Monday, 27 April 2015

School’s social psychologist helps bridging Australasia and North America into the future

On April 7th, 2015, Dr Stefania Paolini from UON School of Psychology had the pleasure to officially inaugurate a new small group conference series jointly sponsored by the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) and the largest professional society of social scientists in the world, (American-led) Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (or SPSSI). The small group meeting is aimed at facilitating research cross-pollination and research training around areas of mutual interest of the two societies. It is expected to gather 20-30 senior and junior scholars from Australasia and North America and take place yearly in alternate geographical locations.

The inaugural SASP-SPSSI small group conference meeting was held in Brisbane on the topic of ‘Collective harmdoing’. It gathered prominent social psychologists: John Dixon (Open University, UK) and Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel-Aviv University, Israel), Jolanda Jetten, and Alex Haslam (UQ, Australia). Stefania, as co-chair of SPSSI internationalisation committee and SASP representative, has been the main driver in the establishment of this new scheme. Her opening words were nicely complemented by a video message to the conference delegates by SPSSI President, Alice Eagly, and the 15+ people SPSSI council.

Stefania was also asked to open the scientific program of the meeting with an overview of her programmatic work on valence asymmetry in intergroup relations. This line of research indicates that, while positive interactions between members of opposing groups bring about positive outcomes (less prejudice, more trust etc.), negative interactions have a disproportionately larger (detrimental) impact—the so called ‘negative valence asymmetry’. Her presentation included recently published findings suggesting that individuals’ positive and diverse histories of contact with members of opposing groups can lessen the impact of these negative asymmetries even in conflict-ridden settings, like Cyprus or Northern Ireland. These asymmetries are further diluted by the greater prevalence of positive (vs. negative) contact in most people’s ordinary life experiences. If you want to know more about these findings, see: Paolini, Harwood, Rubin, Husnu, Joyce, & Hewstone here  and Graf, Paolini, & Rubin here.  

Negative valence asymmetries: A case of negative being louder than positive in intergroup relations