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Professor John Dixon

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Social Psychology
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Psychology
  • Psychology
  • john.dixon

Professional biography

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.

Research interests

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.

Teaching interests

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.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences

Publications

Beyond the two-group paradigm in studies of intergroup conflict and inequality: Third parties and intergroup alliances in xenophobic violence in South Africa (2017-03)
Kerr, Philippa; Durrheim, Kevin and Dixon, John
British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(1) (pp. 47-63)
‘Thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant?’ Transcending the accuracy-inaccuracy dualism in prejudice and stereotyping research (2017-02-03)
Dixon, John
British Journal of Social Psychology ((Early View))
The principle-implementation gap in attitudes towards racial equality (and how to close it) (2017-01-26)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin and Thomae, Manuela
Advances in Political Psychology, 38(S1) (pp. 91-126)
Contact, Political Solidarity and Collective Action: An Indian Case Study of Relations between Historically Disadvantaged Communities (2017-01-05)
Dixon, John; Cakal, Huseyin; Khan, Waheeda; Osmany, Meena; Majumdar, Sramana and Hassan, Mudassir
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 27(1) (pp. 83-95)
Divide and Rule, Unite and Resist: Contact, Collective Action and Policy Attitudes among Historically Disadvantaged Groups (2015-09-10)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Thomae, Manuela; Tredoux, Colin; Kerr, Philippa and Quayle, Michael
Journal of Social Issues, 71(3) (pp. 576-596)
The Social Psychology of Citizenship: Engagement With Citizenship Studies and Future Research (2015)
Stevenson, Clifford; Hopkins, Nick; Luyt, Russell and Dixon, John
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(2) (pp. 192-210)
The Social Psychology of Citizenship, Participation and Social Exclusion: Introduction to the Special Thematic Section (2015)
Stevenson, Clifford; Dixon, John; Hopkins, Nick and Luyt, Russell
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(2) (pp. 1-19)
More Than Words: Place, Discourse and the Struggle over Public Space in Barcelona (2015)
Di Masso, Andrés and Dixon, John
Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12(1) (pp. 45-60)
‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?’ Further Reflections on the Limits of Prejudice Reduction as a Model of Social Change (2013)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Kerr, Philippa and Thomae, Manuela
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1(1) (pp. 239-252)
Beyond prejudice: are negative evaluations the problem and is getting us to like one another more the solution? (2012-12)
Dixon, John; Levine, Mark; Reicher, Steve and Durrheim, Kevin
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35(6) (pp. 411-425)
On the contested nature of place: 'Figuera’s Well', 'The Hole of Shame' and the ideological struggle over public space in Barcelona (2011-09)
Di Masso, Andrés; Dixon, John and Pol, Enric
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31(3) (pp. 231-244)
Predicting support for racial transformation policies: intergroup threat, racial prejudice, sense of group entitlement and strength of identification (2011)
Durrheim, Kevin; Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin; Eaton, Liberty; Quayle, Michael and Clack, Beverley
European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(1) (pp. 23-41)
A paradox of integration? Interracial contact, prejudice reduction and perceptions of racial discrimination (2010-06)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Tredoux, Colin; Tropp, Linda; Clack, Beverley and Eaton, Libby
Journal of Social Issues, 66(2) (pp. 401-416)
Challenging the stubborn core of opposition to equality: racial contact and policy attitudes (2009-12)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Tredoux, Colin G.; Tropp, Linda R.; Clack, Beverley; Eaton, Liberty and Quayle, Michael
Political Psychology, 31(6) (pp. 831-856)
Mapping the multiple contexts of racial isolation: the case of Long Street, Cape Town (2009)
Tredoux, Colin Getty and Dixon, John Andrew
Urban Studies, 46(4) (pp. 761-777)
'The inner citadels of the color line’: Mapping the micro-ecology of segregation in everyday life spaces (2008-07)
Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin; Durrheim, Kevin; Finchilescu, Gillian and Clack, Beverley
Personality and Social Psychology Compass, 2(4) (pp. 1547-1569)
From prejudice reduction to collective action: Two psychological models of social change (and how to reconcile them) (2016-11)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Stevenson, Clifford and Cakal, Huseyin
In: Sibley, Chris G. and Barlow, Fiona Kate eds. Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Prejudice (pp. 481-499)
ISBN : 9781107098336 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge
Fact and evaluation in racist discourse revisited (2016)
Dixon, John and Taylor, Stephanie
In: Tileagă, Cristian and Stokoe, Elizabeth eds. Discursive Psychology: Classic and contemporary issues. Explorations in Social Psychology (pp. 271-288)
ISBN : 978-0-415-72160-8 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon
Beyond Prejudice: Extending the Social Psychology of Conflict, Inequality and Social Change (2012-02)
Dixon, John and Levine, Mark eds.
ISBN : 9780521198165 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge

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