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How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Ayse Uskul, Cultural Psychology


Cultural Psychology

Ayse Uskul


Ayse K. Uskul is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on the role of cultural and economic environment in cognitive and social functioning. She has edited and co–edited journals and special issues, is a Fellow of the Society of the Personality and Social Psychology, and a recipient of research funds from the European Research Council, among others.

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Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

This pandemic has underscored societal inequalities along age, class, ethnic, regional and gender lines. The pandemic has not caused these inequalities, but it’s put a spotlight on them. Disease affects certain ethnic and age groups more than others, a woman’s contribution to the economy is likely to be hit harder than man’s, and those who have entered COVID-19 with ongoing major problems such as poverty, political instability, and corruption, will have a harder time coming out of it in one piece. Alongside of all this, we have also realized one more time, that we all depend on each other in our lives are interconnected in so many different ways. I expect and perhaps more so hope, that this picture will motivate us to work towards understanding why this pandemic hits certain groups harder than others. As a result, it will motivate us to pick up a stronger fight against the unfair distribution of resources and rights not just where we live, but much more globally.

What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

We will need to master the wisdom to take the perspective of those who have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the ability to see what we can do to avoid contributing towards these inequalities. We also need to have a clearer insight into the meaning of the choices that we make in all domains of life, which have clear consequences for others, and also critically evaluate the privileges that are afforded by our lives that are not shared by everyone else.

Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

This pandemic caused people to live in lockdowns and following this experience I expect that we will continue to live in a world of reduced mobility for the foreseeable future, even after lockdowns have been lifted completely, most likely, I will continue to avoid crowds and strangers, traveling overseas, participating in large events unless we have to and so on. And this is likely to affect technological developments in every possible domain of life, not just when it comes to how we socialize with friends and family from our homes, but also how we work, how legal and medical advice and services are delivered, how we vote, how we teach our pupils and students and so on. One potential negative outcome would be to think that online virtual interactions can replace face to face and physical ones. Research shows very clearly that in person interactions are qualitatively different when it comes to how they affect our mental well-being, our self-concept, our physiology and so on. Coming to the conclusion that life can continue online without physical human contact would be, in my view, one very negative consequence of this pandemic.

What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

We need to master sensitivity to the very important role played by context in human psychology. The context in which interactions between individuals and between groups that take place determine to a great extent what these interactions mean to us, and what they do to us, and this we cannot ignore and should not ignore when it comes to how we configure life in the future.

What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

This pandemic, like other disasters we can think of, brings with it a pervasive sense that the world is fundamentally unpredictable. This can trigger the feeling that we lack control over our lives which can be debilitating in many ways. I think finding small ways in which we can hold on to that feeling of having some sort of control would help us get through these difficult times. At the same time though, I think we can try to challenge our need for certainty and try to accept and live with uncertainty which it looks like is gonna be with us for longer than we can imagine.
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