The Social Injustice and Social Change (SISC) group investigates motivations for, and responses to, social change in diverse societies. In so doing, we hope to better understand societies that are becoming more diverse but remain profoundly unequal and divided.

One goal of our research is to understand how social relationships shape our awareness of, and opposition to, social injustice. Critics have argued that intergroup contact—personal experiences with an advantaged outgroup—might have the “ironic” effect of reducing support for social change in disadvantaged groups. In a preregistered meta-analysis, we found some evidence that intergroup contact reduces perceived injustice, collective action, and support for reparative policies—but also showed that these effects are small, variable, and consistent with alternative explanations. For example, we found cross-sectional, longitudinal, and meta-analytic evidence that negative contact encourages collective action while positive contact was unrelated to support for social change after controlling for negative contact with the advantaged outgroup. In recent work, we used social network analysis to show that disadvantaged-group members look to their ingroup friends, not their outgroup friends, to inform their beliefs about injustice.

Example of a friendship network in a school year group

In other work, we tested whether intergroup contact might motivate advantaged-group members to join the struggle against social injustice as allies. In past research, we found cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence that contact with disadvantaged-group members can motivate advantaged-group members to engage in solidarity-based collective action. In recent work, however, we sought to replicate this finding in a large sample using better longitudinal models and found evidence consistent with spurious correlations but inconsistent with a causal effect. We will continue our efforts to paint a more complete picture of how social relationships shape awareness of, and opposition to, social injustice in diverse societies.

Another goal of our research is to understand double standards in where people draw the line between what is and is not an acceptable means to effect social change. In recent work, we showed that people judge the same controversial protest actions to be more acceptable if the protester’s cause aligns with their own ideological position—in other words, that the end can justify the means of protests. In ongoing work, we are further investigating the social, political, and moral psychological underpinnings of when and why people judge controversial protest actions to be acceptable means to further a cause. This research might help explain the often divided response to recent social movements.

To find out more about our research, you can read our papers and preprints.

Our research draws on social, political, and moral psychological theories, consists of innovative experimental and non-experimental studies, uses advanced quantitative methods, and follows open science practices. We strive to build a research group that is productive, supportive, collaborative, and inclusive—a community in which everyone belongs and anyone can thrive.