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Dr Mark Levine

Formerly at Lancaster University

Mark Levine

Research Interests

Social Identity and Bystander Behaviour

My primary research interest is in the behaviour of bystanders in emergencies. My research has integrated classic work on bystander intervention with more recent developments in the social psychology of group behaviour. This research strand was established with a grant from the ESRC under the Violence Research Project (VRP) initiative and has been developed under a subsequent ESRC grant. My research uses a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore bystander behaviour at the group level. I am particularly keen on analysing 'real life' behavioural data, or at least trying to study behaviour in 'real time'.

In my current grant I have been working on an analysis of CCTV footage of violent incidents in the night-time economy. This involves a behavioural analysis of the acts carried out by all those involved in a potentially violent incident. The behavioural analysis reveals that the trajectory of violence is shaped, not by the actions of the perpetrator or the victim, but by the behaviour of the 'bystanders'.  This analytic focus on the sequences of behaviour (with Paul Taylor at Lancaster) is an exiting new development in the study of groups and violence.

I am about to start a new grant (in collaboration with  Mel Slater at UCL and  Jian Zhang at Bournemouth Media School) which uses Immersive Virtual Environments ('virtual reality') to study the behaviour of bystanders in violent emergencies. The virtual environment creates the conditions where participants can be exposed to violence in an ethically acceptable manner, and then their behaviour (from eye gaze to autonomic responses to physical proximity) can be studied in 'real time'. This research project will bring together cutting edge research in virtual environments with important theoretical and practical advances in the social psychology of bystander behaviour.

Surveillance, Intergroup Relations and Public Space

My work on bystander behaviour has also led me to be interested in social relations in public.  I have been interested in when we take responsibility for the welfare of others in public spaces. To that end I have studied (with John Dixon at Lancaster)  the way technologies of control (CCTV, public drinking legislation) are understood, and how they shape relations in public places. This work uses a  combination of large scale survey and depth interviews carried out in the town square in Lancaster and  explores issues of social control, social exclusion and the nature of public space. In particular, I have been interested in the complex relationship between CCTV surveillance and feelings of social responsibility for others.

I have also been interested in interactions in the night-time economy. In particular I have explored the relationship between police, private security staff ('bouncers') and participants in the night-time economy. My research focusses not on the way formal authority functions, but on how people 'police' themselves. My research on the behaviour of groups in the night-time economy shows that, contrary to the popular stereotype, groups are not behaving in a random, aggressive and out-of -control manner. Rather, there is a willingness to try and regulate the behaviour of others - and a strong preference for de-escalating rather than escalating violence.

Social Identity and Collective Behaviour

I am also involved an an exciting project (with Nick Hopkins in Dundee and Clare Cassidy and Steve Reicher at St Andrews) conducting research at the Magh Mela – a Hindu religious festival held on the banks of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers at Preyag (Allahabad, India). Held annually, but with larger gatherings on a 6 and 12 year cycle, this festival is one of the largest gatherings of humanity on the planet. Our research (in collaboration with Indian colleagues Janak Pandey and Purnima Singh) explores how collective ritual and public ceremony may be significant in building a sense of collectivity and community. We also consider the lessons which social psychological theory can learn from attempting to explain a mass pilgrimage event in India.

Times, Theories and Practices in Social Psychology

I also have an interest in the importance of time and temporality for social psychology. In particular, I have written about the issue of time and analysis in social psychology. Drawing on developments in work on time in social theory, I am interested in the way different versions of time are used, both explicitly and implicitly, in research in social psychology. This work also has a practical edge. In conjunction with Paul Taylor, I am interested in exploring how a focus on the sequences of action give us a more dynamic approach to the study of cognition and action in collective settings.

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