2014_stefania_paolini_120Stefania Paolini

What is your academic history?
I received my Bachelor of Psychology (Honors) from the University of Padova, Italy, and continued at the University of Padova with a Post Graduate Qualification to Practice Psychology. My PhD was completed at the University of Wales, Cardiff in the UK. I now work at the School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Australia lecturing on social, cross-cultural, and Aboriginal psychology. .

What trends in social psychology are of current interest you?
I’m interested in how being part of a group impacts on the way you approach the world more broadly, and the way you respond to people who are from groups different to yours.

So, my ongoing research focuses on intergroup contact, the cognitive and affective bases of intergroup friendship and diversity, the motivational and affective predictors of people's willingness to engage in intergroup contact, intergroup emotions, intergroup anxiety, and their learning mechanisms; migrants' psychology; stereotype change; and the effects of meta-cognitions on social judgment. .

Are you inspired by any particular researchers?
In 1954, renowned American personality psychologist Gordon Allport published his highly influential tome, "The Nature of Prejudice," shaping the literature in this field. Allport's book explores the inherent internal conflicts that lead to societally mandated prejudice, directly informing monumental positive policy change related to desegregation in the United States. Also, I completed my PhD under the supervision of one of the most influential and productive social psychologists in the world, Prof Miles Hewstone (now at University of Oxford). His work and his ability to translate his research to policy makers and varied community stakeholders is still a huge inspiration for me.

What has been your most surprising/interesting research finding in your years of research?
My work on intergroup relations suggested that unless carefully controlled, and definitely positive, contact between groups (such as Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland or Muslim and non-Muslim in Australia or the US) may be more likely to confirm existing bias, increasing conflict, rather than having a positive effect on group relationships. Whereas negative experiences with what we perceive as ‘the other’ might be psychologically more influential, positive experiences far outnumber negative experiences and thus dilute the detrimental effects of negativity. Moreover, we now know that those with a history of more contact with diversity are also less susceptible to ‘the tyranny’ of future negativity, speaking again of the importance of encouraging and facilitating positive intergroup experiences in this world whenever possible.

What initially attracted you to the field of social psychology?
My interest in social and intergroup psychology started very early in my undergraduate studies at the University of Padova, Italy. What immediately struck me was the possibility offered by social psychology to combine the study of complex human behaviors with methodological rigor and elegance.

How did you first hear of SBP Journal and what has been your involvement with the journal in the past?
I have acted as reviewer of submissions to the journal in the past and like its relatively broad scope. I have reviewed journals in social psychology and related disciplines for over 15 years and would like to give some of this experience back to see this journal grow and increase its reach.