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Professor John Dixon

Profile summary

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 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 groups

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


The use of GNSS technology in smartphones to collect sensitive data on human mobility practices: Ethical challenges and potential solutions (2024)
Gonzales, Roberto; Martinez, Sui; Huck, Jonny and Dixon, John
American Psychologist, 79(1) (pp. 52-64)

Ironies of proximity: Intergroup threat and contact avoidance on neighbourhood interface areas (2023-11)
Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin; Durrheim, Kevin; Kerr, Philippa and Gijbertsen, Brice
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 33(6) (pp. 1331-1346)

Fuzzy Bayesian inference for mapping vague and place-based regions: a case study of sectarian territory (2023)
Huck, J; Whyatt, JD; Davies, G; Dixon, John; Sturgeon, B; Hocking, G; Tredoux, C; Jarman, N and Bryan, D
International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 37(8) (pp. 1765-1786)

The contact hypothesis and the virtual revolution: Does face-to-face interaction remain central to improving intergroup relations? (2023)
Bond, Julian; Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin and Andreouli, Eleni
PLOS ONE, 18, Article e0292831(12)

Thoroughly thought through? Experimenting with Registered Reports (2022-12)
Imhoff, Roland; Alexopoulos, Theodore; Cichocka, Aleksandra; Degner, Juliane; Dixon, John; Easterbrook, Matthew J.; Greenaway, Katharine H.; Henry, P. J.; Marshall, Tara; Papies, Esther K.; Rothmund, Tobias; Shnabel, Nurit and Smith, Joanne
European Journal of Social Psychology, 51(7) (pp. 1035-1037)

Navigating the divided city: Place identity and the time-geography of segregation (2022-12)
Dixon, John; Sturgeon, Brendan; Huck, Jonny; Hocking, Bree; Jarman, Neil; Bryan, Dominic; Whyatt, Duncan; Davies, Gemma and Tredoux, Colin
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 84, Article 101908

Everyday dehumanization: Negative contact, humiliation, and the lived experience of being treated as ‘less than human’ (2022)
Murray, Amy Jo; Durrheim, Kevin and Dixon, John
British Journal of Social Psychology, 61(3) (pp. 1050-1066)

Negative contact, collective action, and social change: Critical reflections, technological advances, and new directions (2021-03)
Dixon, John and McKeown, Shelley
Journal of Social Issues, 77(1) (pp. 242-257)

Fostering social change among advantaged and disadvantaged group members: Integrating intergroup contact and social identity perspectives on collective action (2021-01-01)
Di Bernardo, G. A.; Vezzali, L.; Stathi, S.; McKeown, S.; Cocco, V. M.; Dixon, J. and Saguy, T.
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 24(1) (pp. 26-47)

Can regenerated inner-city areas remain sites of public-place sociability? Psycho-social processes predicting public sociability in a changing neighbourhood (2021)
Bettencourt, Leonor; Castro, Paula and Dixon, John
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 31(1) (pp. 9-25)

A Liar and a Copycat: Nonverbal Coordination Increases with Lie Difficulty (2021)
Van Der Zee, Sophie; Taylor, Paul; Wong, Ruth; Dixon, John and Menacere, Tarek
Royal Society Open Science, 8, Article 200839(1)

‘When the walls come tumbling down’: The role of intergroup proximity, threat, and contact in shaping attitudes towards the removal of Northern Ireland’s peace walls (2020-10-03)
Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin; Sturgeon, Brendan; Hocking, Bree; Davies, Gemma; Huck, Jonny; Whyatt, Duncan; Jarman, Neil and Bryan, Dominic
British Journal of Social Psychology, 59(4) (pp. 922-944)

Parallel lives: Intergroup contact, threat and the segregation of everyday activity spaces (2020-03)
Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin; Davies, Gemma; Huck, Johnny; Hocking, Bree; Sturgeon, Brendan; Whyatt, Duncan; Jarman, Neil and Bryan, Dominic
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(3) (pp. 457-480)

It’s not just ‘us’ versus ‘them’: Moving beyond binary perspectives on intergroup processes (2020)
Dixon, John; Elcheroth, Guy; Kerr, Philippa; Drury, John; Albzour, Mai; Subašić, Emina; Durrheim, Kevin and Green, Eva
European Review of Social Psychology, 31(1) (pp. 40-75)

Xenophobic Violence and Struggle Discourse in South Africa. (2019-11-01)
Kerr, Philippa; Durrheim, Kevin and Dixon, John
Journal of Asian and African Studies, 54(7) (pp. 995-1011)

Understanding how and why spatial segregation endures: A systematic review of recent research on intergroup relations at a micro-ecological scale (2019-08-19)
Bettencourt, Leonor; Dixon, John and Castro, Paula
Social Psychological Bulletin, 14, Article e33482(2)

Exploring segregation and sharing in a divided city: A PGIS approach (2019)
Huck, J.J.; Whyatt, D.J.; Dixon, J.; Sturgeon, B.; Hocking, B.; Davies, G.; Jarman, N. and Bryan, D.
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 109(1) (pp. 223-241)

Networks of (Dis)connection: Mobility Practices, Tertiary Streets and Sectarian Divisions in North Belfast (2019)
Davies, Gemma; Dixon, John; Tredoux, Colin G.; Whyatt, J. Duncan; Huck, Jonny J.; Sturgeon, Brendan; Hocking, Bree T.; Jarman, Neil and Bryan, Dominic
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 109(6) (pp. 1729-1747)

Negotiating the Ground: ‘Mobilizing’ a Divided Field Site in the ‘Post-Conflict’ City (2018)
Hocking, Bree T.; Sturgeon, Brendan; Whyatt, Duncan; Davies, Gemma; Huck, Jonny; Dixon, John; Jarman, Neil and Bryan, Dominic
Mobilities, 13(6) (pp. 876-893)

‘Thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant?’ Transcending the accuracy-inaccuracy dualism in prejudice and stereotyping research (2017-03-16)
Dixon, John
British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(1) (pp. 4-27)

Beyond the two-group paradigm in studies of intergroup conflict and inequality: Third parties and intergroup alliances in xenophobic violence in South Africa (2017-03-16)
Kerr, Philippa; Durrheim, Kevin and Dixon, John
British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(1) (pp. 47-63)

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)

The Struggle for the Nature of “Prejudice”: “Prejudice” Expression as Identity Performance (2016-02)
Durrheim, Kevin; Quayle, Mike and Dixon, John
Political Psychology, 37(1) (pp. 17-35)

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, 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)

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)

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)

Explaining the paradoxical effects of intergroup contact: Paternalistic relations and system justification in domestic labour in South Africa (2014-07-31)
Durrheim, Kevin; Jacobs, Nicola and Dixon, John
International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 41 (pp. 150-164)

‘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)

Challenging the stubborn core of opposition to equality: racial contact and policy attitudes (2010-12)
Dixon, John; Durrheim, Kevin; Tredoux, Colin G.; Tropp, Linda R.; Clack, Beverley; Eaton, Liberty and Quayle, Michael
Political Psychology, 31(6) (pp. 831-856)

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)

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)

Beyond Prejudice as Antipathy: Understanding kinder, gentler forms of discrimination (2022)
Dixon, John and Langdridge, Darren
In: Tileagă, Cristian; Augoustinos, Martha and Durrheim, Kevin eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Discrimination, Prejudice and Stereotyping (pp. 213-230)
ISBN : 9780429274558 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Non-citizens' rights: Xenophobia, nationalism and struggle post-transition (2022)
Kerr, Philippa and Dixon, John
In: Elcheroth, Guy and de Mel, Neloufer eds. In the Shadow of Transitional Justice: Cross-national Perspectives on the Transformative Potential of Remembrance (pp. 91-103)
ISBN : 9781003167280 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

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