Turkish perceptions of risk vis-à-vis Syrian refugees: An exploratory study of cultural cognition in Izmir, Turkey


This exploratory research seeks to investigate the risk perception of Turkish citizen’s vis-à-vis Syrian refugees, utilising cultural cognition as a theoretical sounding board. Delimited to the city of Izmir, the aims of this research were to ascertain what perceived risks Syrian refugees pose onto Turkish society, how these perceptions relate to worldview adherences amongst Turkish citizens, and what psychological processes may explain the development of such perceptions. Employing a mixed-methods approach, triangulation of both news article and focus group content analyses identified five commonly perceived risks relating to Syrian refugee entry into Turkey: employment, inflow, social, political and security. This information informed the design of a survey instrument, of which was used to compare worldview adherences to perceptions of said risks and demographic characteristics. For two of the five risks, results showed that egalitarians perceived the refugees as a higher risk than those with hierarchist identities. It was also found that individuals with higher levels of education and employment were more likely to perceive Syrian refugees as a risk to Turkish society. As a starting point to explore the development of such perceptions of risk, the processes of identity-protective cognition, reactive devaluation, self-censorship, and optimism bias were used to tentatively explicate the data.


risk perception, refugees, identity, cultural cognition, psychology, Turkey


The article can be read in the Journal of Identity and Migration Studies (vol. 12, no. 1: 2-25), or can be viewed and downloaded here.