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Social psychology today

22nd August 2020, LOUPS Online
Online booking has now closed, please contact london@oups.org.uk for availability.

Each year our London branch (LOUPS) holds a one-day conference that aims to give the opportunity to both OU students and anyone else who is interested in psychology to hear from leading researchers and practitioners in the field. 

This year has seen circumstances beyond what any of us imagined, and the situation is still changing. Our knowledge of the COVID-19 virus as the pandemic has spread is developing all the time, and research scientists have been in the public spotlight in terms of "what the science says". Psychologists too, in particular social psychologists, have received much attention as we search for explanations of how we as people feel, think and behave in these situations.

We have brought together three experts in the field to present their recent thinking, and to share ways in which their particular perspectives might help us to understand social behaviour, and how this knowledge might help us to adapt and improve our lives.

The Conference is open to all students, graduates, academics and practitioners, both within and outside of the Open University. It will appeal to all those interested in social behaviour and those working or interested in applied psychology.

Membership discount

OUPS members receive a 20% discount on this event.

How to join the event

You can buy this event just like any other OUPS event.

  • We will then send you several reminder emails as the event approaches, each containing a personalised link. You can click on any of these to join the event.
  • Once you have bought this event, you can also find your link to join the session right here, along with any event materials. You will just need to log into the website and come back to this page shortly before the event.


John Drury

Professor John Drury (University of Sussex)

'The role of social psychology in responses to the pandemic: Don’t blame the public'

"Public behaviour has been crucial in an effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, our sense of social identity and obligation has been a key driver of staying home, distancing and the other actions required to reduce transmission of the virus. But public behaviour has been criticized and blamed - in particular some people’s apparent neglect of distancing regulations as well as other instances of apparent selfishness, such as ‘panic buying’. In this presentation, I argue that the role of public ‘bad behaviour’ in the spread of the virus has been over-stated. I also argue that changes in public behaviour away from the strict adherence we saw in the early days of the pandemic coincide with a change in the messaging from the government, and that we need to understand public behaviour as mediated by this messaging."

John Drury is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex. His research focuses on crowd behaviour – collective action, mass emergencies and mass gatherings. Some of the crowd events he has researched include the 2011 English riots, the London bombings of July 7th 2005, the Hillsborough disaster, and the 2010 Chile earthquake. He teaches crowd psychology to the UK Fire and Rescue Service and to crowd safety managers around the world. His research on mass emergencies has informed the training of over 2000 crowd safety managers and stewards across the UK and European football clubs. He heads the Crowds & Identities group at the University of Sussex and was editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology until 2019.

Elizabeth Stokoe

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe (Loughborough University)

‘Talking in the time of coronavirus: The science of conversation’

'While most of us probably agree that communication is important, psychologists have been slow to study how and what people actually do when they communicate. Despite psychologists being thought of as ‘professional people watchers’, it is ironic that you have to look outside of psychology to get to grips with understanding how we talk. In this presentation, I will describe my work in conversation analysis, drawing on examples from the lockdown period – from how we interact online to how we navigate the new norms of social distancing – to show the range and scope of this interdisciplinary approach.'

Elizabeth Stokoe is Professor of Social Interaction and an Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor at Loughborough University. She uses conversation analysis to understand how talk works - from first dates to medical communication. Outside the university, she runs research-based communication training for practitioners. In addition to publishing over 130 scientific papers, she is passionate about science communication and has spoken at TED, New Scientist, Google, Microsoft, The Royal Institution, and Cheltenham Science Festivals. Her book, Talk: The Science of Conversation, is published by Little, Brown (2018). Her research and biography were featured on the BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific.

 Emma O'DwyerDr Emma O'Dwyer (Kingston University)

'Solidarity not charity? A political psychological perspective on UK COVID-19 mutual aid groups'

The Covid-19 crisis has provoked a significant humanitarian response. Within this response, mutual aid groups have been instrumental. These groups (over 4500 in the UK at the time of writing) were set up to assist community members, especially vulnerable or at risk individuals, by providing practical assistance (e.g. grocery shopping), emotional support (e.g. welfare phone calls to those isolating) and advice. They are organised usually on a hyper-local basis - neighbours helping neighbours typifies their activities. Groups can be more or less ideological - some view their activities in terms of short-term ‘crisis response’ while others view mutual aid during Covid-19 as an opportunity to radically restructure society in line with principles of localism, reciprocity, and equality. In this talk, I will present initial findings from an ongoing mixed-methods research project which examines the psychological, social, and political implications of participation in UK Covid-19 mutual aid groups. I will firstly discuss potential positive effects of participation on well-being during Covid-19 (so-called ‘social cure’ processes). Drawing upon interview data, I will then go on to elaborate the political implications of participation by developing an understanding of Covid-19 mutual aid groups as spaces in which new forms of citizenship are developed, rehearsed, and enacted. I will end by drawing these two themes together and highlighting some theoretical and practical implications, particularly how mutual aid groups might enable increased social cohesion, solidarity, and community participation as we progress through the pandemic and its aftermath.

Emma O’Dwyer is a Senior Lecturer in political psychology at Kingston University, London. She joined Kingston University in 2013 after completing a PhD in political psychology at Queen’s University, Belfast. Broadly, her interests map onto two related areas. The first concerns the way in which people understand and relate to foreign policy issues and she has explored this in relation to Irish foreign policy and attitudes towards drone warfare. The second relates to the broad topics of citizenship, political participation, and social change – she has explored these issues within the context of Brexit, peace activism, and most recently in her work on mutual aid groups. She currently supervises three PhD students on diverse topics in political psychology – social representations of medicinal cannabis, teachers’ understandings of radicalisation, and liberal and conservative understandings of American national identity. 



  • 10.00 - 11.15   Session 1
  • 11.15 - 11.30   Break
  • 11.30 - 12.45   Session 2
  • 12.45 - 13.30   Lunch break
  • 13.30 - 14.45   Session 3


Some of the things delegates have said about the previous LOUPS Conferences.

"This was an excellent conference, very impressive range of highly qualified speakers and a very well run event."

"It was a very good conference and incredibly interesting."

"Many thanks to all the committee for making such a brilliant one day conference happen."

"I found all the talks truly fascinating and very much worthwhile. ... All the speakers were brilliant ..."

"Great event, covered a very interesting range of topics."


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