Postgraduate Programmes

Research Projects for MA Students 2022 (Supervisor: Prof Kitty Dumont)

Four research projects are available in 2022 (see list below). 

Field of specialisation: Social Psychology and Environmental Psychology 

Research Focus Area: relationships between individuals and social groups; personal and social identities; cognitive representations of social categories; intergroup attitudes, emotions and behaviour in social change situations, and interpersonal and intergroup communication 

Expectations: 

  1. Students are expected to attend the weekly research group meetings: Wednesday from 7 pm – 8.30 pm via zoom. 

  1. Students are expected and encouraged to present on a regular basis the progress of their individual research projects to the research group. This space offers students an opportunity to get valuable feedback from colleagues. 

  1. Students are expected to engage on a weekly basis with the supervisor about their progress in developing the research proposal. 

Application:  

In case you are interested to work in one of the listed research projects, please contact via email Prof Kitty Dumont (dumonkb@unisa.ac.za). For an informed decision you might access the listed references. In case you do not have access to any library, please feel free to contact Prof Kitty Dumont to request the sources. Please indicate the project you are interested in and provide a summary outlining your motivation/reasoning. Prof Dumont will arrange a meeting to discuss the details and the way forward shortly after.

 

Project 1 

Bullshitting – misleading oneself and others without consequences?

Brief Description 

People often believe in the necessity to have (and societies often demand of everyone) an informed opinion about everything which inadvertently promotes bullshitting. Bullshitting as social behaviour is defined as communications that result from little or no concern for truth, evidence and/or established semantic, logical systematic or empirical knowledge (Frankfurt, 2005). People bullshit in interpersonal relations (e.g., Littrell et al., 2021), in organisations (e.g., bullshit jobs, see Delucchi et al., 2021), in politics (Pfattheicher, & Schindler, 2016), and even in the world of art (e.g., Turpin et al., 2019). Although, bullshitting differs from talking nonsense and lying, most people are not only bad in spotting the differences but also receptive to bullshit (e.g., Evan et al., 2020). As common as bullshitting appears to be, as common is the struggle against it as it violates the basic conversational maxim of quality (i.e., the reasonable assumption that the speaker in a conversation makes contributions that are true). The research project should address the communicative function, purpose, intention, and the consequences of bullshitting.  

References and further Readings 

Delucchi, M., Dadzie, R. B., Dean, E., & Pham, X. (2021). What’s that smell? Bullshit jobs in higher education. Review of Social Economy, 1-22. 

Evans, A., Sleegers, W., & Mlakar, Ž. (2020). Individual differences in receptivity to scientific bullshit. Judgment and Decision Making, 15(3), 401. 

Frankfurt, H. (2005). On bullshit. Princeton University Press.  

Littrell, S., Risko, E. F., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2021). ‘You can’t bullshit a bullshitter’ (or can you?): Bullshitting frequency predicts receptivity to various types of misleading information. British journal of social psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjso.12453 

Pfattheicher, S., & Schindler, S. (2016). Misperceiving bullshit as profound is associated with favorable views of Cruz, Rubio, Trump and conservatism. PloS one, 11(4), e0153419. 

Turpin, M. H., Walker, A., Kara-Yakoubian, M., Gabert, N. N., Fugelsang, J., & Stolz, J. A. (2019). Bullshit makes the art grow profounder. Turpin, MH, Walker, AC, Kara-Yakoubian, M., Gabert, NN, Fugelsang, JA, & Stolz, JA (2019). Bullshit makes the art grow profounder. Judgment and Decision Making, 14(6), 658-670. 

Research Methodologies 

Surveys and Social Psychological Experiment 

Degree 

Masters by Research 

Supervisor 

Prof Kitty Dumont (dumonkb@unisa.ac.za

Space available 

Two MA candidates 

 

Project 2 

Why do people not respond to Climate Change with the urgency which is required?  

Brief Description 

For over half a century, scientists and activists have been outlining the devastating implications of climate change. Yet, it seems the message that “our house is on fire” does not result in attitudinal and behavioral changes as greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures keep climbing. To understand why and when people fail to respond to the climate threat with meaningful action, psychological and social factors need to be identified that shape the willingness of people to accept the reality of human-induced climate change. The research project should address how climate change responses depend on climate change appraisals applying appraisal theory as a theory of human agency (Scherer et al., 1999). Appraisal theory might not only assist in formally defining concepts such as threat, challenge and emotions which render climate change experiences (Van der Linden, 2014) but also to extend our understanding of psychological coping efforts.  

References and further Readings 

Leach, C. W. (2020). The unifying potential of an appraisal approach to the experience of group victimization. J. R. Vollhardt (Ed.), The social psychology of collective victimhood (pp. 141-160). Oxford University Press 

Scherer, K. R. (1999). Appraisal theory. In T. Dalgleish & M. J. Power (Eds.), Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 637–663). John Wiley & Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/0470013494.ch30 

Van der Linden, S. (2014). On the relationship between personal experience, affect and risk perception: The case of climate change. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(5), 430-440. 

Research Methodologies 

Surveys and Social Psychological Experiment 

Degree 

Masters by Research 

Supervisor 

Prof Kitty Dumont (dumonkb@unisa.ac.za

Space available 

Two MA candidates 

 

Project 3 

The various faces of intolerance 

Brief Description 

Intolerance is not a new phenomenon. Current events suggest that we live in especially intolerant times. World-wide it seems that people are intolerant of migrants, refugees, and cultural and religious minorities. Likewise, people are seemingly intolerant of viewpoint diversity resulting in disinvitations, deplatforming, firings, and intimidation (commonly described as cancel culture). Yet, not all forms of intolerance are the same. For instance, Verkuyten et al. (2020) distinguish between prejudicial intolerance, intuitive intolerance, and deliberative intolerance. The present research project should explore whether the different forms of intolerance result in different implications for (a) how to respond to intolerance, and (2) how disagreements on interpretation of examples of intolerance can result in irreconcilable differences among cultural, religious, and ideological groups. 

References and further Readings 

Verkuyten, M., & Yogeeswaran, K. (2017). The social psychology of intergroup toleration: A roadmap for theory and research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 21(1), 72-96. 

Verkuyten, M., Adelman, L., & Yogeeswaran, K. (2020). The Psychology of intolerance: Unpacking diverse understandings of intolerance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 29(5), 467-472. 

Verkuyten, M., Yogeeswaran, K., & Adelman, L. (2020). Toleration and prejudice‐reduction: Two ways of improving intergroup relations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 50(2), 239-255. 

Yogeeswaran, K., Verkuyten, M., & Ealam, B. (2020). A way forward? The impact of interculturalism on intergroup relations in culturally diverse nations. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 1368430220918651. 

Research Methodologies 

Surveys and Social Psychological Experiment 

Degree 

Masters by Research 

Supervisor 

Prof Kitty Dumont (dumonkb@unisa.ac.za)  

Space available 

One MA candidate

Project 4 

Dancing is belonging. Why did the song “Jerusalema” made different people feel belong? 

Brief Description 

The song “Jerusalema” by Master KG and the vocalist Nomcebo and the dance challenge via the music video by Fernomenos do Semba (Angola) which went viral when the Corona virus hit the world gave many people a community moment. Groups of people from all over the world took videos of themselves dancing to the song under the Hashtag “Jerusalema Challange”. A similar phenomenon was observed in 2013 with the song Happy by Pharrell Williams which resulted in more than 1500- videos usually called “Pharrell Williams- Happy- We are from [name of the city]”. Dancing makes us human as it is found in every culture around the world through history. Dancing is good for us as it boosts our self-esteem, helps us to find a mate, tackles depression, increases our creativity, and relieves pain (think about the New Zealand rugby team’s haka before each of their games). Dancing also is about belonging. Dancing is a community moment. The research project should explore the role of dancing for shared identity, relatedness, emotionality, and cooperation. 

References and further Readings 

Wiltermuth, S. S., & Heath, C. (2009). Synchrony and cooperation. Psychological science, 20(1), 1-5. 

Jola, C., & Calmeiro, L. (2017). The dancing queen: explanatory mechanisms of the'feel-good effect'in dance. In The Oxford handbook of dance and wellbeing (pp. 13-40). Oxford University Press. 

Tarr, B., Launay, J., Cohen, E., & Dunbar, R. (2015). Synchrony and exertion during dance independently raise pain threshold and encourage social bonding. Biology letters, 11(10), 20150767. 

Pines, R., & Giles, H. (2017). Dance as intergroup communication. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. 

Cirelli, L. K. (2018). How interpersonal synchrony facilitates early prosocial behavior. Current opinion in psychology, 20, 35-39. 

Giles, H., Denes, A., Hamilton, D. L., & Hajda, J. M. (2009). Striking a chord: A prelude to music and intergroup relations research. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 12(3), 291-301. 

Reddish, P., Fischer, R., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Let’s dance together: synchrony, shared intentionality and cooperation. PloS one, 8(8), e71182. 

Research Methodologies 

Surveys and Social Psychological Experiment 

Degree 

Masters by Research 

Supervisor 

Prof Kitty Dumont (dumonkb@unisa.ac.za)  

Space available 

One MA candidate 

Last modified: 2021/09/03