Social psychologists often think in terms of individuals holding certain attitudes and groups influencing individual attitudes, but in a reciprocal sense both groups and individuals can come to be understood and defined (by themselves or others) in terms of the patterns of attitudes they hold. We are interested in understanding the implications of identity on the attitudes that we hold and the intensity with which we hold them, but also the patterns of attitudes (and particularly contested social attitudes) that define the relations between individuals and groups. This association between identity and attitudes also has important implications for action (behaviour) at both individual and collective levels, and those actions may lead to individual or social change. Under this banner are a number of projects with varying focus and scope but that are linked by the interest in the fundamental associations between identity, attitudes and action.
Religious Identity and Contested Social Attitudes
Social psychology has long been interested in the religious nature of ourselves and the links between expressed religiosity and social attitudes that have been particularlycontested over time such as race-base attitudes, sexual behaviour, attitudes to abortion and euthanasia, individual responsibility and social welfare, and the environment, as well as attitudes and beliefs directly related to the religious experience. We explore a wide range of attitudes and beliefs to help understand the nature of religious experience and how it is shaped by the relationship between individual belief and social context.
Shared Beliefs, Identities, Interaction, and Collective Action
Although we often think of “groups” in terms of a simple shared label (e.g., Australians or plumbers), groups that are often implicated in social movements are based instead on a set of shared views about the world. We argue that when these “opinion-based groups” define themselves in a way that aligns norms for action with beliefs about the possibility of positive change and emotions that embody a need for action (such as outrage) then collective action is more likely. These implications are also more likely when the alignment is consolidated through group interaction. This work is part of an ongoing collaboration with the research groups of Craig McGarty and Emma Thomas.
Shaping the salience and normative meaning of identities, attitudes and behaviour
Identities are not static parts of us but rather are fluid enough to deal with our shifting needs and circumstances as well as the context shifting around us. We are interested in how changing the social or political context, and how issues are framed, can shape the identities that are seen to be relevant to a wide range of issues, particularly those that are actively socially contested, and how that changes our attitudes and responses.
Attitudes and Ideologies
Social psychology often seeks to understand specific attitudes in the context of ideologies, which are more complex systems of ideas that have a certain coherence and are often associated with specific political positions or social groups. However, measures of ideologies often become just a re-description of the attitudes that they are used to predict, or which can hide more subtle relationships between individual attitudes undergoing social contestation. Some of our work has been aimed at unpacking measures of ideology to correct these conceptual and methodological problems.