Psychology of groups, protests, and beliefs

The March for Science takes place April 22, 2017.  But what inspires people to join marches and protests? What really persuades people to accept information; facts, emotions, beliefs?  The following experts and materials are available to provide details to journalists on the social and personality psychology of groups, persuasion, and beliefs.


Collective effervescence – Feeling of belonging in crowds
Shira Gabriel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Psychology, SUNY University at Buffalo
(716) 645-0227
[email protected]

Gabriel’s research concerns the social nature of the self.  She studies traditional and non-traditional means of filling the need to belong.  For example, she is interested in how immersion in crowds (e.g., at rallies and protests) can provide a sense of social connection and a sense of well-being.

Morality, social influence, and “us vs them”
Randy Stein, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing, Cal Poly Pomona
[email protected]

Stein likes to research why people behave counter to their preferences and believe in things that strange and/or incorrect. This includes dabbling in morals, politics, lay beliefs, and other ways in which intuitions can lead people down unfortunate paths. His most recent work looks at how morals can lead people to polarize just about anything.

Political psychology, belief, and religion
Mark Brandt, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Tilburg University
[email protected]

Brandt’s goal is to understand ideological and moral beliefs – such as political ideology, religious fundamentalism, and moral conviction – and how they structure attitudes and behaviors, how they provide people with meaning, and why people adopt them in the first place.


From the Journals

The Political Domain Appears Simpler to the Politically Extreme Than to Political Moderates
Joris Lammers, Alex Koch, Paul Conway, Mark J. Brandt
Social Psychological and Personality Science

Eight studies demonstrate that people on both ends of the political spectrum—strong Republicans and strong Democrats—form simpler and more clustered categories of political stimuli than do moderates and neutrals. DOI: 10.1177/1948550616678456 

Movin’ on Up? How Perceptions of Social Mobility Affect Our Willingness to Defend the System

Martin V. Day, Susan T. Fiske
Social Psychological and Personality Science

Three studies tested whether perceived social mobility—beliefs about the likelihood to move up and down the socioeconomic ladder—can condition people’s tendency to engage in system justification. People’s willingness to maintain the societal status quo hinges, at least in part, on perceived opportunities to move up and down the socioeconomic ladder. Individuals are willing to prop up an imperfect system if they perceive a moderate level of social mobility. DOI: 10.1177/1948550616678454 


In Case You Missed It

Going Along with the Crowd Character & Context Blog
Social psychologists have shown that one main reason that people conform to social influences or social pressures is to maintain harmony among social group members (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004), but it has been hard to distinguish whether people change simply to go along with the group or whether they actually change deep down. Christopher N. Cascio, Christin Scholz & Emily B. Falk highlight what the brain has revealed about susceptibility to influence, as well as how people successfully influencing others.

What we talk about when we talk about Morality Character & Context Blog
How do people construct arguments when they are attempting to persuade others to adopt their moral beliefs? Moral beliefs are often subjective and sometimes divisive. Effective persuasive communication may require the use of appeals that are grounded in the normative ethics of deontology (principle-based appeals), consequentialism (outcome-based appeals), or emotivism (appeals to emotions) to boost credibility and engagement from your listener.

Facts, Beliefs, and Identity: The Seeds of Science Skepticism Press Release
From climate skeptics to anti-vaxxers, psychologists are studying what motivates and drives our decisions to pay attention to some facts while ignoring others. Using surveys, experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses, the researchers capture an emerging theoretical frontier with an eye to making science communication efforts smarter and more effective.

With over 7,000 members, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) is the largest organization of social psychologists and personality psychologists in the world. SPSP's mission is to produce and disseminate knowledge about personality and social psychology, facilitate the careers of students and professionals, and recognize and promote achievements in personality and social psychology. Visit us at

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