Rheinbach Why did people start hoarding toilet paper and noodles at the beginning of the pandemic? Rheinbach-based business psychologist Britta Krahn has an explanation. To get to that conclusion, she draws on more than just her own discipline.
Toilet paper, pasta, flour, yeast - suddenly all of these are missing from the shelves. For Britta Krahn, Professor of Business Psychology at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, why people suddenly tend to hoard is a question that can be explained psychologically: "People who feel threatened are much more inclined to hedge purchases and to hedging behavior," says the Rheinbach professor, who specializes in market, financial and social psychology.
A decisive role in hoarding purchases plays on the fear feeling, studies from the Corona spring 2020 had found out. A worldwide Corona pandemic is a thoroughly welcome research object for the 42-year-old, but the effects on her students are not. She particularly misses interdisciplinary teaching and research, in addition to the usual hustle and bustle on campus.
"The complex social, ecological and technological questions of our time can only be considered and answered in a synergistic discourse between disciplines," Krahn says. The Corona pandemic is complex: Because of the rising numbers of infections in the fall and the associated new restrictions, "the threat came back very strongly" and the subjective sense of fear as well. As a result, hoarding once again took hold. People felt "helplessly exposed to what is now coming at me." Hoarders' purchases are an attempt to compensate for this perceived loss of control, says Krahn.
Emptiness in the lecture halls, too
Business psychology finds answers to current issues more quickly than probably any other science - and not just during the current pandemic.
However, the corona virus conjures up emptiness not only on the shelves of supermarkets, but also, of necessity, in the lecture halls and corridors of the university. "The campus is very familiar, beautifully situated, lots of greenery, successful new buildings," Krahn finds. From her office, the campus lake is easily visible, which has always exuded consistent tranquility. However, she says the current quiet, due to contact restrictions, is not an easy situation, especially for her up to 250 students per semester.
"Many freshmen have never been here before," Krahn reports. Not because they didn't want to, but because they weren't allowed. But, as quickly as the pandemic swept through all walks of life, staff and students developed what Krahn calls "creative support structures." "They help each other out and form digital study groups, for example."
Technically, lectures via video conferencing, for example, worked quite well. Beyond the mere transfer of knowledge, however, communication is lost, he says. "I notice that I miss the exchange with the students a lot." For all the digital alternatives to communicate with each other, this does not replace the usual togetherness. "Next semester would already be the third online semester," Krahn says.
Business psychology is particularly empirical
Business psychology is particularly characterized by empirical methods. Many questions in market and social research cannot be proven without empiricism, he says. "This works with experiments, interviews and questionnaire studies. All research projects, for example, in theses, can actually only be implemented online at the moment," says the professor.
The same applies to a topic that is particularly close to her heart: interdisciplinary teaching and research. Together with three other colleagues from the departments of economics and applied natural sciences, Krahn is focusing on the topic of sustainability in the voluntary supplementary subject "Sustainability and Responsibility Across Disciplines.
Bachelor's students from the departments of economics, applied natural sciences, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and technical journalism take part in this subject, which looks beyond their own horizons (see info below). "They need to be brought together so that the disciplines don't just stew in their own juices," Krahn finds.
"In the meantime, this module is a component of a university-wide 'Study Responsibility' that we are currently setting up and introducing." This is open to students and teachers from all disciplines and is a cross-disciplinary, supplementary, voluntary study program with a certificate on current global issues such as climate change, globalization or digitalization.
And what would she like to see for the Rheinbach campus? A return to classroom teaching as soon as possible and, in the longer term, the southern bypass, she says. The connection by train from the center of Bonn to Rheinbach is already very good, but from the south of Bonn it is rather inconvenient by public transport.
Original text: Mario Quadt
Translation: Mareike Graepel