Meleady, R., Crisp, R., Dhont, K., Hopthrow, T., & Turner, R. (2019). Intergroup Contact, Social Dominance and Environmental Concern: A Test of the Cognitive-Liberalization Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi:10.1037/pspi0000196
Intergroup contact is among the most effective ways to improve intergroup attitudes. While it is now beyond any doubt that contact can reduce prejudice, in this paper we provide evidence that its benefits can extend beyond intergroup relations – a process referred to as cognitive liberalization (Hodson, Crisp, Meleady & Earle, 2018). We focus specifically on the impact of intergroup contact on environmentally-relevant attitudes and behavior. Recent studies suggest that support for an inequality-based ideology (Social Dominance Orientation) can predict both intergroup attitudes and broader environmental conduct. Individuals higher in SDO are more willing to exploit the environment in unsustainable ways because doing so aids the production and maintenance of hierarchical social structures. In four studies conducted with British adults we show that by promoting less hierarchical and more egalitarian viewpoints (reduced SDO), intergroup contact encourages more environmentally responsible attitudes and behavior. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data support this model. Effects are more strongly explained by reductions in an anti-egalitarian motive (SDO-E) than a dominance motive (SDO-D). We discuss how these findings help define an expanded vision for intergroup contact theory that moves beyond traditional conflict-related outcomes.
Mahmood, L., Abrams, D., Meleady, R., Hopthrow, T., Lalot, F., Swift, H., & Van de Vyver, J. (2019). Intentions, efficacy, and norms: The impact of different self-regulatory cues on reducing engine idling at long wait stops. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 66, 101368. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101368
Idling engines contribute significantly to air pollution and health problems. In a field study at a busy railway crossing we used the Theory of Planned Behavior to design persuasive messages to convince car drivers (N = 442) to turn off their engines during long wait stops. We compared the effects of three different messages (focusing on outcome efficacy, normative reputation, or reflection on one's intentions) against a baseline condition. With differing effectiveness, all three messages had a positive effect compared with the baseline. Drivers were most likely to turn off their engines when the message focused on outcome efficacy (49%) or reflection (43%), as compared to the baseline (29%). The increased compliance in the normative reputation condition (38%) was not significantly different from baseline. Thus, stimulating self-regulatory processes, particularly outcome efficacy, is demonstrated to have a positive effect on pro-environmental driving behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Player, A., Abrams, D., Van de Vyver, J., Meleady, R., Leite, A., Randsley de Moura, G., & Hopthrow, T. (2018). “We aren’t idlers”: Using subjective group dynamics to promote prosocial driver behaviour at long-wait stops. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 48, 643-648. doi:10.1111/jasp.12554
Idling engines are a substantial air pollutant which contribute to many health and environmental problems. In this field experiment (N = 419) we use the subjective group dynamics framework to test ways of motivating car drivers to turn off idle engines at a long wait stop where the majority leave their engines idling. One of three normative messages (descriptive norm, in-group prescriptive deviance, outgroup prescriptive deviance) was displayed when barriers were down at a busy railway level-crossing. Compared to the baseline, normative messages increased the proportion of drivers that turned off their engines. Consistent with subjective group dynamics theory, the most effective approach was to highlight instances of in-group prescriptive deviance (47% stopped idling, compared with 28% in the baseline). Implications for health and environmental outcomes and future research are discussed.
Van de Vyver, J., Abrams, D., Hopthrow, T., Purewal, K., Randsley de Moura, G., & Meleady, R. (2018). Motivating the selfish to stop idling: Self-interest cues can improve environmentally relevant driver behaviour. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 54, 79-85. doi:10.1016/j.trf.2018.01.015
Air pollution has a huge and negative impact on society, and idling engines are a major contributor to air pollution. The current paper draws on evolutionary models of environmental behaviour to test whether appeals to self-interest can encourage drivers to turn off their engines at long wait stops. Using an experimental design, drivers were shown one of three self-interest appeals (financial, health, kin) while waiting at a congested level-crossing site in the UK. Results showed that all three self-interest appeals increased the chances of drivers turning off their engines compared to the control condition. Specifically, drivers were approximately twice as likely to turn off their engines in the self-interest conditions (39–41% compliance) compared to drivers in the control condition (22% compliance). Thus, self-interest motives can be effective for promoting pro-environmental behavioural compliance. Theoretical and applied implications of this research are discussed.
Meleady, R., Abrams, D., Van de Vyer, J., Hopthrow, T., Mahmood, L., Player, A., Lamont, R., & Leite, A. (2017). Surveillance or Self-Surveillance? Social Cues Can Increase the Rate of Drivers’ Pro-Environmental Behavior at a Long Wait Stop. Environment and Behavior, 49, 1156-1172. doi:10.1177/0013916517691324
By leaving their engines idling for long periods, drivers contribute unnecessarily to air pollution, waste fuel, and produce noise and fumes that harm the environment. Railway level crossings are sites where many cars idle, many times a day. In this research, testing two psychological theories of influence, we examine the potential to encourage drivers to switch off their ignition while waiting at rail crossings. Two field studies presented different signs at a busy rail crossing site with a 2-min average wait. Inducing public self-focus (via a “Watching Eyes” stimulus) was not effective, even when accompanied by a written behavioral instruction. Instead, cueing a private-self focus (“think of yourself”) was more effective, doubling the level of behavioral compliance. These findings confirm the need to engage the self when trying to instigate self-regulatory action, but that cues evoking self-surveillance may sometimes be more effective than cues that imply external surveillance.
Mahmood, L., Hopthrow, T., & Randsley de Moura, G. (2016). A Moment of Mindfulness: Computer-Mediated Mindfulness Practice Increases State Mindfulness. PLoS ONE, 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153923
Three studies investigated the use of a 5-minute, computer-mediated mindfulness practice in increasing levels of state mindfulness. In Study 1, 54 high school students completed the computer-mediated mindfulness practice in a lab setting and Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) scores were measured before and after the practice. In Study 2 (N = 90) and Study 3 (N = 61), the mindfulness practice was tested with an entirely online sample to test the delivery of the 5-minute mindfulness practice via the internet. In Study 2 and 3, we found a significant increase in TMS scores in the mindful condition, but not in the control condition. These findings highlight the impact of a brief, mindfulness practice for single-session, computer-mediated use to increase mindfulness as a state.
Hopthrow, T., Hooper, N., Mahmood, L., Meier, B., & Weger, U. (2016). Mindfulness Reduces the Correspondence Bias. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69. doi:10.1080/17470218.2016.1149498
The Correspondence Bias (CB) refers to the idea that people sometimes give undue weight to dispositional rather than situational factors when explaining behaviors and attitudes. Three experiments examined whether mindfulness, a non-judgmental focus on the present moment, could reduce the CB. Participants engaged in a brief mindfulness exercise (the raisin task), a control task or an attention to detail task before completing a typical CB measure involving an attitude-attribution paradigm. The results indicated that participants in the mindfulness condition experienced a significant reduction in the CB compared to participants in the control or attention to detail conditions. These results suggest that mindfulness training can play a unique role in reducing social biases related to person perception.
Emeakaroha, A., Ang, C., Yan, Y., & Hopthrow, T. (2014). Integrating persuasive technology with energy delegates for energy conservation and carbon emission reduction in a university campus. Energy, 76, 357-374. doi:doi:10.1016/j.energy.2014.08.027
This paper presents the results of energy conservation strategies implemented in the University residential halls to address energy consumption issues, using IPTED (Integration of Persuasive Technology and Energy Delegate) in the student residential halls. The results show that real time energy feedback from a visual interface, when combined with energy delegate can provide significant energy savings. Therefore, applying IPTED reveals a significant conservation and carbon emission reduction as a result from the intervention conducted in student hall of residents comprising of 16 halls with 112 students. Overall, the intervention revealed that, the use of real time feedback system reduced energy consumption significantly when compared to baseline readings. Interestingly, we found that the combination of real time feedback system with a human energy delegate in 8 halls resulted in higher reduction of 37% in energy consumptions when compared to the baseline amounting to savings of 1360.49 kWh, and 713.71 kg of CO2 in the experimental halls. On the contrary, the 8 non-experimental halls, which were exposed to the real time feedback and weekly email alert, resulted in only 3.5% reduction in energy consumption when compared to the baseline, amounting to savings of only 165.00 kWh, and 86.56 kg of CO2.
Emeakaroha, A., Ang, C., Yan, Y., & Hopthrow, T. (2014). A persuasive feedback support system for energy conservation and carbon emission reduction in campus residential buildings. Energy and Buildings, 82, 719-732. doi:doi:10.1016/j.enbuild.2014.07.071
There is a need for energy conservation mechanisms, especially in university campuses, as students do not have any direct feedback on their energy consumptions, which leads to excess usages. There are few existing approaches aiming to reduce electricity usages in higher education institutions through real-time feedback applications. These approaches mainly apply student experimental studies with incentives (gift reward). Their feedback systems present data only in near real time using data loggers and Modbus data collector, which are characterised with a slow and unstable data transfer rate. Furthermore, they are not designed for long-term deployment in a wider campus energy management environment. Thus, the challenges for reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions in the higher education sector still remain.
To address these challenges, we have designed, configured and implemented a robust persuasive feedback support system (PFSS) to facilitate energy conservation and carbon emission reduction. This paper presents the complete architecture of the proposed PFSS, its system interface and the real time measurement output strategies. To demonstrate the applicability of the proposed system and to assess its performance in comparison with the previous
Hopthrow, T., Randsley de Moura, G., Meleady, R., Abrams, D., & Swift, H. (2014). Drinking in social groups. Does ’groupdrink’ provide safety in numbers when deciding about risk?. Addiction, 109, 913-921. doi:10.1111/add.12496
To investigate the impact of alcohol consumption on risk decisions taken both individually and while part of a four- to six-person ad-hoc group.
A 2 (alcohol: consuming versus not consuming alcohol) x 2 (decision: individual, group) mixed-model design; decision was a repeated measure. The dependent variable was risk preference, measured using choice dilemmas.
Opportunity sampling in campus bars and a music event at a campus-based university in the United Kingdom.
A total of 101 individuals were recruited from groups of four to six people who either were or were not consuming alcohol.
Participants privately opted for a level of risk in response to a choice dilemma and then, as a group, responded to a second choice dilemma. The choice dilemmas asked participants the level of accident risk at which they would recommend someone could drive while intoxicated.
Five three-level multi-level models were specified in the software program HLM 7. Decisions made in groups were less risky than those made individually (B = -0.73, P < 0.001). Individual alcohol consumers opted for higher risk than non-consumers (B = 1.27, P = 0.025). A significant alcohol?×?decision interaction (B = -2.79, P = 0.001) showed that individual consumers privately opted for higher risk than non-consumers, whereas risk judgements made in groups of either consumers or non-consumers were lower. Decisions made by groups of consumers were less risky than those made by groups of non-consumers (B = 1.23, P < 0.001).
Moderate alcohol consumption appears to produce a propensity among individuals towards increased risk-taking in deciding to drive while intoxicated, which can be mitigated by group monitoring processes within small (four- to six-person) groups.
Mahmood, L., Slabu, L., Randsley de Moura, G., & Hopthrow, T. (2014). Employability in the first degree: The role of work placements on students’ perceptions of graduate employability. Psychology Teaching Review, 20, 126-136.
Employers often claim that graduates are not ready for the world of work as they lack employability skills (Archer & Davison, 2008). One policy response to this claim has been to encourage students to undertake a work placement to enhance success in the competitive job market (The Dearing Report, 1997). The present research investigated whether psychology students, who were enrolled on an undergraduate degree programme that included a one-year work placement, understood the advantages and disadvantages of work placements and how they perceived its impact on employability. We present questionnaire data from 49 undergraduates at different stages of their degree programme – pre- and post-placement. Generally, students perceived the employability benefits of the work-placement. However, there were differences in how these were articulated by pre- and post-placement students, with post-placement students able to use more concrete terms. This suggests that there is some development throughout the applied degree, but emphasis needs to be placed on training students how to demonstrate the skills they have developed through the work placement to potential employers.
Meleady, R., Hopthrow, T., & Crisp, R. (2013). Simulating social dilemmas: Promoting cooperative behavior through imagined group discussion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 839-853. doi:10.1037/a0031233
A robust finding in social dilemmas research is that individual group members are more likely to act cooperatively if they are given the chance to discuss the dilemma with one another. The authors investigated whether imagining a group discussion may represent an effective means of increasing cooperative behavior in the absence of the opportunity for direct negotiation among decision makers. Five experiments, utilizing a range of task variants, tested this hypothesis. Participants engaged in a guided simulation of the progressive steps required to reach a cooperative consensus within a group discussion of a social dilemma. Results support the conclusion that imagined group discussion enables conscious processes that parallel those underlying the direct group discussion and is a strategy that can effectively elicit cooperative behavior. The applied potential of imagined group discussion techniques to encourage more socially responsible behavior is discussed.
Meleady, R., Hopthrow, T., & Crisp, R. (2013). The group discussion effect: Integrative processes and suggestions for implementation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17, 56-71. doi:10.1177/1088868312456744
One of the most consistent findings in experimental social dilemmas research is the positive effect group discussion has on cooperative behavior. At a time when cooperation and consensus is critical to tackle global problems, ranging from debt to deforestation, understanding the dynamics of group discussion is a pressing need. Unfortunately, research investigating the underlying processes and implementation of the effect has been inconclusive. The authors present a critical review of existing explanations and integrate these perspectives into a single process model of group discussion, providing a more complete theoretical picture of how interrelated factors combine to facilitate discussion-induced cooperation. On the basis of this theoretical analysis, they consider complimentary approaches to the indirect and feasible implementation of group discussion. They argue that such strategies may overcome the barriers to direct discussion observed across a range of groups and organizations.
Zagefka, H., Noor, M., Brown, R., Hopthrow, T., & Randsley de Moura, G. (2012). Eliciting donations to disaster victims: Psychological considerations. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 15, 221-230. doi:10.1111/j.1467-839X.2012.01378.x
Predictors of monetary donations to victims of humanitarian disasters were examined. Participants (N = 219) chose between donating to different scenarios and justified their choices in an open response format. This was followed by a questionnaire. The perceived extent of the victims’ Need, the Impact of a potential donation, and the Amount donated by others all influenced donation decisions. There was a three-way interaction between these factors: The perceived Need for help only mattered if the perceived Impact of a donation was high, and the perceived Amount donated by others was small. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Weger, U., Hooper, N., Meier, B., & Hopthrow, T. (2012). Mindful maths: Reducing the impact of stereotype threat through a mindfulness exercise. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 471-475. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.10.011
Individuals who experience stereotype threat – the pressure resulting from social compar- isons that are perceived as unfavourable – show performance decrements across a wide range of tasks. One account of this effect is that the cognitive pressure triggered by such threat drains the same cognitive (or working-memory) resources that are implicated in the respective task. The present study investigates whether mindfulness can be used to moderate stereotype threat, as mindfulness has previously been shown to alleviate work- ing-memory load. Our results show that performance decrements that typically occur under stereotype threat can indeed be reversed when the individual engages in a brief (5 min) mindfulness task. The theoretical implications of our findings are discussed.
Hopthrow, T., Feder, G., & Michie, S. (2011). The role of group decision making processes in the creation of clinical guidelines. International Review of Psychiatry, 23, 358-364. doi:10.3109/09540261.2011.606539
Guideline development groups are an integral part of evidence-based healthcare and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There is a need for the efficient production of high-quality guidelines both to ensure high standards of care and to conserve resources. Social psychological research on group processes provides valuable information that can be applied to studying the functioning of guideline development groups, including the methods they use to develop recommendations. This article describes four key concepts in the group process literature: information sharing, systematic processing, group development, and group potential productivity. We evaluate their importance for guideline development groups and conclude with methodological suggestions for the study of these complex processes.
Zagefka, H., Noor, M., Brown, R., Randsley de Moura, G., & Hopthrow, T. (2011). Donating to disaster victims: Responses to natural and humanly caused events. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 353-363. doi:10.1002/ejsp.781
The effect of the cause of a disaster, i.e. whether it was perceived to be caused by human or natural factors, on willingness to donate money to disaster victims was examined. In Study 1 (N=76), the cause of a fictitious disaster was experimentally varied. In Study 2 (N=219), participants were asked about their views regarding donations to two real-life disasters, one of which was perceived to be naturally caused while the other one was perceived to be caused by humans. In Study 3 (N=115), the cause of a fictitious disaster was experimentally varied, but this time measures of the proposed psychological mediators of the effect on donations were included, namely perceived victim blame and the extent to which victims were thought to make an effort to help themselves. A measure of real donation behaviour was also added. In Study 4 (N=196), the proposed psychological mediators were manipulated directly, and the effect of this on donations was monitored. Across all studies, more donations were elicited by naturally caused rather than humanly caused disasters. This difference was driven by a perception that the victims of natural disasters are to be blamed less for their plight, and that they make more of an effort to help themselves. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Hopthrow, T., & Abrams, D. (2010). Group transformation: How demonstrability promotes intra-group cooperation in social dilemmas. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 799-803. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.04.002
Intra-group cooperation in a social dilemma is increased after a group has discussed and reached a decision, especially if the dilemma is easily understood (‘demonstrable’). This paper examines how demonstrability affects the decision of a group that consists entirely of participants who are initially non-cooperative. Thirty-eight 6-person groups with unanimous prior preference for cooperation or non-cooperation discussed a prisoner’s dilemma before making a group decision. When demonstrability was low groups reflected the prior (either cooperative or non-cooperative) preferences of their members. When demonstrability was high we found that groups showed no effect of prior preference. Specifically, groups of prior non-cooperators made more cooperative group decisions and subsequently their members remained cooperative when asked to express preferences individually. The combined advantages of group process and high demonstrability for facilitating optimal cooperation are discussed.
Frings, D., Hopthrow, T., Abrams, D., Hulbert, L., & Gutierrez, R. (2008). Groupdrink: The effects of alcohol and group process on vigilance errors. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, 12, 179-190. doi:10.1037/1089-26220.127.116.11
This research examined how group processes alter the impact of alcohol on a judgment task requiring vigilance. The authors compared two competing explanations, deindividuation and group monitoring, for the possible effects of alcohol. Two hundred and eighty-six undergraduates with normal drinking habits undertook a vigilance task alone or in four-person groups having consumed either alcohol (calculated to achieve up to .08 blood alcohol content) or a placebo. The vigilance task required them to count occurrences of the word "the" in a spoken passage. Alcohol significantly impaired the performance of individuals but not groups. Group members performed at a similar level in both conditions, making fewer errors than individuals in the alcohol condition. The fit of different decision-making models were tested. In both the alcohol and placebo conditions, group consensus was predicted by processes consistent with the group monitoring hypothesis. The evidence highlights that under certain conditions, group process can compensate for the cognitively impairing effects of alcohol on individuals.
Hopthrow, T., Abrams, D., Frings, D., & Hulbert, L. (2007). Groupdrink: The effects of alcohol on intergroup competitiveness. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol 21, 272-276. doi:10.1037/0893-164X.21.2.272
Alcohol is often consumed in group settings. The present article examines the effect of alcohol on intergroup competitiveness through the use of a prisoner's dilemma game. One hundred fifty-eight college students participated in the study, either individually or as a member of a 4-person experimental single-sex group. Participants consumed either alcohol (1.13 g ethanol/kg body weight) or a placebo. Results show no effect of alcohol on cooperative choice within individuals. However, groups were significantly less cooperative after consuming alcohol than they were after consuming a placebo. In addition, after consuming alcohol, groups were less cooperative than were individuals. Results are discussed in terms of the way alcohol may affect focus of attention on group-level cues
Abrams, D., Hopthrow, T., Hulbert, L., & Frings, D. (2006). "Groupdrink"? The effect of alcohol on risk attraction among groups versus individuals. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67, 628-636.
Objective: The objective of the present study is to assess the impact of alcohol consumption on the risk orientation of people when they are in groups as opposed to alone. Alcohol is often consumed within social groups, but previous research has not distinguished whether particular group processes affect risk differently as a consequence of alcohol consumption. Three theory-based predictions are tested to see whether, after alcohol consumption, groups encourage or inhibit risk as a result of group polarization, deindividuation, or group monitoring. Method: Male participants (N = 120; ages 18-28), recruited via opportunity sample from students at the University of Kent, were assigned as individuals or as members of four-person groups. They had their breath alcohol concentration analyzed to ensure they were alcohol free and then were asked to consume either a placebo or alcohol in amounts equivalent to the legal limit for driving in the United States and the United Kingdom (.08% blood alcohol concentration). Participants completed a risk-attraction task either alone or in a group. Each participant also completed an alcohol-expectancy questionnaire. Results: Individuals found risky choices significantly more attractive after consuming alcohol. In contrast, members of groups showed no such increase. In alcohol but not placebo conditions, groups made their decisions more slowly than did individuals. Conclusions: The results are consistent with the group-monitoring hypothesis (i.e., that group members attend to each other and promote a greater level of systematic processing of the risks presented). Results indicate that with moderate social drinking, groups may provide an informal means of mutual regulation and monitoring that can offset some aspects of alcohol myopia.
Hopthrow, T., & Hulbert, L. (2005). The Effect of Group Decision Making on Cooperation in Social Dilemmas. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 8, 89-100. doi:10.1177/1368430205049253
A robust finding in social dilemma research is an increase in individual cooperative choice following group discussion about the dilemma. To elaborate the idea that this effect arises from the development of within-group consensus, groups of six made explicit group decisions about their subsequent individual choice. Perceived demonstrability of cooperativeness in the dilemma was manipulated through changes both to instructions and the incentives of the dilemma. As demonstrability decreased, so did the proportion of groups deciding to cooperate, leading to a reduction in the group discussion effect. Social decision scheme analysis supported the demonstrability-group decision hypothesis. The interaction between demonstrability, individual opinions and group process is proposed to explain the group discussion effect.
Farahar, C. (2019). Contact sans Contact: Investigating a Novel Experiential Intergroup Contact Approach to Reducing Mental Health Stigma.
Mental health stigma and prejudice are longstanding societal problems that require new solutions. One in six adults experience a common mental health problem in a given week (e.g. depression, generalised anxiety, phobias; Stansfeld, et al., 2016), yet the stigmatisation and its consequences are widespread. Despite the efforts of campaigns to reshape public opinion of mental illness (e.g., Time to Change; Time to Change, n.d.), the stigma persists as evidenced in this thesis' introductory Chapter One, Study 1. The challenge is to identify ways that can effectively shift public views. Derived from social psychological theory and methodology and the creative arts, the proposed research builds on work conducted at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes to evaluate an innovative prejudice-reduction method I have developed.
One of the most important social psychological theories of the 20th century is intergroup contact theory, which specifies that direct contact between groups is needed (under the right conditions) in order to reduce prejudice (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). Extensive research has supported the contact hypothesis and extended contact hypothesis (where only indirect contact is needed). However, direct and extended contact with mental health problem outgroup members is often not possible or counterproductive because of the accompanying stigma. A further implementation of the contact hypothesis, imagined intergroup contact, overcomes the barriers of direct and extended contact, and has been supported by a number of studies (Miles & Crisp, 2014), but is also limited by the narrow scope of contact, weak generalisability outside the lab, and effects that may not be sustained (Brown & Paterson, 2016).
This PhD thesis represents a further step along the continuum of intergroup contact by testing a new contact concept, referred to as Experiential Intergroup Contact (EIC). This approach sits between direct and indirect methods of contact, and is uniquely grounded in theories of intergroup contact, social identity, and experiential role-playing. It is thereby providing a new multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach to prejudice reduction, and is outlined in detail in Chapter Two. Central to EIC is the idea that simulated contact must shift the boundaries of group identification to create a common identity among people, in addition to engendering positive feelings and attitudes toward outgroup members, in order to produce a sustainable impact on prejudice. Experiential Intergroup Contact does so by implementing a realistic simulation of a more elaborated intergroup context in a format that is readily adapted for different populations. The experiential contact hypothesis proposes that simulated interactions with outgroup members can foster a common group identity and transfer knowledge about outgroup members' experiences, and therefore have a sustained positive impact on stigma and prejudice.
Underpinning EIC is my creation of a story in the form of a script that addresses mental health stigma, entitled Stigmaphrenia©. The story emphasises the positive aspects of being psychologically different and reclassifies mental health status under the umbrella of "neurodiversity". Experiential Intergroup Contact involves reading the Stigmaphrenia© script in a group, with each person taking the perspective of one of the characters in the story. One UK and two US schools have trialled this intervention on a small scale to test feasibility. Verbal reports from key teachers indicate positive impacts on young person's views of mental health. These anecdotal findings and user interest are promising and underscore the urgency for the systematic investigation of EIC.
The main aim for this thesis is to evaluate EIC for reducing mental health stigma and under what conditions it is most likely to be effective. The proposed work is exciting from a social psychological standpoint because it suggests an innovative integrative and interdisciplinary approach to mental health stigma reduction, with strong theoretical and applied implications, and poses new research questions:
Q1: Can EIC reduce mental health stigma?
Q2: Do stigma-reduction outcomes following EIC last?
Q3: By what mechanisms does EIC work?
Six studies attempt to answer these questions. Following the evidence that stigma toward those with mental health problems is still prevalent in Chapter One, Study 1 (N = 154 university students), Chapter Three, Study 2 (N = 84 secondary school pupils) investigates the extent to which the theorised experiential element of Experiential Intergroup Contact outlined in Chapter Two acts as a mediating mechanism. Chapter Four, Study 3 investigates the utility of a neurodiversity superordinate category in effecting stigma - recategorisation - with a crowd sourced population online (N = 146). In Chapter Five, studies 4 and 5 investigate the longitudinality of EICs effects in a school sample (N = 52) and a university sample (N = 89). The final sixth study in Chapter Six (N = 5) qualitatively investigates the longevity of language and behaviour change of past actors as a result of their involvement with the EIC script Stigmaphrenia© in 2013 or 2015.
Findings indicate that there is still work to be done to be able to operationalise Experiential Intergroup Contact with Stigmaphrenia© to reduce mental health stigma, and the general limitations of its investigation and future directions of this novel intergroup contact are detailed in the final Chapter Seven.
Eriksson, K. (2017). Informal punishment of non-cooperators.
According to an influential theory known as "strong reciprocity", humans cooperate at high levels due to the rise of altruistic punishers, that is, individuals who not only cooperate themselves but also informally punish non-cooperators. Strong reciprocity theory assumes that this punishment is costly to the punisher but beneficial to the group, that is, the punisher behaves altruistically. The theory further assumes that by engaging in this individually costly but group-beneficial behavior, punishers gain a good reputation. The aim of my dissertation is to critically examine the empirical validity of these assumptions through a series of experimental studies. Overall, I find that the assumptions of strong reciprocity theory are not supported. (1) Punishment of non-cooperators does not seem to be driven by punishers having the group's interest at heart. In fact, I find that punishers in economic cooperative games tend not to be more cooperative than non-punishers. Punishers also tend to punish both non-cooperators and cooperators. I conclude that punishers seem to be characterized by being generally punitive rather than being generally altruistic. (2) Punishers of non-cooperators do not seem to gain a good reputation in general. Rather, informal social norms about the use of punishment seem to restrict it more than encourage it. Moreover, people who face the choice of whether to punish a non-cooperator seem not to tend to think of punishing as the moral thing to do.
My conclusion of these empirical results is that strong reciprocity theory paints an incorrect picture of the psychology of informal punishment of non-cooperators. I argue that this theory likely goes wrong already when it takes cooperative situations as its starting point, and that a better approach would be to assume that there is a more general psychology of informal punishment. I sketch what such an approach would entail.
Mahmood, L. (2016). Moments of State Mindfulness: Development of an online tool and its application to social judgements.
The overall aim of this thesis is to investigate the effectiveness of a 5-minute online mindfulness practice, and test its applications to social judgements including attribution and decision-making. The seven experiments (N = 959) presented in this thesis address an important gap in the current literature on mindfulness. Specifically: 1) the empirical test of the effectiveness of a 5-minute, single-session, online mindfulness manipulation and; 2) the impact of a brief mindfulness manipulation on social judgements.
At present, the majority of mindfulness research has focused on multiple sessions of practice over a number of weeks as part of a course, usually aimed at clinical populations, and at enhancing trait mindfulness (Brown & Ryan, 2003). There is evidence that such courses can be effectively delivered online (Allexandre, Neuman, Hunter, Morledge, & Roizen, 2012; Krusche, Cyhlarova, King, & Williams, 2012; Krusche, Cyhlarova, & Williams, 2013; Morledge et al., 2013) and emerging evidence for the use of single-session mindfulness with non-clinical samples (Erisman & Roemer, 2010; Heppner et al., 2008; Hong, Lishner, & Han, 2014; Hooper, Erdogan, Keen, Lawton, & Mchugh, 2015a; Jordan, Wang, Donatoni, & Meier, 2014; Kiken & Shook, 2011; Papies, Barsalou, & Custers, 2012; Weger, Hooper, Meier, & Hopthrow, 2012) that aims to increase state mindfulness (Bishop et al., 2004; Lau et al., 2006). In addition, although mindfulness exercises are readily available online and via smartphone apps, there has yet to be an empirical investigation of the effectiveness of self-help online practices, and whether brief, single-session practices actually enhance levels of mindfulness.
Based on evidence that some people prefer to complete such practices in their own surroundings (Beattie, Shaw, Kaur, & Kessler, 2009; Cavanagh et al., 2013), and that a smartphone app was preferred to an in-person and web-based mindfulness practice, it is expected that a short (5-minute) single-session, online mindfulness manipulation will effectively increase state mindfulness, measured by the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS, Lau et al., 2006).
Mindfulness is thought to be effective in slowing automatic responding (Jordan et al., 2014; Kiken & Shook, 2011; Papies et al., 2012) and may reduce reliance on previously learnt associations (Langer & Moldoveanu, 2000b), allowing attention to be refocused on aspects of the environment that usually go unnoticed. As such, it has the potential to reduce errors in attribution. Reliance on automatic processes in social judgements can be detrimental for social harmony. For example, the mindless use of heuristics and stereotypes in person judgement can lead to prejudice and discrimination (Abrams, 2010). Furthermore, dysfunctional group dynamics can lead to poorly made decisions (Berger & Zelditch, 1998; Larson, Foster-Fishman, & Franz, 1998; Stasser & Stewart, 1992; Stasser, Taylor, & Hanna, 1989). With this in mind, the beneficial effects that mindfulness can have on interpersonal relationships (e.g. increased empathy; Block-Lerner, Adair, Plumb, Rhatigan, & Orsillo, 2007) should also help to improve group decision-making.
The core aim of this thesis is to test whether a 5-minute, single-session, online mindfulness manipulation effectively increases state mindfulness, and then apply this to social judgements. Specifically, whether the mindfulness manipulation is effective in reducing attribution errors, and improving group decision-making. It is expected that after the mindfulness manipulation, participants will be less likely to respond in an automatic way when asked to attribute another individual's behaviour, or the cause of a situation based on limited information. Moreover, this is expected to improve the social experience of individuals working in groups and therefore increase decision-making accuracy.
This thesis presents seven experiments in which a 5-minute mindfulness manipulation is tested in different settings (Chapter 4), applied to two attribution errors (Chapters 5 and 6), and used before a group decision-making task (Chapter 7). A summary of the findings, and the theoretical and practical implications of the findings are presented alongside limitations and avenues for future research in the final chapter of this thesis (Chapter 8).