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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

EASP Travel Grant Report by Efisio Manunta

02.09.2021, by Tina Keil in grant report

Université de Toulouse, France; Brief report of my five months research activity at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK

Efisio Manunta
Efisio Manunta

I visited the Social and Applied Psychology Research Group of the University of Sussex from the 3rd October 2020 to the 3rd March 2021. Despite the Brexit actualisation – acted since the 1st January 2021 – and Covid pandemic I decided not to postpone it. This timeline best suited with my PhD program.

The School of Psychology of the University of Sussex is very dynamic. Social and Applied Psychology Research Group holds a seminar per week in which affiliated and invited researchers might present their works. I was invited to present my studies at one of these seminars in November. It was a great occasion to make colleagues know about my project and my presence there. I’ve been particularly involved in the research team directed by Dr Matthew Easterbrook.

The main reason of my presence at the University of Sussex was the planned scientific collaboration with Dr Matthew Easterbrook and Dr Vivian Vignoles related to my PhD research project. This aimed to investigate the relations between the identity construction process and adhesion to populist ideologies. Populism is the political phenomenon that overwhelmed the Western liberal democracies in the last decade. It is defined by Mudde and Kaltwasser (2017) as a "thin ideology" characterized by two fundamental beliefs: 1) the idea that society is divided into people and elite, the former being perceived as a pure in-group and the latter being perceived as a corrupt out-group constantly acting against the in-group; 2) the belief that the volonté générale (people general will) should be the only political decision-maker.

Political psychology and political sciences have studied the processes which trigger the adhesion to populism by focusing on motivational predictors or perceptions of the societal context. The fundamental issue that emerges from the literature review to date is that the identity processes have been neglected as possible explanation of the adhesion to the populism thin ideology. The main objective of this PhD project is therefore to study the impact that identity motives (Vignoles, 2011) have on the adherence to the populist thin ideology.

In previous studies we created a new measure of populism (POP-ThIS, Manunta & Becker, 2020) and we found that the frustration of the identity motives anticipated by feelings of relative deprivation has an impact on the populist thin ideology (Manunta & Becker, accepted). Following exploratory analyses suggested that the frustration of belonging motive was the most involved identity motive into this process. So, in collaboration with Dr Vivian Vignoles, Matthew Easterbrook (University of Sussex) and Maja Becker (my PhD supervisor, Univeristé de Toulouse), I realised a tight replication to validate previous exploratory findings and we are now organising a cross-cultural study to test the universal aspect of this hypothesis and validate POP-ThIS across diverse national contexts.

In spite of the particular conditions in which I visited the University of Sussex, I am completely satisfied of our accomplishments. I was fully equipped when necessary and strongly integrated in lab’s activity; I successfully started an international collaboration which is still working and will hopefully have promising repercussions to my future research career. The University of Sussex has been a privileged environment for my research projects: Vignoles is the creator of the Identity Movite Theory and Easterbrook one of the main experts. So, I really learnt a lot through their exchanges. Furthermore, the current “in remote” situation offers the unique opportunity of keeping being involved in lab’s activities over the end of my presence in Brighton.

I will keep great human and professional reminds of this special experience. I’m looking forward to visiting the amazing City of Brighton in a normal social environment, but I am very grateful for this opportunity and I thank EASP for having contributed funding this project!


  • Manunta, E., & Becker, M. (2021, July - accepted). Populism as a thin ideology: Towards an identity management approach. Oral communication at the 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), Montreal, Canada.
  • Manunta, E., & Becker, M. (2020, July). Validation of the Populist Thin Ideology Scale (P-ThIS): Linking populist beliefs to populist vote in France. Oral communication presented at the 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), Berlin, Germany.
  • Manunta, E., Becker, M., Vignoles, V., & Easterbrook, M. J. (pre-registration). Populism in reaction to social exclusion: Does the frustration of the belonging identity motive trigger adhesion to the Populist Thin Ideology? Retrieved from
  • Mudde, C., & Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017). Populism: A Very Short Intrduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Vignoles, V. L. (2011). Identity Motives. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, & V. L. Vignoles (Eds.), Handbook of Identity Theory and Research (pp. 403–432). Springer New York.