Having grown up in Northern Ireland and South Africa, I have a particular interest in the social psychology of intergroup contact, conflict, desegregation, and re-segregation in historically divided societies. I am also a firm believer in the idea that methods and concepts must be adequate to the complexity of psychological processes as they unfold in everyday life contexts. This has led me to explore a variety of methodological and conceptual frameworks, including frameworks ‘borrowed’ from other disciplines such as linguistics, geography and sociology. It has also led me to avoid the (for me fruitless) polarization of ‘quantitative’ versus ‘qualitative’ research in social psychology.
I joined our department in June of 2011, having previously lectured at Lancaster University and the Universities of Worcester and Cape Town. Since 2009, I have also acted as Editor (with Jolanda Jetten) of the British Journal of Social Psychology.
I have contributed to three main areas of inquiry:
Intergroup contact and social change: First, working in collaboration with colleagues in South Africa, I have investigated the social psychology of contact, prejudice and social change in post-apartheid society. In so doing, I have extended work on the so-called "contact hypothesis." For example, I have argued that contact sometimes has ironic effects on the political attitudes of the historically disadvantaged, reducing their willingness to recognise and resist social inequality or to support policies designed to implement political change. Relatedly, I have also interrogated the limits of the prejudice reduction model of social change that dominates social psychology – a theme developed in a recent paper entitled ‘Beyond prejudice: Are negative evaluations the problem? Is getting us to like one another more the solution?’ (Dixon et al., in press).
The microecology of segregation: A second strand of my work has focused on everyday practices of segregation. The role of racial segregation in perpetuating inequality and division has been well documented by social scientists. Most research, however, has concentrated on the macro-sociological organization of institutions of residence, education and employment. I suggest that such work may be usefully complemented by research that investigates the ‘micro-ecology of segregation’ in everyday life spaces - the dynamic, largely informal, network of social practices through which individuals maintain racial isolation within settings where members of other race groups are physically co-present. Among other contributions, my collaborative research has explored varying methodological techniques for mapping the micro-ecological dimensions of segregation (see http://www.contactecology.com/). It has also used the study of micro-ecological processes as a context in which to examine the nature and causes of so-called "preferential segregation" and to explore how, why, and when segregation becomes such a tenacious system for organizing social life.
Intergroup relations and human geography: Finally, on a broader level, my work has highlighted a gap in the social psychological literature. Social psychology is often defined as the study of behaviour in context. However, the discipline has characteristically neglected one of the most fundamental contextual dimensions of social life, namely its geographic ‘locatedness’. All social life unfolds with material and symbolic environments (places) that are both socially constituted and constitutive of the social. Acknowledgement of this so-called ‘spatial dimension’ opens up new ways of looking at phenomena such as the formation of social identities and relationships. I am particularly interested in using concepts such as place identity and boundary transgression to enrich the social psychology of intergroup relations and to build interdisciplinary links between our discipline and companionate disciplines such as environmental psychology and human geography
Dixon, J., Levine, M., Reicher, S. & Durrheim, K. (in press). Beyond prejudice: Are negative evaluations the problem? Is getting us to like one another more the solution? Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Dixon, J. & Levine, M. (Eds). (2012). Beyond prejudice: Extending the social psychology of intergroup conflict, inequality and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dixon, J., Tropp, L.R., Durrheim, K., & Tredoux, C.G. (2010). ‘Let them eat harmony’: Prejudice reduction and the political attitudes of historically disadvantaged groups. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 76-80.
Tredoux, C. & Dixon, J.A. (2009). Mapping the multiple contexts of racial isolation: Some reflections on the concept of scale in segregation research. Urban Studies, 46, 761-777.
Dixon, J. et al. (2008). ‘The inner citadels of the colour line’: Mapping the micro-ecology of segregation in everyday life spaces. Personality and Social Psychology Compass, 2, 1-23.
Dixon, J., Durrheim, K., & Tredoux, C. (2007). Intergroup contact and attitudes towards the principle and practice of racial equality. Psychological Science, 18, 867-872.
Hopkins, N. & Dixon, J.A. (2006). Space, place and political psychology. Political Psychology, 27, 173-185.
Dixon, J., Durrheim, K. & Tredoux, C. (2005). Beyond the optimal contact strategy: A ‘reality check’ for the contact hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 697-711.
Durrheim, K. & Dixon, J. (2005). Racial Encounter: The social psychology of contact and desegregation. London: Psychology Press.
Dixon, J. & Durrheim, K. (2004). Dislocating identity: Desegregation and the transformation of place. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 455-473.
Durrheim, K & Dixon, J. (2004). Attitudes in the fibre of everyday life: The discourse of racial evaluation and the lived experience of desegregation. American Psychologist, 59, 626-636.
I currently teach on two courses, namely Discovering Psychology (DSE141) and Social psychology: critical perspectives on self and others (DD307). I also supervise several PhD students both within and outside the Open University.
|Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)||Centre||Faculty of Social Sciences|