Applying social psychological research to inform teaching and student engagement

  • Sylvia Terbeck Liverpool John Moores University, Faculty of Health


I am a social psychologist, having researched intergroup relations - that is the relationship between different groups of people - since many years. Indeed, a summary of my work is published in my book "The Social Neuroscience of Intergroup relations". Specifically, we are looking at stereotypes and prejudice and how they can affect individuals behaviour towards others. Most researched is racial prejudice and xenophobia, where it was found that explicit and implicit biases might lead to differential treatment. We found that though unconscious bias training for students and staff needs to be evidence based and involve certain key features in order to help to reduce such biases.  


More recently, we have also investigated gender biases, looking in particular at the effect of stereotypes, which might make it harder for women to take on leadership positions. Indeed, biases might be overcome in teaching by making it more explicit when past theories and studies were conducted by female authors, as it might often be assumed that significant research findings from the past were done by men. 


Besides race, age and gender, however, prejudice and biases also exist within other areas – some of them less well studied. For example, biases based on sexual orientation, religion, disability, etc. One key area which will be addressed in this talk, is socioeconomic status. Prejudice based on social class is less well researched in social psychology but studies do indeed indicate that biases exist and can often also lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, someone who is facing such prejudice might have reduced self-confidence to present themselves in a positive manner, leading them to achieve less than they are able to.  


I will look at the LJMU access and participation plan in order to see how social psychological research might contribute to reduce biases.