Social Psychology Section




Addressing the crisis? Social psychology and society in the 21st Century.

A proposed three-day workshop, late August 2018

Call for expressions of interest.

It was Henri Tajfel that, in 1972, wrote "however one wishes to define or describe social psychology, there is no doubt that it is a discipline which, in principle, should be able to contribute a great deal to the interpretation of contemporary social phenomena; and, that its aim is either the 'explanation' or the 'understanding' of the social life of individuals and of groups, large or small."

There can be little argument that today’s society is scarred by a wide range of social and political challenges that, as yet, have no obvious explanation or solution. From the wars in the Middle East, to mass migration and the refugee crisis, extremism and terrorism, sexism, racism and other forms of inequality, riots, the rise of the extreme right, populism and pernicious forms of nationalism, sectarianism, the genocide in Myanmar, climate change and pollution along with many other issues dominate the contemporary social, political and media landscape. To a large extent is fair to argue that 21st Century society is in crisis. To what extent is social psychology contributing to the theoretical interpretation and alleviation of these powerful challenges?

In 2018, the UK government is bringing together the seven, previously independent Research Councils, to create a single funding body. The new body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will command a £6 billion budget. The aim is to make it easier to fund cross-disciplinary studies and create an integrated research and innovation system. It is likely that the new funding structure will be built around dynamic thematic agendas designed to empower research that addresses contemporary strategic challenges, some of which will of course be of a social and political nature. Moreover, UK HEIs are increasingly obliged to evidence the influence of their research and develop effective frameworks for overcoming the theory versus practice divide through the construction of pathways to impact. Is social psychology in a position to articulate with and drive these emergent inter-disciplinary collaborative frameworks?  

The BPS Social Psychology Section plans to host a three-day workshop inviting social psychologists to convene to reflect upon the capacity of our discipline to address the challenge laid out by Henri Tajfel over 25 years ago. What is the status of our discipline in terms of its ability to understand the social world we are living in? How does our theory help ‘explain’ or ‘understand’ the social and political problems surrounding us?

The workshop will replace the annual Social Section Conference of 2018 and take place in the last two weeks in August, at a specific date yet to be confirmed. The event is designed to reach out to established social psychologists and early career researchers in order to create reflection on the status and future of our discipline. To what extent is social psychological research and theory fit for purpose? Is our discipline genuinely able to help interpret and address the contemporary global challenges that we face in the 21st Century? To what extent is our discipline proficient at building the kinds of inter-disciplinary dialogue and debate necessary to forge new ways of understanding the vast array of contemporary strategic social and political challenges confronting us? Even if we believe that we are developing valid theoretical models, to what extent is our discipline capable of articulating with policy makers, practitioners, end users, activists, social movements, and other external stakeholders to impact positively and meaningfully on the world around us? Where there are limitations in our capacity, what can be done to empower us?

To enable debate and intellectual development, rather than multiple parallel sessions the workshop will be built around a single strand of seven symposia and three keynotes, each in plenary attended by all delegates. Each symposium will be defined, not by abstract theoretical issues, but focused on a strategic issue that relates directly to a contemporary social and political challenge, which could include – but by no means restricted to - radicalisation, conflict and conflict reduction, migration, populist and far right politics, racism, hate crime, gender,  class and inequality, sexuality, health and well-being. Each symposium will include three to four short presentations, drawn together by the symposium lead, followed by substantive discussion invited from the floor, facilitated by a discussant.

We invite expressions of interest for symposia. Our focus is on engaging with the leading social psychological research groups within the UK and across Europe, but we will favour proposals that embrace global research networks and examine their chosen issue from multiple, diverse, inter-disciplinary and critical perspectives. If you are a researcher conducting research on contemporary social challenges and are interested in participating then please contact us and we will explore with you the opportunities there are for taking part. You do not need to be a member of the BPS to participate. The event will be run on a ‘not for profit’ basis and will be supported financially by the Social Section in order to keep registration fees to a minimum. Following expressions of interest, we will identify and liaise with symposium leads to draw together the programme and set the final date. However, it is currently anticipated that the event will take place in weeks beginning 20th or 27th August 2018.

For further details please contact the Section Chair

Professor Clifford Stott

School of Psychology

Keele University

Staffordshire, ST5 5BG. UK.

[email protected]

Tel  :  +44 (0)1782 7 34529

Mob: +44 (0)7989534508

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