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Department of Social Psychology

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Dr Alex Gillespie

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Associate Professor in Social Psychology

Co-Editor of Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour

Awarded LSE Teaching Prize in 2014

Social psychology, for me, begins with recognizing that people and groups have different perspectives. Key questions include: How do we bridge these divergences of perspective and achieve our collective life? How are these social interactions of difference constitutive of human self-reflection, social identity and creativity? And, more pragmatically, what technologies can we develop to study and intervene in these interactions?

Theory: Intersubjectivity, misunderstandings, perspective-taking, dialogue.

Aim: Develop tools to facilitate perspective taking

Research: Experiments, qualitative, and fieldwork in healthcare

Recent talks: Sao Paulo (22/6/14), LSE (20/10/2014), University of Chicago (18/11/2014), University of Glasgow (19/2/2015)

Co-Director, with Dr Tom Reader, of the Inter-Personal and Organisational Communication (ipoc) research group.


LSE Experts Page 

I was born in Norway, grew up in Ireland, did a B.A. in Psychology at Trinity College (Dublin), an MSc at the LSE and a PhD at the University of Cambridge. After finishing my PhD I lectured at the University of Cambridge for two years before moving to the University of Stirling. I joined the Psychology@LSE Department in 2011.

My interest in divergences of perspective began in 1996 when, equipped with psychological measures, I went to Malawi to study the coping strategies of returned refugees - all I found was a big gap between our measures and the lived reality of refugees.

My MSc dissertation examined divergences of perspective between the two communities in Northern Ireland, and my PhD examined divergences of perspective between tourists and tribal people in Northern India.

More recently I have been examining divergences of perspective in the Cuban Missile Crisis, in the Northern Rock bank run, in the interaction between immigrants and nationals, director/follower experiments and in care-giver and care receiver interactions. For more on my research, see my research profile.

I review for a wide range of publishers and journals. I am on the editorial boards of Culture & Psychology,Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, Papers on Social Representations,The Journal of Social, Evolutionary, & Cultural Psychology, Journal of Integrated Social Sciences and the British Journal of Social Psychology.

I am a member of the ESRC college of reviewers, a European Science Foundation reviewer, a member of the Irish Research Council's Outer International Assessment Board, and an external assessor for the Romanian Research Assessment Exercise.

My research assumes that the social world is pluralistic, that each organism, person and community has a distinctive perspective or worldview which stemming from their interests and practices. I have studied the divergences of perspective in many contexts, but it seems clear to me that we lack good methods

Divergences of perspective, I have argued, are central to identity (eg, eg, eg), the development of our higher mental functions such as self-reflection, language, our internal dialogues and even agency

How do we overcome these divergences of perspective? My view is that movement is the answer. We have neglected movement; movement between social situations, life stages, and roles. This movement, I have tried to show, is the basis of our limited understanding of one another (eg, eg). 

Divergences of perspective are not always accidental. Sometimes people try to create misleading impressions. Sometimes people don't want to understand the other, preferring to dismiss their point of view. People represent the other as crazy or un-trustworthy (eg, eg, eg) – thus avoiding the need to engage with their perspective. 

My epistemological stance is pragmatist, and accordingly, I evaluate knowledge in terms of its practical consequences. To this end I have worked with colleagues to produce a package to facilitate communication with people with communication disorders (funded by the ESRC and winner of an Advancing Healthcare Award 2010) and a novel technology called Guide (with CSO funding, 2008-9 & 2010-14) which simulates the interactive verbal support provided by carers to people with cognitive impairments and experts to novices to enable independent activity (eg, eg).

Other projects I have been involved in include: Organising a European Science Foundation workshop, setting up the on-line and open-access Frederic Bartlett Archive, organising the a conference on the Dialogical Self, and having some fun with Stanley Milgram's cyranoids at Generator Projects in Dundee, the Thursday Club in Goldsmiths Graduate School, and the St Unicorn's Trust event. I also recently gave ap talk at the Salon Project in the Barbican.

I teach on Contemporary Social and Cultural Psychology (PS400) and Social Psychology of Public Communication (PS429). I also supervise MSc dissertations and PhD theses.

Current PhD supervision

Kevin Corti

'Using cyranoids to investigate meta-perspectives and their role in social bargaining behaviour'

Donna Baille

Moral decision making among Israeli soldiers'

Brett Heasman

'Perspective taking between people with autism and their caregivers'

Future PhD supervision

If you are interested in working with me on a PhD, you can contact me in advance of making a formal application. I'm happy to discuss either a specific proposal or relative merits of two or three potential proposals. In either case, send me something short and focused and include your CV

For a more complete and up to date list of publications, please click here.

Selection of recent articles

Gillespie, A. & Moore, H. (in press). Translating and transforming Care: People with brain injury and caregivers filling in a disability claim form. Qualitative Health Research.

Aveling, E. L., Gillespie, A., & Cornish, F. (in press). A qualitative method for analysing multivoicedness. Qualitative Research.

Corti, K., & Gillespie, A. (2015). Revisiting Milgram’s cyranoid method: experimenting with hybrid human agents. The Journal of social psychology, 155(1), 30-56. [Featured in WIRED]

Reader, T. W., Gillespie, A., & Roberts, J. (2014). Patient complaints in healthcare systems: a systematic review and coding taxonomy. BMJ Quality & Safety, 23, 678-689. [Editors’ Top Ten]

Wagoner, B. & Gillespie, A. (2014). Sociocultural mediators of remembering: An extension of Bartlett’s method of Repeated Reproduction. British Journal of Social Psychology 53, 622-639.

Gillespie, A. & Martin, J. (2014). Position exchange theory: A socio-material basis for discursive and psychological positioning. New Ideas in Psychology, 32, 73-79.

Moore, H., & Gillespie, A. (2014). The caregiving bind: Concealing the demands of informal care can undermine the caregiving identity. Social Science & Medicine, 116, 102–109.

Reader, T., Gillespie, A. & Mannell, J. (2014). Patient neglect in 21st century healthcare institutions: a community health psychology perspective. Journal of Health Psychology, 19, 72-78.

Gillespie, A., Reader, T., Cornish, F., & Campbell, C. (2014). Beyond ideal speech situations: Adapting to communication asymmetries in health care. Journal of health psychology, 19(1), 72-78.

Gillespie, A. & Zittoun, T. (2013). Meaning making in motion: Bodies and minds moving through institutional and semiotic structures. Culture & Psychology, 19, 518-532.

Reader, T. W., & Gillespie, A. (2013). Patient neglect in healthcare institutions: A systematic review and conceptual model. BMC health services research, 13(1), 156.

Gillespie, A. (2012). Position exchange: The social development of agency. New Ideas in Psychology, 30, 32-46.

Gillespie, A., Best, C. & O’Neill, B. (2012). Cognitive function and assistive technology for cognition: A systematic review. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 18, 1-19.

Gillespie, A., & Richardson, B. (2011). Exchanging social positions: Enhancing perspective taking within a cooperative problem solving task. European journal of social psychology, 41(5), 608-616. [Editor’s Choice in APS Observer]

Gillespie, A., Murphy, J. & Place, M. (2010). Divergences of perspective between people with aphasia and their family caregivers. Aphasiology, 24, 1559-1575. [Advancing healthcare award]

O’Neill, B. Moran, K. & Gillespie, A. (2010). Scaffolding rehabilitation behaviour using a voice mediated assistive technology for cognition. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 20, 509-527.

Gillespie, A. & Cornish, F. (2010). Intersubjectivity: Toward a dialogical analysis. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40, 19-46.

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Alex Giliespie 
Dr Alex Gillespie

Social psychology, for me, begins with divergences of perspective.