No: 27, Profiles, Volume 30

FACULTY Q&A: Interview with Dr. Ezgi Sakman

BY EKİNSU POLAT (AMER/II)

Ezgi Sakman is a social psychologist with a diverse educational background and a strong focus on close relationships. Holding a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from Cornell University since 2020, she earned her PhD in Social Psychology from Middle East Technical University in 2016 following an MS in the same field in 2011. Her academic journey began with a BS in Management from Bilkent University in 2007. With a profound interest in various aspects of attachment theory, her research delves into topics such as attachment system activation, cognitive performance under attachment-related stress, and the adaptive functions of attachment insecurity in cultural contexts. Additionally, she explores the implicit predictors of relationship functioning and individual differences in attitudes and behaviors regarding infidelity. She has contributed significantly to her field with publications in renowned journals such as the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and Personality and Individual Differences. Her work has been presented at esteemed conventions worldwide, showcasing her expertise and dedication. Recognized for her academic excellence, she has received prestigious scholarships and awards, including postdoctoral research scholarships from Fulbright and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey as well as PhD and MS scholarships from the same institution. She has been teaching PSYC 100 (Introduction to Psychology), PSYC 102 (Introduction to Social Psychology), PSYC 204 (Research Methods I), PSYC 230 (Social Psychology), PSYC 360 (Individual Differences and Personality) and PSYC 444 (Human Bonding).

What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
Well, that’s a difficult question because a lot of different aspects of my career excite me. But I think I can say the most exciting moment was when I started offering elective courses, especially Human Bonding, which is about my research area, close relationships. That was especially fulfilling for me. I have been enjoying giving that class tremendously. But the first time I offered it was really an exciting part of my career.

What’s one piece of information from your field that you think everyone should know?
I believe that might be the well-replicated longitudinal findings that show that the most reliable predictor of our happiness, our subjective well-being, and how satisfied we are with our lives, is our close relationships. The more relationships we have, and the more satisfying they are, the happier we are. We become even healthier, and we find life is more fulfilling, more meaningful and, overall, more rewarding. So, I wish I could tell everyone, and I do try to tell everyone that I can, take care of your close relationships because they will take care of you.

When and where do you do your best thinking?
Definitely when I am alone without distractions, to the extent that it is possible — like when I’m by myself at my apartment. When I’m working at the office I try and keep my door open and welcome people, particularly students walking by, which is great for me and hopefully for them too. But that can also mean that uninterrupted thought processing can be a little difficult. But in contrast, when I’m working at home, I’m better able to concentrate. So, I try to do research work, especially creative research work where I read articles and come up with ideas and hypotheses, alone.

What distracts you?
A lot of things, as is the case for all of us. I have to say my phone, right? If there’s a notification, if there’s a buzz, I want to check. Who messaged me? Could I be doing something more fun? So, whenever I can, I try to turn the Internet off. I find that helpful to some extent.

What are you most curious about?
One thing I’m very interested in finding out is how we think about our loved ones, our partners, romantic partners in particular, at a point that we might be unaware. I do work on what we call implicit partner attitudes. These are the evaluations we have of our loved ones, our significant others, that we cannot tap into when asked directly. What do you think about your partner? Do you love them? Do you hate them? I can answer those questions, but above and beyond what I can consciously report, I have associations, mental associations and mental representations that I can’t easily access. I’m very curious about this and try to do research to uncover what might lie beneath, so to speak, in terms of how we feel.

What’s the most common misconception about your work?
That “love’s shelf life is six months” — this is a very common misconception. People think that love has an expiration date, and people think that their love will eventually fade and disappear. In fact, what happens is love transforms. So, what people usually think of when we say “love” is something we call “infatuation” in relationship science. Those physiological reactions we have, like the butterflies in our stomach, heart palpitations, sweaty hands…you may have experienced this yourself. I know I have. People think that this is love. It is part of love, for sure, but it is only part of the picture. As time goes by and as we become what we call “attached” to someone, meaning when we develop a deeper bond, a deeper emotional connection, those early physiological reactions subside. When you’re not as turned on by your partner as you once were or you don’t get butterflies in your stomach, people mistakenly think of that as love dying, but that’s not the case. It’s love transforming from passionate love, as we call it, into “companionate love.” It’s attachment forming. So, love does not have a shelf life. It can go on, very frequently in fact, for a lifetime. It just changes its form, that’s all. I always tell students in my Human Bonding class, don’t freak out if you are not head over heels anymore. That is normal. Very normal.

What do you like to do when you are not working?
The top of my list is being with my loved ones, my friends and my family. Every chance I get, I try to see them. I live on my own, so socializing is an important need for me. And I try to make time for my significant others. I also try to spend time outdoors, which might be walking, jogging or cycling if the weather is good for it. I find that being in nature is good for the way I feel.

Which books have influenced you the most, and why?
“The Social Animal” by Elliot Aronson, for sure. It is a great book that has been published in a lot of languages, Turkish included. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be interested in social behavior as it is insightful and easy to follow but also based on research that beautifully explains why we are the way we are.

If you weren’t an academic, what career would you choose?
In fact, there was a time that I held a non-academic position. So, with that experience, I know that I don’t want to do anything else. But if I weren’t in academia, I would still want to do something for people. So maybe being a therapist, helping people out with their issues, could be the next best thing if I couldn’t be with students.

What is the secret of leading a happy life?
Cultivate your relationships. Be mindful of who you are, whom you have in your life. Try to make sure that you value the people in your life and that they value you back. If someone is not valuing you, maybe they don’t deserve to be in your life. But I think it’s telling that you asked this question. It is such a central question. It is a big question.

If you could go back to your undergraduate/graduate student years, what advice would you give to your younger-self?
I was here as an undergrad but in a different department. I got my degree in Management, then an equivalent of a minor degree in Psychology and then a master’s and PhD in that area. If I could talk to my younger self when I was in high school, I would give the advice to go into Psychology from the start. But if I were to talk to my younger self here at Bilkent, I would say “Enjoy yourself. This is a great education. You’re going to have a great foundation, and you will be able to build anything on that foundation,” and that has been the case for me. I was admitted to a master’s degree in a completely different field because the committee saw that the work I did at Bilkent, although not exactly related, was still about human behavior. They saw that Bilkent gave me the knowledge on how to be a learner, how to ask the right questions, and how to seek answers for those questions — like the way you’re doing right now. They could tell that I could speak English well. They could tell that I knew how to do research. They could tell I knew how to conduct myself in an academic environment, for which I’m very grateful. So, I would just say, “Chill, relax, and you’ll be fine.”

Why did you choose an academic career?
Because I like being in an environment where I can ask questions, seek answers and share those questions and answers with people who are motivated to hear me out — students. I think it is so refreshing. It is so rewarding that people care about your work, that they come and ask questions about it, even if it’s outside of class. This experience we’re having right now is very fulfilling for me as an academician, that there are students on campus who are interested in what I do and who I am and what I do research on and so on and so forth. So having curiosity, pursuing that curiosity and having other people share that curiosity, that was what drove me.

What do you like the most about being at Bilkent?
Being home; I feel at home here. This place has been my home since 2003. It has felt like home since my first year here. This is a place where I can be valued. Because this is a place that values labor work, hard work, interest and curiosity. This is a place where everybody can be who they are without being judged. This has, I think, gained even more importance in the current climate, both in the world at large and also in our country, where it is so easy to judge people, so easy to categorize people. This is one of the oases, as we call it, where you can be yourself to a significant extent.

What projects are you working on currently?
One big part of my research concentrates on the implicit attitudes that I was talking about earlier. Another line of work I try to uncover a little more on is the darker side of relationships. I’m interested in infidelity, adultery. So how come people don’t stay faithful to one another? How come people cheat on their partners? What does cheating mean? What does that entail? What can be some factors that predict it? And can we do anything to prevent it? This is something that I work on.

What’s your best work?
I don’t want to play favorites, but I will always cherish my first article, my first published article, which was from a study I did when I was a PhD student with my advisor, something I did for an independent project, so it was even before my dissertation. It will always be very important for me because it taught me that science requires dedication. We got so many rejections for that paper, it changed and changed and changed. It was very frustrating. Being harshly criticized and hearing that your ideas are faulty or the way you test your ideas is faulty was very demoralizing at a personal level, too. But in time, during that paper, I learned that I shouldn’t be taking it personally because it’s not about who I am. It’s not about me as a person but about the work I do, which can be improved. It should be improved. So, I don’t know if it’s my best work, but I could tell that it was maybe my most important work as it showed me that I need to persevere.

What is the coolest thing about your work?
That it is never the same. I mean, there is always a new question. No matter how much you like to research, how much you look into the literature and how many papers you publish, there is always another thing to be curious about, another question to ask, another answer to pursue. So, it never gets old. It never gets boring. It never gets repetitive. This is true for research and also for teaching. Again, you have to update constantly to make your classes up to date. But with that, on top of that, you always get new students. That’s so exciting. I mean, even though you talk about the same theories or maybe you repeat some of the same research findings, there is a different audience and every time they have a different take on it. They always surprise me with their questions or their insights or their examples or the, “Oh, this happened to me the other day,” anecdotes. I always find myself learning something new from them and from their perspectives. I would say that’s the most exciting part about the teaching aspect.

Could you share a turning point or defining moment in your career?
I might cite two. One is deciding to switch from Management to Psychology. After my undergrad degree, I had started a master’s program in Marketing. During that year, I realized no, no, no…I have to switch to Psychology. That was a turning point for me, for sure. The other one was quitting the job I was talking about earlier and deciding to go to academia and pursue a PhD. I had that job between my master’s and my PhD. Those two were definitely turning points, and I’m grateful for both.

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Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu.

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
@ctisbilkent
Bilişim Sistemleri ve Teknolojileri Bölümü öğrencilerinin 4 yıllık eğitimleri boyunca gösterdikleri akademik ve sosyal başarıları 27. CTIS Ödül Töreni’nde değerlendirildi. Törende, 6 kategoride verilen toplam 38 ödül, sektör temsilcileri, mezunlar ve akademisyenlerin alkışları arasında sahibini buldu. #bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi @ctisbilkent
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Ödevler, projeler, sunumlar derken yılın sonuna geldik. Hepinize finallerde başarılar dileriz. 💯✨ #bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
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🇹🇷 Milli Mücadele’nin 105. yılında, 19 Mayıs Atatürk’ü Anma, Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı’mız kutlu olsun. 🇹🇷

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🇹🇷 Milli Mücadele’nin 105. yılında, 19 Mayıs Atatürk’ü Anma, Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı’mız kutlu olsun. 🇹🇷 #19mayıs #19mayıs1919 #Atatürk #mustafakemalatatürk
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Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti.
Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti.
Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti.
Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti.
Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti.
Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilgisayar Mühendisliği Bölümü Bitirme Projesi Fuarı “CSFair 2024” Merkez Kampüs Spor Salonu'nda gerçekleşti. Tüm öğrencilerimizi tebrik ederiz.👏🏻 #bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
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İster yanımızda, ister uzakta, ister anılarımızda, nerede olursa olsun, sevgisini hiç eksiltmeyen annelerimiz sadece bir gün değil her zaman özeldir. Anneler Günü kutlu olsun. 🌷🌿

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İster yanımızda, ister uzakta, ister anılarımızda, nerede olursa olsun, sevgisini hiç eksiltmeyen annelerimiz sadece bir gün değil her zaman özeldir. Anneler Günü kutlu olsun. 🌷🌿 #annelergünü #happymothersday #bilkent #bilkentüniversitesi #bilkentuniversity
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Bilkentliler, Bahar Koşusunda buluştu. 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♂️

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilkentliler, Bahar Koşusunda buluştu. 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♂️

#bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
Bilkentliler, Bahar Koşusunda buluştu. 🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♂️ #bilkent #bilkentuniversity #bilkentüniversitesi
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#bagep #bilimakademisi #bilim #araştırma #science #research #bilkent #bilkentüniversitesi #bilkentuniversity
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