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Features of national quarantine: how different societies behave in a pandemic

How do different societies behave under quarantine? Social psychologist, professor at Columbia University Svetlana Komissaruk spoke about this in an interview with the Russian Service "Voices of America".

Photo: Shutterstock

Svetlana explained that all psychologists now react differently to the current situation, and this reaction also depends on the country in which the expert works and with which people.

“Now all social psychologists are reacting and hone their theories by explaining what is happening to society. One of the theories belongs to Michelle Gelfand - her book was recently translated into Russian. She explains that those societies that lived very crowded, which had a great epidemiological threat, were used to obeying and used to "building up", solving problems together. These are the so-called strict compliance societies. These include Germany, Norway, Singapore, Korea, China, Japan. These are countries where, as a rule, the clock is running exactly, where people do not switch to red, where it is always quiet in the library, and no one would think of rustling or talking, ”says Komissaruk.

“And there are other societies. They calmly perceive the violation of norms, in which everyone is his own head and everyone is very creative, where people can always find a trap, a loophole. These are Russia, Ukraine, USA, Italy, Spain, France. Both the first and the second type of society have advantages and disadvantages, - adds Svetlana. - But now, when it is necessary to rally against a common enemy (disease), of course, societies with rigid norms and rejection of deviations from norms win. They have obedience to government, they have confidence in government. And they have to obey directly in the cultural code. That is why they sit at home, wear masks, wash their hands and do not protrude. "

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“In those societies that in times of peace are distinguished by creativity and creativity, a large number of small businesses, scientific discoveries - in them this“ I am my own master ”plays a bad role. And that is why now this is the situation in the United States, ”explains Komissaruk.

But the psychologist also notes that there are countries of a mixed type, where citizens can be both obedient and creative in solving the problem.

“There are such ambidextrous countries that can creatively solve problems (in normal,“ peaceful ”times), as well as rally and comply with norms. It seems to me that this is happening in Israel, ”the expert says.

Komissaruk explained why post-Soviet societies are considered “naughty,” because Soviet people are used to obeying.

“In societies with rigid norms (Germany, China, Korea) there is a consensus on who to listen to and who is right. Whereas in other societies (USA, Russia, Italy, Ukraine) there is a wide range of criticism of the government, everyone chooses their own resource of information. And when there is no absolute prohibition, everyone behaves as they see fit, ”Svetlana explained.

“In societies with strict adherence to norms, people have this sense of cooperation right in the subcortex. There, it would not occur to a person to quickly run to the store if it is impossible, because he understands that he can be dangerous for someone, ”explains the psychologist. - And in other societies, in big cities, the disunity and lack of the concept that we are together is so great that, unfortunately, man is a wolf to man. Every man for himself. I don't want to idealize China, for example. Perhaps there were some attempts at violations. But the general norms are so strict that this person will rather be an exception. And the main thing is that such non-observance of norms will condemn the whole environment. "

The expert also said that in the head of a post-Soviet person, a lot of things are mixed up, and this is activated in such situations. Another feature is that they are everywhere looking for a conspiracy.

“Yes, usually a conspiracy is sought by those who do not trust, albeit subconsciously, the objectivity of information, who are used to being deceived. If people do not trust the media and do not believe in the effectiveness of the government, they begin to look for an underlying reason. And the worse the situation is, the easier it is for them to find an explanation that will dot all the “i's”, no matter how terrible the explanation is, it is better than uncertainty, ”says Svetlana. - Rather than sitting and wondering what the real numbers are, how many people have died, how many are actually infected, whether they hide information, whether medicine will cope - it is easier to find some secret conspiracy that will explain everything, and finally "everything will become clear." Anyone who finds uncertainty intolerable tends to seek conspiracy theories. ”

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In addition, according to the psychologist, there are several more Soviet character traits that are activated in such situations.

“Many people complain that their quarantine plans are completely unfeasible (or have not yet been fulfilled). Soviet people set a high standard for themselves and then reproach themselves for not having overcome it. We didn’t learn Sanskrit, didn’t go to all the virtual museums in the world, didn’t listen to the opera, didn’t start doing yoga, planned to clean up the closet, but still didn’t get there, ”Svetlana explains. - Now it's hard for everyone, it's psychologically difficult for everyone to tune in and do what you planned. But we also scold ourselves for this! We are very critical of ourselves, very demanding, so we are always annoyed and transmit irritation to our loved ones. You need to love yourself, forgive yourself and understand that now there is just such an environment that does not reveal our best features, and we are not at the peak of our ability to work, we just need to accept it. The minimum must be done - the one that must be done. And that's all. "

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