Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Are Fatalism and Optimism an Obstacle to Developing Self-Protecting Behaviors? Study with a Turkish Sample

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Are Fatalism and Optimism an Obstacle to Developing Self-Protecting Behaviors? Study with a Turkish Sample

Article excerpt

This study investigates the differences in self-protecting behaviors (SPB) related to earthquakes and traffic accidents in terms of demographic characteristics, having experiences of these events, fatalistic view, and optimistic expectations among a cohort of Turkish people (N = 398). Results show that SPB of the participants vary according to the interaction among gender, marital status, number of children, and to the interaction among personal experiences of traffic accident and/or earthquake, and relatives/friends' experiences of traffic accidents. The results of regression analysis showed that marital status, gender and optimism predict SPB.

Keywords: fatalism, optimism, earthquake, traffic accidents, self-protecting behaviors.

Natural disasters and traffic accidents have destructive effects on both socioeconomic systems and psychological states of individuals. Such effects can be decreased by improving self-protecting behaviors. Self-protecting behaviors may differ across demographic features and personal experiences. For instance, compared to men, women perceive themselves as a high-risk group in terms of experiencing traffic accidents (Glendon, Dorn, Davies, Matthews, & Taylor, 1996), they evaluate the duration of earthquakes as much longer (Andersen & Manuel, 1994), and show more stressful reactions to an earthquake (Norris, Perilla, Ibanez, & Murphy, 2001). People who have experienced a severe threat such as being hospitalized after a road accident perceive themselves as being within the high-risk group (McKenna & Albery, 2001), and those who have relatives or friends who have been killed or injured in an accident have perceptions of absolute risk of injury or death (Rutter, Quine, & Albery, 1998). In addition, those who have relatives affected by an earthquake remember the event significantly more than do those who have not (Neisser et al., 1996).

Optimism as a personality characteristic has been examined as it affects self-protecting behaviors. Optimistic people were found to perceive themselves as being in a low-risk group compared with others, and to have little information on possible risk factors (Radcliffe & Klein, 2002). On the contrary, pessimistic people perceive themselves as being in a high-risk group, and they tend to believe in earthquake predictions more than others do (Atwood & Major, 2000). The mediating role of optimism (Helweg-Larsen & Shepperd, 2001) and optimism-pessimism (Geers & Lassiter, 2002) on risk estimates were emphasized.

In research related to self-protecting behaviors, individual control over events is expressed in different forms such as perception of control, illusion of control, and fatalism. While the biases within the terms of perception of control and illusion of control are related to overestimating one's power, those concerning the concept of fatalism seem to be related to strong considerations of external powers with regard to past, present and future events. The result of meta-analysis indicates a strong relationship between control perception and optimistic bias (Klein & Helweg-Larsen, 2002). The effects of fatalism in protecting oneself from traffic accidents (Forjuoh, 2003) and rationalistic-fatalistic tendencies related to earthquakes (Karanci & Aksit, 1999) were studied. Futhermore, their influences on preparations for possible destructive earthquakes (Kasapoglu & Ecevit, 2003) were also examined. Moreover, the results of the studies related to the effects of earthquake (Heine & Lehman, 1995; Kasapoglu & Ecevit, 2004; Norris, Friedman, & Watson 2002; Palm, 1998) and traffic accidents (Hayakawa, Fischbeck, & Fishhoff, 2000) in different cultures show differences in the ways of thinking and reacting.

This study was carried out in Turkey which has a special geographical and cultural location. The geological structure of the country means there is a high likelihood of occurrence of destructive earthquakes. …

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