Thesis (Research Proposal and Plan)

Well, I’m half way into my second week at Birmingham, and it has been hectic! I’ve met my supervisor, as well as a PHD student working on this study. I’ve also been to the University of Surrey to meet the other half of our research team, and from these meetings I’ve worked and re-worked my research proposal to the point where I feel comfortable submitting it.

So, as promised, here is an explanation of my work in Birmingham:

Essentially, I’ll be looking at the interaction between individual emotions (those derived from individual definitions of self) and collective emotions (those derived from self-categorization as a member of a social group), on adolescent tolerance.

What does this mean? Well, I am joining a running project between a (political) psychologist from Birmingham and (developmental) psychologist from Surrey. They are working together to look at how emotions impact how teenagers reason about asylum seekers’ rights. For example, if we are very angry, are we more or less likely to be tolerant towards asylum seekers than if we are scared? How about hopeful? Also, does this change based on the type of right? For example, are we more/less likely to be tolerant about religious rights?

My contribution to this project is including collective, or intergroup emotions to the analysis. What’s a collective emotion? Well, it could be the pride experienced when one’s national team wins in the Olympics, or the anger felt when an opposition political party wins a close election. In my research, the intergroup emotional manipulation focuses on social identities, for example the anger, fear or hope felt when hearing about your group (British) interacting with another group (asylum seekers).


Collective emotions in general are really interesting to study, and looking at the interaction between individual and collective emotions is fascinating.  From this research I hope to answer questions such as:

  1. How are emotions derived from groups?
  2. How do we negotiate dissonance between emotional valence? Or, If the emotion felt and imparted by the group is different to our emotion, will we change our tolerance to fit the group’s state?
  3. Which one (collective/individual; anger/fear/hope) has greater “power”?
  4.  Would this suggest a top-down or bottom-up approach of emotion negotiation?
  5. How can this information be used in a practical way to improve the experience of asylum seekers and increase tolerance?

I hope this makes sense. It’s only week two, so of course the direction of research may (and will) change at least a few times before I hand in my dissertation in August. But, if you have any questions, please let me know! My next blog post will discuss the methods of my research, and answer any questions.



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