Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

John Dixon

  • SPN Mentor

John Dixon is a social psychologist who grew up in Northern Ireland and South Africa and now lives in Lancaster, England. He has published numerous research articles on intergroup conflict, contact, segregation, and political change in journals such as the American Psychologist, Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, the European Journal of Social Psychology, and the Brititish Journal of Social Psychology. He is co-author (with Kevin Durrheim) of "Racial Encounter: The Social Psychology of Contact and Desegregation" (London: Routledge) and co-editor (with Mark Levine) of "Beyond Prejudice: Extending the Social Psychology of Conflict, Inequality and Social Change" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Having previously lectured at the Universities of Cape Town, Worcester, and Lancaster, he is currently a professor of social psychology at the Open University, UK, and is co-editor (with Jolanda Jetten) of the British Journal of Social Psychology.

Much of Dixon's work lies at the interface between social and environmental psychology. He has a particular interest in the dynamics of interracial contact, desegregation, and (re)segregation. More specifically, he has contributed to three areas of enquiry:

First, working in collaboration with colleagues in South Africa -- notably Kevin Durrheim and Colin Tredoux -- he has investigated the social psychology of contact and social change in post-apartheid society. In so doing, he has sympathetically but critically extended work on the so-called "contact hypothesis." For example, he has argued that contact researchers need to adopt a more expansive and politically-nuanced conception of the outcomes of intergroup contact. In this regard, his own research has explored the sometimes ironic effects that contact may exert on the political attitudes of the historically disadvantaged. More broadly, this research has led him to raise a number of important questions about the model of social change that informs psychological research on prejudice reduction.

A second strand of Dixon's work focuses on everyday practices of segregation. The role of racial segregation in perpetuating inequality and division has been well documented by social scientists. Most research, however, has concentrated on the macro-sociological organization of institutions of residence, education and employment. Dixon suggests that such work may be usefully complemented by research that investigates the "micro-ecology of segregation" in everyday life spaces -- the dynamic, largely informal, network of social practices through which individuals maintain racial isolation within settings where members of other race groups are physically co-present. Among other contributions, his collaborative research has attempted to devise and refine methodological techniques for mapping the micro-ecological dimensions of segregation (see the website at: It has also used the study of micro-ecological processes as a context in which to explore the nature and causes of so-called "preferential segregation" and to explore how, why, and when segregation becomes such a tenacious system for organizing social life.

Finally, on a broader level, Dixon's work has highlighted a gap in the social psychological literature. Social psychology is often defined as the study of behaviour in context. However, the discipline has characteristically neglected one of the most fundamental contextual dimensions of social life, namely, its geographic "locatedness." All social life unfolds with material and symbolic environments (places) that are both socially constituted and constitutive of the social. Acknowledgement of this so-called "spatial dimension" opens up new ways of looking at phenomena such as the formation of social identities and relationships. Dixon is particularly interested in using concepts such as place identity, boundaries, and boundary transgression to enrich the social psychology of intergroup relations and to build interdisciplinary links between our discipline and companionate disciplines such as environmental psychology and human geography.

Primary Interests:

  • Aggression, Conflict, Peace
  • Applied Social Psychology
  • Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Communication, Language
  • Group Processes
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Political Psychology
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Sociology, Social Networks


Journal Articles:

  • Dixon, J. A. (2001). Contact and boundaries: "Locating" the social psychology of intergroup relations. Theory and Psychology, 11, 587-608.
  • Dixon, J. A., & Reicher, S. (1997). Intergroup contact and desegregation in the "new" South Africa. British Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 361-381.
  • Dixon, J., & Durrheim, K. (2004). Dislocating identity: Desegregation and the transformation of place. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 455-473.
  • Dixon, J., & Durrheim, K. (2003). Contact and the ecology of racial division: Some varieties of informal segregation. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 1-23.
  • Dixon, J., & Durrheim, K. (2000). Displacing place identity: A discursive approach to locating self and other. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 27-44.
  • Dixon, J., Durrheim, K., & Tredoux, C. (2007). Intergroup contact and attitudes towards the principle and practice of racial equality. Psychological Science, 18, 867-872.
  • Dixon, J., Durrheim, K., & Tredoux, C. (2005). Beyond the optimal contact strategy: A "reality check" for the contact hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 697-711.
  • Dixon, J., Durrheim, K., Tredoux, C. G., Tropp, L. R., Clack, B., & Eaton, L. (2010). A paradox of integration? Interracial contact, prejudice reduction and blacks’ perceptions of racial discrimination. Journal of Social Issues, 66, 401-416.
  • Dixon, J., Durrheim, K., Tredoux, C. G., Tropp, L. R., Clack, B., Eaton, L., & Quayle, M. (2010). Challenging the stubborn core of opposition to equality: Racial contact and policy attitudes. Political Psychology, 31, 831-856.
  • Dixon, J., Levine, M., & McAuley, R. (2006). Locating impropriety: Street drinking, moral order and the ideological dilemma of public space. Political Psychology, 27, 170-190.
  • Dixon, J., Levine, M., Reicher, S., & Durrheim, K. (in press). Beyond prejudice: Are negative evaluations the problem and is getting us to like one another more the solution? Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
  • Dixon, J., Tropp, L. R., Durrheim, K., & Tredoux, C. G. (2010). "Let them eat harmony": Prejudice reduction and the political attitudes of historically disadvantaged groups. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 76-80.
  • Dixon, J. et al. (2008). “The inner citadels of the color line": Mapping the micro-ecology of segregation in everyday life spaces. Personality and Social Psychology Compass, 2, 1-23.
  • Durrheim, K., & Dixon, J. (2004). Attitudes in the fiber of everyday life: The discourse of racial evaluation and the lived experience of desegregation. American Psychologist, 59, 626-636.
  • Durrheim, K., & Dixon, J. A. (2001). The role of place and metaphor in racial exclusion: South Africa’s beaches as sites of shifting racialization. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 24, 433-450.
  • Durrheim, K., Dixon, J., Tredoux, C. G., Eaton, L., Quayle, M., & Clack, B. (2009). Predicting support for racial transformation policies: Intergroup threat, racial prejudice, sense of group entitlement and strength of identification. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1-25.
  • Hopkins, N., & Dixon, J. A. (2006). Space, place and political psychology. Political Psychology, 27, 173-185.
  • Tredoux, C., & Dixon, J. A. (2009). Mapping the multiple contexts of racial isolation: Some reflections on the concept of scale in segregation research. Urban Studies, 46, 761-777.

John Dixon
Department of Psychology
Open University
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
United Kingdom

  • Phone: +44(0)1908-654547

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