Kudos Column: Dr. Gizem Arikan
Current Position and Teaching
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Yasar University, Turkey. I teach research methods, political psychology,and political ideologies. My background is in political science –I completed my B.A. and M.A. studies at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey and received my PhD in political science from Stony Brook University, NY.
Most of my recent research focuses on religiosity. The influence of religion in the public sphere is hard to miss, but interestingly there has been relatively little research on its effect on individual attitudes and behavior in the political science literature. In collaboration with Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, I have been studying how religiosity affects political attitudes such as support for democracy, social welfare and immigration attitudes.Our work builds on the 3Bs paradigm that conceptualizes individual religiosity as a multi-dimensional experience consisting of private belief, social behavior and denominational affiliation (belonging) dimensions. We add to the existing body of knowledge by studying the psychological mechanisms that underlie the effects of these dimensions using both cross-national survey data and experiments carried out in different political settings.
One of the most interesting findings of our recent studies is that different dimensions of religiosity often have diverse and often discrepant effects on political attitudes. We show that these effects are due to the fact that each dimension of religiosity is connected to a different psychological mechanism. For example, in our most recent article we find that religious beliefs –due to their association with compassion and benevolence lead individuals to be more welcoming towards immigrants as long as they perceive them to be similar to in-group members. In contrast, when the social identity dimension of religiosity is brought to mind, individuals become less supportive of open immigration policies and display more intolerant attitudes towards immigrants who are different from host society members (Ben-Nun Bloom, Arikan, and Courtemanche 2015).
These findings suggest that, like many other complex constructs, religiosity has multifaceted effects on attitudes and behavior. Religiosity’s effect on attitudes seems to depend (at least in part) on the informational context, i.e. on the activation of certain elements of religious experience. This implies that political and religious leadership could greatly shape the way the public thinks about various issues by emphasizing certain dimensions of the religious experience.
I also conduct research on values and individual attitudes towards economic inequality, redistribution and social welfare policies. I am especially interested in the effect of socially shared value orientations on attitudes towards social policy. Following up on my dissertation some of my recent work focused on explaining the effect of social and cultural value orientations on cross-national variation in support for social policies as well as explaining how these contextual factors influence individual attitudes as well as attitudinal ambivalence by acting as a reinforcing or deterring mechanism and socializing individuals into different patterns of thinking.
Religiosity is a double-edged sword –it could foster goodwill and cooperation between individuals and groups but it is also connected to psychological variables that makes individuals more intolerant and discriminating, and fosters conflicts. I would like to work towards building a more general theory of religion’s influence –explaining when and under what circumstances it could be expected to produce pro- versus anti-social effects that could also inform political leadership and policy-making process.
The recent global economic crisis and the rising inequalities within and between nations have brought questions concerning social and economic justice. We have observed a number of social movements and protests that addressed these issues, but not all people who are affected by injustices seem to react to it. One of my goals is to conduct studies that will allow us gain a greater understanding of perceptions of and reactions to inequality and the psychological process that underlies this.
Ben-Nun Bloom, P., Arikan, G., &Courtemanche, M. (2015). Religious social identity, religious belief, and anti-immigration sentiment. American Political Science Review, 109, 203-221. doi: 10.1017/S0003055415000143
Department of International Relations
Universite Cad. 35-37 Bornova