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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on EASP Meeting: Understanding the Winds of Change - Psychological Processes that Change Individuals in Intergroup Conflict

27.07.2017, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report

June 3rd-4th, 2017 in Landgoed Ekenstein, Appingedam, Netherlands; Organisers: Martijn van Zomeren and Eran Halperin

WoC_1.jpg in total, 6 pictures

This medium-size meeting (see also brought together 41 international researchers interested in individual and social change in the context of intergroup conflict. Our overarching aim was to stimulate putting psychological and social change onto the scientific agenda by bringing together world-class international senior researchers, junior researchers, postdocs and PhD students interested in understanding the “winds of change”. The two-day scientific program was divided into four thematic blocks (morality, agency, identity, emotion), revolving around different forms of psychological change in the context of intergroup conflict.

We received nearly 40 excellent submissions from Western, Southern, and Eastern Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia. The program consisted eventually of 1 keynote talk, 19 regular talks, 7 blitz talks and 5 poster presentations. The meeting took place in the picturesque countryside in the North of the Netherlands, at Landgoed Ekenstein in Appingedam. The formal program was held over two days (Saturday and Sunday), with a series of presentations and posters that were organized into four thematic sessions. Regular (oral) presentations were each allocated 30-minute slots, providing ample time for presenters to communicate their work in sufficient depth while also allowing meaningful discussion to develop after each paper.

Day 1

The first day - with morality and identity as themes - opened with a keynote by Eran Halperin (IDC Herzliya, Israel). (Unfortunately, our other keynote speaker, prof. Scott Atran (University of Michigan) had to cancel last-minute due to a family emergency.) Halperin’s talk was very stimulating in raising the key question about different levels of analysis when changing individuals, or changing society, and provided data and ideas about how to link the micro- with the macro-level in the context of emotions. Then, Jocelyn Belanger (New York University, Abu Dhabi) showed evidence of deradicalization programs in Canada, after which Boaz Hameiri (IDC Herzliya, Israel) provided evidence of how a new form of conflict intervention (“paradoxical thinking”) worked in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We then broke for lunch, which provided an opportunity for some spirited informal conversation. After lunch, Angel Gomez (UNED Madrid) showed new findings of his line of research into identity defusion, which is another route toward deradicalization. Aharon Levy (University of Groningen) then introduced the notion of gateway groups that can be pivotal in driving social change, after which Anne Marthe van der Bles (University of Groningen) presented data on how collective discontent can lead to voting for extreme parties and thus affect change. Anna Kende (University of Budapest) presented intriguing findings about the emergence of anti-Muslim prejudice in Hungary and Norway, whereas Namkje Koudenburg (University of Groningen) showed new data about how individual polarize within small discussion groups.

We then had a series of three “blitz” talks (5 minutes each) and two poster presentations, which allowed for a quick impression of exciting new research. Shira Ran (IDC Herzliya, Israel) talked about how empathy is transmitted through generations, Maarten van Bezouw (VU University Amsterdam) about system justification and collective inaction across cultures, and Maja Kutlaca (University of Osnabruck) presented her work on morality and emotions in the context of the refugee crisis. Nora Lantos (University of Budapest) and Helena Radke (University of Osnabruck) presented posters about solidarity-based action for the Rroma in Hungary, and about anti-G20 protests in Australia, respectively.

Day 2

The second day --- with emotion and agency as themes --- started with Kea Brahms (IDC Herzliya, Israel), who presented work on moral emotions and changing justice perceptions. Then, Smadar Cohen-Chen (University of Surrey) talked about hope and its intimate relationship with change motivation, after which Ruthie Pliskin (New York University) offered evidence of how political ideology affects the emotions people experience. Julia Sasse (Max Planck Institute) discussed new findings about the difficulty for women to express anger about sexism and thus to change this state of affairs, after which Siwar Hasan-Asli (University of Groningen) presented research on how people try to change the emotions of others in intergroup conflict. Yossi Hasson (IDC Herzliya) presented findings from a virtual reality study on perspective taking amidst intergroup conflict, suggesting new ways to train people to take the perspective of potential victims.

After lunch, John Drury (University of Sussex) shared his views and work on how to disempower the prejudiced. Huseyin Cakal (Keele University) presented a series of studies on how interactions with others empower individuals for collective action in contested contexts such as Kashmir. Pontus Leander (University of Groningen) then talked about his research on how unmet achievement goals can be used to stear individuals’ frustration toward doing good, rather than doing evil. Eric Shuman (IDC Herzliya, Israel) discussed his work on how different forms of collective action are perceived and how people respond to them. And Susanne Tauber (University of Groningen) then focused on her new theory of collective inaction as a source of empowerment.

As on the first day, we then had a series of “blitz” talks (5 minutes each) and poster presentations. Sam Nunney (University of Cardiff) talked about the staircase model of intergroup apologies, Hanna Szekeres (University of Budapest) about the consequences of not confronting racism, Laura Nesbitt (University of Exeter) shared her work on dynamic emotional experience and expression, and Sara Vestergren (University of Linkoping) presented her qualitative work on activism. The posters were presented by Steph Johnson Zawadski (University of Groningen), Marloes Huis (University of Groningen), and Canan Coskan (Kemerburgaz University Istanbul), who presented work about climate change, women empowerment, and Turkish protests, respectively.

Achieved aims

As noted, the overarching aim of the meeting was to stimulate putting psychological and social change onto the scientific agenda by bringing together world-class international senior researchers, junior researchers, postdocs and PhD students interested in psychological change processes. Our more specific goals were to (1) offer a state-of-the-art program of presentations and posters about what we currently know about psychological change in intergroup conflict, (2) enable a fruitful and stimulating exchange of new ideas and constructive feedback, and (3) facilitate the development of a new research agenda for understanding psychological change in intergroup conflict.

We believe that all these goals were achieved to some extent, as we received a lot of positive feedback on the conference contents and quality of the program. In this respect, our choice to offer “blitz” presentations worked wonderfully well, and even to the extent that for a future meeting we would change the poster presentations into blitz presentations as well. There were also plenty of questions and discussions during the meeting within an informal and constructive atmosphere. Finally, although we did not achieve a research agenda (nor was that the aim), we did set steps into this direction. For instance, Halperin’s talk clearly identified gaps in what we know about the link between micro- and macro-level change, which stimulated new ideas and led to an interesting discussion that also reverberated across dinner conversations. Furthermore, it was interesting to hear that a number of participants met up in Granada again for EASP’s general meeting, in some cases leading to ideas about new collaborations.

We were also happy with the number and diversity of participants for this meeting. In terms of numbers, the minimum of 20 participants was easily reached, and also the 50% EASP membership criterion was easily reached with 24 participants self-reporting to be a member of EASP. In terms of diversity, based on the universities participants were affiliated with, we were able to attract participants from different parts of Europe (e.g., Spain, Hungary, Sweden) as compared to the usual suspects (e.g., Germany, UK, the Netherlands). Furthermore, the Middle East was represented through contributions from Israel, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (NYU Abu Dhabi), whereas we also had participants from the US and Australia. In terms of gender, 26 out of the 41 participants were female. In terms of seniority, 27 out of 41 were postdocs or PhD students. So, across the board, we believe that the meeting very much reflected the spirit of an EASP medium-sized meeting.

In closing, on behalf of the organizing team, I would like to thank all the participants for their insights, energy, and good will during the meeting. We would also like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the following professional organizations: The European Association of Social Psychology and the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences). We are very grateful for such support as it makes this kind of stimulating meetings possible.

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