'All psychology is social'

Our editor Dr Jon Sutton introduces a collection of links to pieces by or about social psychologists; with additional comment from Dr Shelley McKeown Jones, Chair of the British Psychological Society's Social Psychology Section.

Many, many moons ago I was in a job interview for a psychology lecturer post. ‘What type of psychologist are you?’, asked the Head of Department. ‘Well, I do a little bit of developmental, some forensic, a cognitive slant, social implications I guess…’ I replied. ‘No, but what type of psychologist are you?’, he pressed. ‘What journal do you have on your shelf, what conference do you go to?’ 

That drive to specialise was a big part of why I left academia. But if I was asked now, I think I’d probably have to answer ‘A social psychologist’. I’m drawn to social psychology, and to social psychologists. As Editor of The Psychologist I have to try to represent all corners of our discipline, but perhaps I’ve ended up including more social psychology in our pages than most other areas.

Here, we pull together some of those interviews and articles, along with some key coverage from our Research Digest.

But first, a few words from the current Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Social Psychology Section, Dr Shelley McKeown Jones (University of Bristol): 

“All psychology is social. We will never truly understand human behaviour without considering the social basis for who we are and what we do. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 

I probably don’t need to convince you, the reader checking out this exciting social psychology archive, that social psychology has made and will continue to make powerful contributions to scientific knowledge, policy and practice. And yet, from the outside, social psychology can look fractured and in crisis; are we failing to be methodologically rigorous? Are our classic studies and theories struggling to stand the test of time? In our pursuit for social justice, are we biased in the questions we ask and the approaches we use? Critical evaluation of ourselves as researchers, our positionality, and the ways in which we answer our research questions is vital for scientific progress. But in doing so, let’s not forget our contributions and our potential. 

The face of social psychology is changing, and for the better. Our diversity is our strength; from the theoretical to the methodological, from the positivist to the interpretivist, from the neuro to the narrative. Together, we have the ability to provide scientifically robust answers to the biggest challenges facing society. The discipline and the modern world need social psychology more than ever. Climate change, ethnic tensions, protest, human rights violations, education inequalities, politics, poverty. Need I say more? 

There is something really special about social psychology and about social psychologists. The work we do provides us with a lens in which we can better understand the social world, enabling us to challenge social inequalities, fight for social justice and, if we start to get a better handle on getting our voices out there, truly making the world a better place. We are not a social psychology in crisis, we are a social psychology that has the power to make a difference. Here’s to all of the social psychologists out there past, present and future. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you can do it. Get your voice out there and let’s make this archive a resource that truly represents social psychology in all its forms.”


‘I’ve just followed what interested me at the time’ – we meet Mick Billig

‘This incitement to “become different” can be both thrilling and terrifying’ – an interview with Paul Stenner 

Talk in slow motion – a 2013 interview with Elizabeth Stokoe
…which opened all kinds of doors, including a 2016 Latitude Festival appearance on ‘how to talk so people listen’ 
Plus a special collection on conversation analysis

Keon West on body image 

Interview with Alice Eagly

How do we ‘other’? Peter Hegarty

The legacy of Ignacio Martin Baro

Albert Bandura on achieving social change on a grand scale 

…and on moral disengagement

Eran Halperin’s work on peace
See also Ed Cairns and ‘can psychology find a path to peace?’ 

Sharon Coen on the age of celebrity politics  

Michele Birtel on contact, stigma and mental health

Peter Bull on shifting patterns of social identities in Northern Ireland

Aarti Iyer’s study of reader reactions to news of terrorism

Amplifying a relationship with psychology – we meet Robin Goodwin

Social psychology in the lion’s den …plus Jackie Abell’s ‘shelfie’ 

My shelfie… Michelle Ryan

‘Real things are just endlessly fascinating’ – we meet James Pennebaker

Free from the shackles – a 2011 interview with Alexander Haslam …who also curated this paradigm-shifting special collection on the ‘new psychology of health’
The rules of unruliness – Stephen D. Reicher from the 2017 Latitude Festival
Reicher and Haslam also contributed to our Research Digest ‘week of sin’ 

Clifford Stott has done lots of high impact work on policing and crowds

John Drury’s path to impact: from riots to crowd safety 

The social psychology of cybersecurity 

Big data in the big city, from Catherine Lido

‘We have to bust up the orthodoxy’ – Jonathan Haidt on psychology’s liberal bias

Sian Jones on imagined interaction and prejudice

Imagining harmonious intergroup relations – Rhiannon Turner

A ‘shelfie’ from David Carless
…and more about his arts-based research and collaborator Kitrina Douglas 

‘We live in a hugely psychologised society’ – Juliet Foster (Chair of the Society’s Education and Training Board)

Contributions from Dominic Abrams

The work of Richard Crisp

Signposting to BME psychological and anti-racist work

The work of current Social Psychology Section Honorary Secretary Daniel Jolley

The Adam Buxton podcast has occasionally featured social psychologists, including this recent episode on surveillance capitalism with Shoshana Zuboff  

A 2005 special issue which I’m afraid needs a lot of tidying up, but includes excellent contributions from big names introduce by Tony Manstead and Margie Wetherell


Psychology’s ‘classics’ are often considered the foundations of social psychology, and a big part of the discipline in recent years has been a revisionist approach to those studies. So you can find lots of new insight in our archive on:

Milgram (plus lots more, including a special issue from 2011, in our archive)



Bystander apathy 

Muzafer Sherif and Robbers Cave 

the Macbeth effect 

and more.


Which social psychologists do you most admire? 

We asked this question on Twitter, and there was a huge response. As much as anything, it made us realise there’s a more diverse group of social psychologists beyond our shores who we should be thinking about inviting to contribute. 

There were numerous mentions for some of those featured above, including Mick Billig, Albert Bandura, Michelle Ryan, Steve Reicher, Alex Haslam, John Drury, Jamie Pennebaker, Muzafer Sherif.

Other names included:

Margaret Wetherell

Zygmunt Bauman

Susan Condor

Martha Augoustinos

Silvia Lane

Ana Bock

Fernando Gonzalez Rey

Rich Petty

Yasemin Gulsum Acar

John Dixon

Kevin Durrheim

Claire Selltiz

Wendy Stainton-Rogers

Bernard Rime

Hannah Zagefka

Linda Tropp

Sally Wiggins

Linda Skitka

Carolyn Hafer

Gordon Allport

Jonathan Potter

Sue Widdicombe

Isidore Obot

Elliot Aronson

Amelie Mummendey

Jose Miguel Salazar

Seger Handoyo

Henri Tajfel


Follow the thread as it develops! 


Who have we still missed?

Engage with us on Twitter.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber