Below is a brief summary of some of our current and recent projects
How and when do close cross-group relationships improve intergroup relations? Research shows that having friends in other social groups, such as friends from different ethnic, religious, or national backgrounds from yourself, predicts lower levels of intergroup anxiety and prejudice. In our recent research, we have been (a) comparing intra and intergroup friendships and how they develop over time, (b) exploring the factors that explain when exposure to diversity will translate into meaningful intergroup contact, and (c) investigating the role of personality factors in explaining when and how intergroup contact arises, and (d) examining the role of cross-group romantic relationships in improving intergroup relations. This research has in part been funded by the British Academy (Paterson, Turner, & Conner, 2015; Turner & Feddes, 2011; Turner, Dhont, Hewstone, Prestwich, & Vonofakou, 2014).
Can indirect contact help to preparing people for successful face-to-face intergroup encounters? In research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, we have been examining whether if people imagine a positive interaction with an outgroup member (imagined contact) or learn about the positive contact experiences of other ingroup members (extended contact) prior to meeting a member of that group, this make the interaction run more smoothly. In this work, we examined whether such ‘indirect’ contact interventions help to reduce physiological indicators of stress (electro-dermal activity, heart rate reactivity) and ensure more positive non-verbal behaviour (e.g., more eye contact, closer seating distance) when anticipating, or when actually engaged in, an interaction with an outgroup member (Turner & West, 2012; West & Turner, 2014; West, Turner, & Levita, 2015).
Does feeling nostalgic help to reduce the stigmatization of outgroup members? We have developed a programme of research looking at how nostalgia about past intergroup encounters can help to encourage positive intergroup attitudes and behaviours. So far we have shown that nostalgia can reduce weight and mental health stigma by increasing social connectedness, empathy, trust, and inclusion of the outgroup in the self, and by reducing intergroup anxiety. We are also looking at the role of nostalgia in changing attitudes towards older adults (Turner, Wildschut, & Sedikides, 2011; Turner, Wildschut, Sedikides, & Gheorghiu, 2013).
Children and interethnic tensions in Croatia. The goal of this developing line of work is to examine how persistent intergroup hostility may affect youth in the transition to adolescence. Specifically, we have conducted two waves of data, qualitative focus groups which informed pilot research to establish the psychometric properties of new, contextually-relevant risk and protective factors. We are currently in the planning stages for a three-year longitudinal study.
Political violence, mental health, civic participation, and political attitudes in Colombia. This research aims to identify what factors function as the antecedents of more constructive participation in peacebuilding or transitional justice initiatives in Columbia, a context of ongoing violence. The findings from this project have direct policy implications for local and national government officials and NGOs interested in promoting well-being and reconciliation.
Understanding marginalised youth communities in the US. This line of research examines risk and protective factors for young people's mental health and prosocial behaviors, such as intergroup cooperation, in diverse settings, particularly among children from immigrant and refugee families. Taking a social ecological approach, we examine how family factors, such as social support, and community dynamics, such as social trust/cohesion or ethnic fractionalization, affect youth development.
Political leadership, identity and trust. The research conducted within this area focuses on the one hand on the meaning of trust in contexts of inter-group conflict and, on the other hand, on understanding the role of political leaders in transforming the nature of (dis)trustful inter-group relations.
Collective or historical nostalgia, continuity and identity. At the moment, this research is carried out in Northern Ireland and Eastern Europe. In both regions, the drastic political changes have led to a new social reality to which national and political groups need to adapt. The particular focus of this research is on how these groups use the past to articulate their present identities.