Flinders marks social psychology milestone

This week, Flinders University is hosting the 50th Anniversary conference of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists, which is most appropriate, as Flinders was also the location of the society’s very first gathering, in 1972.

The society – and social psychology at Flinders – has focused on research related to such issues as social justice and reconciliation, conflict, motivation for environmental action, dynamics that shape radicalisation,  gender equity, prejudice and discrimination, tall poppy syndrome, workplace relations, relationships, positive psychology, and psychological wellbeing.

Professor Emma Thomas, from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, says that this week over 250 social psychologists will gather for the conference, being held at the Pullman Hotel in Adelaide from Thursday 24 November to Saturday 26 November. For conference registration options, click here.

The seeds of the annual conference were sown in 1972, when Emeritus Professor Norm Feather and Professor Leon Mann AO, both from the newly established School of Psychology at Flinders University, established an informal network of people interested in social psychology.

“The 1972 Flinders Social Psychology conference was great success. It began 50 years of lively annual meetings of social psychologists held  throughout Australia and New Zealand,” says Professor Mann.

“It introduced a positive welcoming culture for young social psychologists to present their work and receive a supportive hearing. It established a network of social psychologists who collaborated, promoted the discipline, and became its leaders. The Flinders Social Psychology Conference of 1972 is an impotent part of the history of social psychology in this country.”

The informal meeting grew into an annual conference and then, in 1994, the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) was formed, a vibrant network of social psychologists from Australasia (primarily Australia and New Zealand). Today SASP represents one of strongest cohorts of social psychology around the world, with Australasia recognised internationally as a hub for excellence in social psychology.

SASP has actively nurtured research higher degree students, and much social psychology work done in Australia has had a significant and lasting impact on the discipline globally.

“Social psychologists have been especially important over the past 2 years, with their theories predicting and explaining social behaviour to governments and peak bodies in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic,” says SASP President, Professor Brock Bastian. “Social psychology has a bright future in Australia and is going from strength to strength in terms of its capacity to attract the world’s best researchers and students, and in its capacity to deliver invaluable knowledge to governments, organisations, and individuals on the fundamentals of human social behaviour.”

For 50 years, Flinders has been a leader in the area of social psychology, with researchers examining the way that social context and group dynamics impact on human behaviour including (but not limited to) motivation, achievement, justice, collective action, workplace dynamics, national security, conflict and reconciliation, relationships, wellbeing, whistleblowing, hope, radicalisation, shame and stigma, online mobilisation and shaming.

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College of Education Psychology and Social Work