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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on SASP Summer School, in Kioloa, Australia, 2018

23.04.2018, by Tina Keil in grant report

EASP grant report by Amrita Ahluwalia (University of Edinburgh), Katharina Berger (University of Tübingen), Thomas Davies (University of Edinburgh), Jessica Gale (University of Lausanne) and Andre Filipe Goncalves Marques (University of Kent)

SASP summer school, Kioloa, Australia: (from left to right) Thomas, Amrita, Katharina, Jessica, Andre
SASP summer school, Kioloa, Australia: (from left to right) Thomas, Amrita, Katharina, Jessica, Andre

Five EASP postgraduate members (Amrita Ahluwalia, University of Edinburgh; Katharina Berger, University of Tübingen; Thomas Davies, University of Edinburgh; Jessica Gale, University of Lausanne; Andre Filipe Goncalves Marques, University of Kent) had the chance to attend the SASP summer school 2018. The summer school took place from February 19th to February 25th in Kioloa, New South Wales, Australia. In total, forty-four PhD students from numerous nations (Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Philippines, Indonesia and many more) participated and were assigned to one of three different streams: “Political Psychology and Public Opinion” led by Marc Wilson (Victoria University of Wellington) and Danny Osborne (University of Auckland), “Leadership and Social Change” led by Emina Subasic (University of Newcastle) and Dominic Packer (Lehigh University), and “Reconceptualising Prejudice” led by Michael Platow (Australian National University) and Martha Augoustinos (University of Adelaide).

Jessica, Thomas and Amrita all attended the “Political Psychology and Public Opinion” stream. Mark and Danny facilitated an extremely supportive and encouraging atmosphere where all of us were able to share our ideas about various components of Political Psychology. In this stream, the week was broadly split into two parts. Over the first three days, we covered a comprehensive range of topics designed to provide a broad overview of the field, including ideology, conservatism, symbolic politics and rational choice, the dual-process motivational model of ideological attitudes, and climate change attitudes. The approach to these topics encouraged stimulating open discussion of the literature, all with an aim of identifying research areas for group projects. During this time, Danny led a workshop on using Mplus statistical software to test for measurement invariance, an important tool for assessing whether the same constructs are being measured across groups and contexts and a concern highly relevant to political psychology. Over the last two days, we split into small groups to work on a research proposal to be presented to all summer school attendees on the final day. Amrita’s group focused on exploring whether associations between right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation in the dual-process motivational model might be moderated by individual differences in need for cognition, a measure of preference for quick, implicit, and intuitive thinking over slower, explicit and deliberative reasoning. Thomas’s group spoke about the impact of message framing (neutral vs hostile; from a political group vs neutral source) on changing behaviour and attitudes (e.g. towards meat eating) and Jessica’s group worked on questions related to authoritarianism in reference groups and on the left side of the political spectrum.

Andre attended the “Leadership and Social Change” stream led by Emina and Dominic. This very well organised course included a wide range of topics and materials to be discussed, such as leadership and social influence as (inter)group processes, social psychology of social change, and the intersection of leadership/social influence and social change. In the beginning, each person was paired (randomly) with a ‘leadership/social change’ reading, which would later on present it to the group. Each person was motivated to share their perspective and contribution to the field, followed by an open discussion with the group. This approach allowed us to participate in a very open and stimulating environment, where everyone was free to share and discuss their ideas with the group. In this sense, Emina and Dominic’s guidance and individual experience promoted very lively and engaging debates that certainly brought us a new perspective in academia. The range of topics was not only focused on theory or technical themes such as research design and planning, but it also included more personal (yet very relevant) topics, such as dealing with pressure in academia and how to prepare for a post doc position in the future. In the last few days, the group discussed some of the most relevant new issues in the field of leadership and social change, and then divided into smaller groups to attempt to create a new potential research project. Andre’s group focused on the role of majorities speaking out on behalf of minorities (e.g., men publicly speaking on behalf of women’s rights), and why these outgroup members are not always well accepted when representing the ingroup’s interests.

Katharina attended the “Reconceptualising Prejudice” stream. The course was characterised by a very friendly and open, yet critical and thought-provoking atmosphere that encouraged the exchange of inspiring ideas and animated discussions. Michael and Martha, who were both outstandingly likeable, competent and encouraging, refrained from a mere content presentation but created a constant dialogue between all participants. In the course of the first three days, we spent our time defining and discussing the various facets of prejudice, disentangling the role of personal, and social/societal factors for the formation and maintenance of prejudice, and investigating more subtle forms of prejudice such as symbolic racism or infra-humanization. We furthermore talked about (the effectiveness of) interventions (e.g., changing stereotypes is more effective if not the individual’s attitude is targeted but a change in intergroup relations) and future directions for a more advanced theoretical and practical understanding of the concept, its consequences, and possible interventions. Furthermore, Katharina really enjoyed the proximity with philosophical questions like “When does prejudgment become judgment?” to just name one example. Martha gave a short presentation on her research on discursive psychology, a field that was completely new and fascinating. The class also identified common shortcomings regarding theoretical and conceptual foundations in the field. Days four to six were used to plan a research project in small groups. Katharina’s group designed a computer-based study to investigate information seeking behaviour depending on whether a) a (potentially) prejudiced statement is against or in line with the own opinion and b) a third-party labels it as “prejudiced”, “legitimate” or no label.

Across the week, we also benefited from a number of guest speakers. This included a talk from Danny on the origins, current challenges and future of social psychology, a talk from Prof Iain Walker (University of Canberra) on increasing the real-world impact of social psychology and how to build this into the research process, a talk from Marc on engaging with media to facilitate research and increase impact, and a panel discussion on academic careers and professional development.

We really appreciated the discussion and scientific exchange, and are keen to pursue the collaborations developed over the summer school. We are planning to stay in contact with many of the other participants/instructors and foster additional projects. Apart from the streams, the summer school was very well organised, the atmosphere was amazing, and we got to meet incredibly friendly, diverse, and inspiring people. Our top highlights included: the many, many kangaroos on the campus, the beach in two-minute walking distance, and the nightly bonfires. It is also noteworthy that no major incidents occurred with regard to the hostile Australian wildlife (apart from numerous bug and mosquito bites, which, however, Jessica selflessly attracted for the most part). Also, Andre was happy to demonstrate the clear effects of not wearing sunblock (advice: do not underestimate the sun!).

We are extremely thankful for the precious experience, and the knowledge, collaborations, friendships, and memories we made.