prevalence of individual and/or collective life styles in different societies in addressing the pandemic? Can individual autonomy coexist alongside the collective needs of the societies facing the pandemic? How did the government and citizens in Turkey respond to the pandemic and how do these responses compare with their counterparts in other countries? Can responses to the pandemic enable us to cope better with other impending threats such as climate change?
Essay Award Winners:
Associate Professor Ayşenur Dal and Associate Professor Efe Tokdemir, both from Bilkent University
Onurcan Yılmaz From Kadir Has University and Ozan İşler from Queensland University of Technology (Australia)
Sinan Alper from Yaşar University
Winner of the Special Jury Award: Professor Susan Michie
Chair of the Jury Professor Nebi Sümer, Faculty Member of Sabancı University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Professor Fuat Keyman, Sabancı University Vice President and Director of the Istanbul Policy Center
Professor Meltem Müftüler-Baç, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabancı University
Professor Adil Sarıbay, Faculty Member at Kadir Has University
Professor Ayşe Üskül of the University of Kent, Kevin N. Ochsner, Chair of Psychology at Columbia University
Associate Professor Jay Van Bavel, New York University.
“Socio-psychological dynamics in the fight against Covid-19 in societies with underlying conditions” by Associate Professor Ayşenur Dal and Associate Professor Efe Tokdemir, both from Bilkent University
“Cognitive and behavioural consequences of the Covid-19 threat around the world and in Turkey” by Onurcan Yılmaz From Kadir Has University and Ozan İşler from Queensland University of Technology (Australia)
“Believing Covid-19 conspiracy theories: Not a bug, but a feature of human nature” by Sinan Alper from Yaşar University
Winner of the Special Jury Prize, Professor Susan Michie, behavioral health scientist, also known as a political activist in the field of public health, delivered an address at the award ceremony. Saying that she was extremely honored to have been awarded the prize, Professor Michie continued, “I would like to share with you how psychology helps to fight Covid-19. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world have asked people to change their behaviors. We have acquired new habits such as keeping social distance, wearing facemasks, self-isolating. However, observance of the rules depends on capability, opportunity and motivation. These 3 elements directly impact behaviors. Psychologists have played a key role in understanding and changing behavior to tackle Covid-19.”
Pointing out that, “if we want to change the behaviors of citizens, we may want to achieve this by changing the behaviors of others; health professionals, employers, policy-makers and politicians,” Susan Michie added, “First of all, we should ensure that policy-makers change their behaviors. The first step to ensuring change is to make recommendations for behavior change. Our research group has identified 93 behavior change techniques. Which techniques we use will depend on what will be appropriate for different populations, different settings, and different behaviors. So, if our task was to increase self-isolation, we would not use techniques to increase motivation such as threatening people with large fines, but instead use techniques aimed at increasing opportunity, providing social, financial, and practical resources to support self-isolation. In this context, trusted leadership is important. Communication must be honest, open, clear and transparent. And telling people not only what to do but explaining why people need to adopt certain behaviors; giving them a rationale. It is necessary to know and listen to the communities, and include them in decision-making. Governments don’t always do what we advise but we always try to ensure the best advice. I hope that the government in Turkey is also benefitting from the advice of psychologists and other behavioral scientists in tackling Covid-19. No person, and no government, can protect itself on its own. Humans are all interconnected, and solutions must be global. We can only protect ourselves by protecting each other.”