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The University of Southampton

Conflict between majority and minority communities explored

Published: 28 January 2003

University of Southampton researchers are setting out to establish how communities cope with newcomers. Results of the study could help policy-makers when working in areas with high numbers of immigrants or people from different ethnic groups.

Social psychologist Dr Mark Van Vugt has received £18,000 from the Leverhulme Trust for the work in Southampton and San Diego. Various laboratory experiments will see small cohesive groups challenged when new members join with different views, changing the balance of power. Later research will involve questioning people in inner cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham. A final workshop to discuss the findings will be attended by Home Office experts in community cohesion and social change.

He commented: "We are looking at groups where newcomers gain in status by joining them. It can mean the previous majority losing power or influence. Our theory is that people who lose status through this kind of social change feel it very deeply and that, as a consequence, the community may become less cohesive."

Dr Van Vugt's collaborator is Professor Radmila Prislin of San Diego State University who has experience of working in Croatia. They decided to work together after meeting at a workshop on social power and social change in 2000.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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