Advancing the social psychology of rapid societal change

Laura G. E. Smith, Andrew G. Livingstone, Emma F. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this introduction to the special section on rapid societal change, we highlight the challenges posed by rapid societal changes for social psychology and introduce the seven papers brought together in this special section. Rapid societal changes are qualitative transformations within a society that alter the prevailing societal state. Recent such changes include the election of right-wing populist governments, the Arab Spring revolutions, and devastating civil wars in the Middle East. Conceptually, such events require consideration of how societal-level events relate to more proximal psychological processes to bring about the often abrupt, non-linear (as opposed to incremental and linear) nature of rapid societal change. They also require empirical approaches that allow such qualitative transformations to be captured and studied. This is true both in terms of directly addressing rapidly unfolding societal events in research, and in terms of how rapid, discontinuous change can be analysed. The papers in the special section help to address these issues through introducing novel theoretical and methodological approaches to studying rapid societal change, offering multiple perspectives on how macro-level changes can both create, and be created by, micro-level social psychological phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-44
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date20 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • collective action
  • intergroup relations
  • protest
  • social change
  • social movements
  • societal change


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