Changing Societies

Through our research we aim to increase our understanding of the psychological causes and consequences of societal processes, as well as how psychological knowledge can be used to foster positive change in societies

a refugee walking with two small children towards a large tent

What is the Changing Societies Strategic Focus Area?

Changing Societies Strategic Focus Area brings together research across all research groups in the School of Psychology designed to examine how people’s personal, relational, and collective functioning is shaped by—and contributes to shaping—important aspects of the sociocultural and historical contexts they inhabit.

What we do

Broadly, Changing Societies Strategic Focus Area aims to coordinate, support, and publicise research in the School that contributes to making psychological knowledge more societally relevant and culturally representative. We do this by -

  • facilitating the formation of new collaborations with researchers in different parts of the world
  • providing training in conducting valid, reliable, and effective comparative psychological research
  • sharing methodological and analytical expertise in designing, conducting, or accessing studies that have a societal or cultural focus (e.g., handling multilevel data, developing scales that have cross-cultural validity, working with longitudinal panel data)
  • facilitating access to special populations through our existing links (e.g., schools in neighbourhoods of different socio-economic status, ethnic minority groups, populations in different world regions)
  • highlighting the sensitivities required when conducting research with different groups and promoting the use of inclusive, representative, and decolonizing approaches to research
  • providing input into grants that have an international, comparative, or societal focus
  • building connections between researchers and non-academic bodies to promote societal impact of our research and co-create research with community partners
  • supporting cross-fertilisation between members of School’s research groups to build new synergies to continue to understanding and solving societal challenges

Beyond activities within the School, Changing Societies Strategic Focus Area also provides a platform from which we develop new interdisciplinary links with members of other Schools at Sussex and beyond and apply for funding to support these links.


Our broad focus, which cuts across social, cultural, developmental, clinical, health, and cognitive psychology, helps us address major societal challenges, applying psychological science to inform policy and practice in relation to diverse issues of growing importance in a world facing rapid change including the climate emergency, Brexit, COVID-19, BLM, #MeToo, aging society, and political instability in many nations.

Our research benefits from expertise in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method approaches and experience of conducting research in field, laboratory and survey contexts, with both humans and animals using a range of methods including EEG, multinational surveys, virtual reality, and clinical testing.

Our research provides insights into increasingly relevant topics of our time including, but not limited to:

  • mental health (e.g., ageing and dementia; substance misuse and addiction; mental health interventions in developing nations; prior fault intoxication and the criminal law)
  • physical health (e.g., healthy eating and obesity; sociocultural influences on exercise behaviour; social media and body image)
  • interpersonal relationships (e.g., kindness and well-being in professional and community contexts; minimal social interactions with weak ties and strangers)
  • social-political psychology (e.g., social movements and collective action; refugee resettlement and acculturation; inequalities in mental and physical health, education, and income; political polarisation; peacebuilding; collective resilience in mass emergencies and disasters)
  • environmental sustainability (e.g., fostering prosocial and pro-environmental behaviour; cooperation around shared natural resources)
  • culture-mind-gene-brain relationships (e.g., cultural differences in cognition, self-construal, beliefs, values, and norms; cultural change; gene expression in different societies; social and cultural neuroscience)
  • social cohesion (e.g., community-building in urban regeneration projects)
  • society and socialization (e.g., children’s social interaction and learning)

Funding and Impact

Our research is supported by a range of national and international funding bodies, charities, and learned Societies and scientific organizations including:

  • National and international funding bodies
    • the British Academy
    • New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe (NORFACE) 
    • the National Science Foundation, USA
    • the European Research Council
    • the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (e.g., Standard grants, Impact Acceleration Accounts, UK-South Korea Connections Grant)
    • the Leverhulme Trust
    • Natural Environment Research Council (e.g., Global Challenges Research Fund
    • Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science
  • Charities and Trusts
    • Higher Education Innovation Fund
    • Community Relations Council, Northern Ireland
    • Education Endowment Foundation, UK
    • Save the Children
    • Fire Service Research and Training Trust
    • Sussex Partnership Foundation NHS Trust
    • The Pears Foundation
    • National Association for Voluntary and Community Action
    • Alzheimers Society
    • Richard Benjamin Trust
    • LA CAIXA Foundation
  • Learned Societies and Scientific Organisations
    • American Psychological Association (APA)
    • British Psychological Society (BPS)
    • European Association of Social Psychology (EASP)
    • Society For the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)

We regularly host postdoctoral and visiting fellows funded by different sources such as the Newton International Fellowship of the British Academy, the Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions of the European Union, and the Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship.

To translate our findings into policy and societal change, we regularly collaborate with external partners. Some of our past and ongoing partnerships include - Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Safe Events (Ireland), Event Safety Academy (Netherlands), IBIT, (Germany), Event Safety Institute (Netherlands), European Space Agency, Ukraine Diplomatic Academy, Brighton Chamber of Commerce, Realising Opportunities, Northern Rangeland Trust (Kenya), Monduli District Council (Tanzania), Plymouth City Council, Met Office, Foundation for Common Land (UK), Rural Community Network, Ujamaa CRT (Tanzania).

 Collaborations and Networks

We conduct research and interventions in a diverse range of socio-economic, cultural, national, and political contexts and have collaborative studies with researchers from the Middle East and Africa (e.g., Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Kenya, Israel, Qatar, Palestine), Europe (e.g., Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Ukraine, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, France, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Slovakia,), Asia (e.g., Japan, Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China), North and South America (e.g., U.S., Canada, Chile), and Oceania (e.g., New Zealand, Australia).


For further information, please contact Prof Ayse K. Uskul: