Caterina Suitner
University of Padova

Spatial Agency Bias: Mapping social agency into the visual field

Writing and reading are embedded in our everyday life. We read books, instructions, messages, signs, and the news; we write notes, emails, and status updates on Twitter or Facebook. Writing and reading entail eye and, for writing, also hand movements that are systematically directed. In this talk, I will discuss the role of writing and reading habits in social cognition, to show that direction of texts (e.g., rightward for English and leftward for Arabic) creates a spatial model for thinking. Script direction establishes a clear spatial organization of information, including socially relevant information, allowing for the creation of a shared reality. This can be compared to the railways, on which the mental images of our social world travel in our minds, and people in the same culture share this journey direction. One key aspect of this process is that this spatial organization of mental images is not devoid of meaning: The trajectory imposed by textual data affects how we mentally envisage action in general but also is enriched by social content, and specifically it is associated with agency, a key dimension of social thinking. 

Caterina Suitner got her PhD is 2009 and she is currently associate professor at University of Padova where she teaches Persuasion and Social Influence at the Master Degree in Community Psychology. Her research focuses on the relation between social cognition, space, and language, with particular attention to the role of para-semantic linguistic features and their role in attitude formation and change. She is also interested in the role of online information for attitude formation (e.g., trust in vaccines) and belief in fake news, in social inequality, and gender issues. She published in journals such as Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Psychological ScienceJournal of Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental PsychologyEuropean Journal of Social Psychology, and Social Cognition. She is Editor in Chief of the European Journal of Social Psychology, she has contributed to several edited books, has edited special issues for Social Psychology and for the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, she co-authored the book Living in an Asymmetrical World, published by Psychology Press. C. Suitner spent 1 year as PhD in Melbourne, 6 months at the New School and 5 months at the New York University as visiting scholar, strengthening her ties with the international community.

Sofia Stathi
University of Greenwich

Fostering positive intergroup relations and social equity via intergroup contact: Opportunities, challenges, and the way ahead

While diversity is increasing in large parts of the world, negative intergroup attitudes as well as tangible intergroup conflict raise social, political, and academic debates on how distinct groups can live peacefully together. Collective action movements advocating for or against social equity further fuel intergroup conflict. In this talk, a line of research that explores predictors of prejudice and solidarity-based collective action -in several countries around the world- will be presented and discussed in the context of current socio-political events (e.g., Black Lives Matter movement, rise of populism, refugee and migrant crisis). This line of research is largely guided by an integration between intergroup contact and collective action social psychological premises. Emphasis will be placed on understanding forms (e.g., direct/indirect) and valence (e.g., positive/negative) of intergroup contact, as well as contextual and individual variables that are pertinent in driving its effects. Overall, the talk will aim to delineate the potential of contact to enhance intergroup relations and social equity, but to also evaluate its limitations critically.

Dr Sofia Stathi is Associate Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Greenwich, UK. She gained a BSc in Psychology from the University of Crete, Greece, and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Birmingham, UK. Before joining the University of Greenwich, Sofia was a post-doctoral researcher and then Lecturer at the University of Kent, UK. Sofia is the Lead of the Centre for Inequalities at the University of Greenwich, and the Director of the Social Psychology Laboratory at the same institution. Sofia is an elected Committee Member at the Social Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. Sofia’s research focuses on intergroup relations, intergroup contact, (challenging) prejudice, and collective action. She uses predominantly quantitative methods to conduct basic and applied research that examines processes relating to majority-minority relations and social change. Sofia has co-authored a monograph and an edited volume on intergroup contact; has published various articles in outlets such as the European Journal of Social Psychology, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; and has received funding from research bodies such as the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council, and Catedra Real Madrid.