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Spotlight on...

Dr Dario Krpan

Get to know more about the expertise in our department with this series of interviews with academics, researchers and PhD students in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science.

Transformative behavioural change can occur in any domain, from health and wellbeing to work and relationships

Dr Dario Krpan


Dario Krpan is Assistant Professor in Behavioural Science in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. We recently talked to him about his research. 



What is your area of expertise, and how did your interest for this area come about? 

Being an extreme personality myself, I have always been interested in reading about and exploring how humans operate in extreme and unusual situations, because those are the moments when we act and think in most unique ways that make us human. Initially, my interest in this theme was expressed through reading books by Dostoevsky and Kafka, whom I still consider to be among the most important psychologists. It is therefore not a wonder that the topic on which I focus today is to some degree reminiscent of the transformation from a human being into a giant bug that Kafka describes: transformative behavioural change. This term typically applies to a shift in someone’s actions that can be described as significant, fundamental, radical, and/or difficult-to-achieve, and involves a transformation of one’s way of being and living.

As an example, a person may lead a lifestyle of abundance and excess that involves living in large houses, frequent travel, consuming luxury goods, omnivorous diet, etc. However, to save the planet from ecological breakdown, the person may completely transform their life and move to a smaller dwelling, renounce the consumption of any non-essential goods and products, decide to reuse and repair old items rather than buy new ones, abandon any forms of environmentally unfriendly travel, adopt a vegan diet, etc. Although this example is from sustainability, transformative behavioural change can occur in any domain, from health and wellbeing to work and relationships. Within the topic of transformative behavioural change, I pursue several lines of research. The first aims to understand what drives this type of change, ranging from personality to environmental factors. The second focuses on examining human psychological processes in response to disruptive trends and events that are likely to require from humans to transform their being and living (eg disruptive technologies such as robots).

What’s been your favourite research project to date, and why? 

This is a very difficult question. I will write about a project I did individually, since I have engaged in many meaningful projects with my academic friends, and I don’t want to insult someone by not mentioning them. The project I am referring to was actually not a research project; it was one of my theoretical articles titled “Unburdening the Shoulders of Giants: A Quest for Disconnected Academic Psychology”. In a nutshell, in this article I proposed how psychology as a discipline could be transformed to increase the amount of knowledge it produces about human mind and behaviour by creating disconnected psychology in which researchers develop their ideas by following the main principles of psychological method, but they are disconnected from a “field” consisting of other psychologists and therefore do not follow the discipline’s norms and conventions. This is one of my favourite projects because I have been working on my ideas and theories since I was 16, but many of them would be considered unsuitable for mainstream psychology for various reasons. “Unburdening the Shoulders of Giants” was the first time I managed to present one of these ideas in a way that it was accepted by one of the flagship journals in the field. I consider it to be a transformative moment in which I figured out how to present unusual and extreme ideas in a way that I can publish them, and it was followed by many other publications that contain such ideas.

What impact are you hoping that your research will have on the world? 

Together with my friend Frédéric Basso from our department, we have developed a scale that measures transformative utopian impulse for planetary health, which refers to people’s propensity to have thoughts and engage in actions of which the purpose is to transform the current society into a better one in the future by addressing existing global issues. One of the items on this scale is as follows: “I frequently have the impulse to help transform the current society into a new world where the biggest issues of our age are extinct.” In the best-case scenario, if my research makes at least some form of contribution toward creating a transformed society that has managed to some degree overcome the biggest challenges we have today, I will be happy.

What are the biggest challenges in your area of study?

Considering my interest in transformative behavioural change, the biggest challenge I face is that this change is rare and only a small proportion of the population have experienced it. As a scientist, to be able to study a phenomenon, you need to be able to observe it and measure it, which is challenging when it comes to transformative behavioural change. However, I am actually very positive about this challenge because it forces me to be creative and explore and combine many different methodologies, from qualitative to quantitative, when studying transformative behavioural change. Hopefully in the future there will be more individuals who successfully engage in this change to resolve some of the biggest societal challenges, from climate change to inequalities.

What are the best and worst things about being an academic?

Being from Croatia, it is cultural that I always mostly focus on negative things and neglect the positive ones. I think academia is still a good place for people who like thinking and want to develop their ideas. However, the way it is set up at the moment does not favour coming up with major discoveries. The emphasis is on quick publications rather than on profound and transformative ideas that take time to develop. If coming up with a major invention took working on a single project for 10 years in the past, today it may probably take longer (eg 20, 30, 40 years) because there are fewer and fewer things to discover. I would be more interested to see what an academic can achieve after spending 40 years writing a single book than after spending 40 years constantly rushing to publish hundreds of articles. Instead of encouraging academics to publish several articles per year, academic institutions should encourage them to spend 30-40 years on a single intellectual pursuit because this would show us the heights that human mind can achieve, and it would also be significantly more beneficial to society. 

Dr Ilka Gleibs


Ilka Gleibs is Associate Professor in Social and Organisational Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. 

What is your area of expertise, and how did your interest for this area come about? 

My area of expertise is social identity dynamics and their consequences. This means I’m interested in how the groups we belong to shape part of our self-concept, and how this helps (or hinders) us to navigate the world. In one research project we focused on religious identity in the workplace and examined when and how a religious identity can be in harmony with an occupational identity, and when it might be in conflict. Another area I study is social identity and leadership. The core idea is that leadership is a group process, and that leadership success depends on leadership strategies being perceived as suitable for prevailing or changing group relations.

I started getting interested in social identity early on in my academic career. I think the main driver was my interest in both politics and psychology, and I thought that social identities, for example around national identity, are the connector of these two spheres. While I did my MSc in Berlin, I worked as Research Assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. My former supervisor there, Detlef Oesterreich, organised the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP) conference in Berlin in 2002 and that was my first contact with social and political psychologists. In the following year, I presented my MSc dissertation (in which I compared the relationship between national identity and attitudes towards foreigners amongst Italian and German adolescents) at the ISPP meeting in Boston and decided to continue my studies with a PhD. My PhD dealt with the question of changes of organisational identification during a merger, and I’ve continued to be fascinated by the question of identities and change ever since. 

What research projects are you currently working on? 

I’m currently working on several projects on the topic of social identity leadership. One is looking at the Covid pandemic as an example of prevailing change. We investigate how identity leadership, as perceived by the followers, impacted on national identification and had consequences for adjustment to the crisis (e.g., through collective efficacy, or by reducing anxiety and stress).

In another study, we examine speeches that President Zelensky of Ukraine gave to foreign bodies (parliaments, conventions etc.) since the war started in 2022. We found that he uses more implicit leadership language (thus, he uses more ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’) when talking to geo-politically important audiences (such as NATO, EU, G7), compared to when talking to less “important” audiences. We hypothesise that he does this to increase a sense of inclusion and to foster support for the war defence.

As I’m starting a sabbatical soon, I’m also endeavouring on a new project in which I want to ask the question: Do we need a social psychological perspective of leadership when confronted with the climate crisis? Here I want to bring together what we know about collective identities, pro-environmental behaviour and leadership to understand what kind of leadership is necessary to bring about substantial change when facing this crisis. 

What wider impact would you like your research to have on the world?

In the first instance, I do my research “to know the cause of things”, and I also hope that my research helps the ‘betterment of society’. My research on mergers (PhD work) and my work on social psychological processes in health and well-being have both been used by practitioners and have been implemented, for example, in care homes. I’m involved in think-tanks (e.g., What Works Center for Children and Families) and start-ups in an advisory role. But I think my biggest impact is through teaching; I love to challenge students’ thinking and understanding of the world, and I hope they carry this into the world and disseminate the importance of understanding identity and group processes. 

What are the biggest challenges in your area of study?

I guess the world is a perplexing place at the moment (maybe it always was), and we are all experiencing change, challenges, and conflicts. One of the challenges for social psychology is to remain relevant and to be able to tackle the big questions we are facing, such as the climate crisis, global conflicts, inequality etc. This is made harder because we are also going through a period of questioning methods and approaches in social psychology, and much of ‘what we did’ or ‘how we did it’ is contested. We also must assert ourselves vis-à-vis other disciplines that might be ‘bigger’, more influential, or just louder (e.g., economics, medicine). Thus, we have to get the balance right between doing rigorous and relevant research, between generalising results vs taking context into account, between theory and application, between incremental knowledge creation and tackling the bigger questions. I think we can get there, but it’s definitely not easy. 

What is your favourite topic to teach and why?

I love teaching on the topic of identity and identification to our MSc Organizational and Social Psychology students. For many, this is a moment in which a lot of things they have seen and experienced makes sense and provides them with a new perspective for understanding the world. It’s a topic that people can relate to, but which also has a very thorough evidence base. In seminars, I often ask student to draw their own social identity maps, which leads to very personal but also important insights and is an exercise, they can ‘take away’ with them. 

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe


Elizabeth Stokoe is a Professor in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. 

What is your area of expertise, and how did your interest for this area come about? 

I’m a psychologist by background, and my area of expertise is in conversation analysis – the study of human social interaction “in the wild”. Although psychologists are often characterized as “professional people watchers”, it is true that, across the range of psychological tools and methods, the observation of naturally occurring moment-to-moment talk and embodied conduct has not figured prominently. Conversation analysis (CA) is both a method for recording (audio and video, including 360-degree cameras and even VR!), transcribing, and analysing social interaction and a theory of human sociality. CA was brought into psychology via discursive psychology, but its origins are in sociology, and much of its development has been in linguistics. This inter- and multidisciplinary trajectory means that conversation analysts work across the social sciences and humanities, with applied work across computer science, business, and medicine. I was introduced to the method by my wonderful PhD supervisor, Dr Eunice Fisher, and it was completely new to me. My undergraduate psychology degree was pretty traditional in terms of methodology so I learned statistics and experimental approaches more than anything else. While conversation analysis isn’t readily categorizable as either qualitative or quantitative, either way its sociological origins can mean it is rarely included in undergraduate psychology training. 

What research projects are you currently working on? 

My work is quite diverse in scale and focus. I’m currently finishing a book on Categories in Social Interaction (with Geoff Raymond and Kevin Whitehead from the Dept of Sociology and UCSB), which is about how people categorize themselves and each other – and resist, challenge, embrace those categorizations – in talk and text of all kinds. The book focuses a great deal on ‘isms’ and the incredibly subtle as well as blatant ways in which power, prejudice, and inclusion/exclusion are made manifest in the details of social interaction. I’ve also started work on another quite different book, on Conversation Analysis for Conversation Design (with Saul Albert, Loughborough University, and Cathy Pearl, Google), which aims to combine academic and industry expertise together for those designing or studying conversational user interfaces or human-computer interaction. Last year, I co-authored a book on crisis communication (with Rein Ove Sikveland and Heidi Kevoe-Feldman), which was the culmination of a longer project working with police crisis negotiators to analyse recordings made at the scene of the incredibly high stakes conversations that happen with suicidal persons in crisis. We were able to identify core communicative practices - never previously been described or shared – that built the interactional foundations of a safe outcome. Some of these things were very surprising, such as when negotiators asked persons in crisis to ‘talk’ or suggested talking as an activity (without which, of course, there is no negotiation!), the latter resisted engaging. However, when negotiators asked persons in crisis to ‘speak’ or suggested speaking as an activity, they encountered far less resistance and the negotiation made progress. 

What wider impact would you like your research to have on the world?

Much of my research has been in applied settings (e.g., sales, police negotiation, mediation, the tech industry, healthcare and medicine) and, especially in the last 10-15 years, focused on identifying (in)effective communicative practices and using research findings to develop an evidence-based training method for practitioners. I developed CARM, which won a Wired Innovation Fellowship in 2015, and went on to underpin two impact case studies for the Research Excellence Framework, including a top-scoring case in REF2021. The case study explains the different kinds of impacts that beneficiaries have reported having engaged with conversation analytic research and training, from improved outcomes in crisis negotiation to increased sales conversion rates during cold-calling. Because I have been lucky to have the opportunity to speak about my research to lots of different audiences over the years (e.g., BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific, a TEDx talk, at The Royal Institution, various science festivals), and write a ‘popular science’ book about conversation analysis, I’ve created strong pathways to impact via engagement and collaboration with many industry partners. Now, for the new book on Conversation Analysis for Conversation Design, me and my co-authors are test-driving each of the book’s chapters as expert classes for the Conversation Design Institute. I don’t know where this might go next, but I’ve worked as an industry fellow twice, now (at Typeform and Deployed), and thus taken my research directly to the technology sector. I’ve also done a lot of work in research leadership roles supporting the impact and engagement understanding, practicalities, and ambitions of academic colleagues across the disciplinary spectrum. 

What are the biggest challenges in your area of study?

I think there are three big challenges for conversation analysts. The first is research access. I have been lucky in recent years to work with organizations who have granted access to recordings, many of whom already record parts of the daily life of the workplace, from police interviews to call centres and, of course, almost any customer or telehealth services (“your call may be recorded for quality, training, etc., purposes”). However, for my first big project following my PhD (for which I video-recorded university students working in groups in seminar settings) which sought to understand the causes of and solutions to neighbour disputes, I spent months negotiating access to settings. It was very difficult: many parties are more comfortable with being interviewed or completing a survey, or even just being observed while fieldnotes are taken, than being recorded. In the end, I managed to collect large datasets of neighbour mediations, inquiry calls to mediation services, calls to environmental health services, and police interviews with suspects arrested for a neighbour dispute that had escalated to criminal levels. But, along the way, many organizations said “no”. Those who agreed were hopefully reassured about the purpose of the recordings and the ethical ways in which conversation analysts work with them, including anonymizing them in technical ways. The second challenge for conversation analysis is one of how it is understood by other academics. For example, CA is often caricatured (by other social scientists) for failing to address ‘big questions’ or having ‘no theory’ or focusing on ‘just words.’ None of these things are correct, but they do persist. And the third challenge is somewhat connected to the second – one of perception, this time of the contribution that CA can make to our understanding of human social interaction. Since we all talk and have our lifetime’s experience of communicating with others, people often rely on this ‘anecdata’ to think about how it works. CA has shown not only that people aren’t very good at describing or reflecting on how talk actually works, post hoc, but also that how it works is different to how it is often described in both mainstream and popular psychology. But I quite relish these challenges – they keep things fresh and interesting!

What are your top three tips for early career researchers?

My first tip is to say “yes” to things that are a bit scary or outside your experience so far, like speaking to a different kind of audience or collaborating with academics (or non-academic partners) a long way from your discipline. At the same time, it’s also important to learn how to say “no” and try to maintain a liveable work life where you are not over-burdened. And it’s really important to find someone to talk these kinds of decisions through with, if you find them difficult to judge. The second tip is to follow your nose but work on your sense of smell – for people, projects, opportunities, and things to resist. And the final one is to remember that while academia can be competitive, individualistic, and problematic in many ways, it’s also a place where you will meet wonderful people and make life-long friends. Cherish and be nourished by those people and friends so you can support each other through the ups and downs of academic life.

Dr Jens Koed Madsen

Jens Koed Madsen 2021_200x200

Jens Koed Madsen is Assistant Professor in Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. 


What are you currently researching?

I always have a couple of projects happening at the same time, including works on environmental sustainability, modelling how people seek out and process information, and how to model dynamic human-environment systems. At the moment, I am particularly interested in exploring how disinformation can spread through social networks. This is a tricky problem, as information systems are a complex mesh of individual cognitive components such as belief revision, social aspects such as the friends and sources you seek out, and structural and political elements such as how social media platforms recommend content to users. Understanding the interplay between these elements help us to understand how information spreads, and phenomena such as echo chambers, micro-targeting, and polarisation.

I am also running some more classic cognitive psychological experiments. For example, I am comparing a couple of theories on the interplay between the strength of an argument, the credibility of the messenger, and motivation to engage critically with the argument. This has some really fascinating non-trivial relationships that I want to include in these broader information systems models. 

Why did you choose this area of research?

For me, research must be simultaneously intellectually stimulating and societally relevant. From the get-go, this particular research project is driven partly by my curiosity as to why people come to believe very different things (e.g. why some people remain sceptical of climate change despite the amount of evidence that it is happening) and partly by a desire to research something that has real-world impact.

I have always been fascinated by how people see information and how they are persuaded to believe different things (as an undergraduate student I studied rhetorical theory at the University of Copenhagen and many of my interests from that humanities background still influence my thinking today). I think we are too focussed on outcomes (i.e. measuring what people believe) and sometimes forget to focus on the process that brought them there (i.e. how and why people update their beliefs).

Alongside this, I am keen to conduct research that has societal applications. In the information systems work, for example, I talk with behavioural scientists in government, with NGOs, who safeguard democracies and elections, and with campaigners. I want to help clarify some of the challenges on misinformation that societies are faced with so that we can have better interventions – or at least understand the risks we take when we design our political and technological systems.

What wider impact would you like your research to have on the world?

The purpose of the work on disinformation is to test and optimise interventions to reduce its deleterious impacts. For example, we have seen the negative impact of people who believe that the 2020 Presidential election in the USA was stolen. We have to safeguard our democracies whilst simultaneously protecting fundamental principles such as freedom of speech. This is no trivial issue, as protection and rights often clash in practice – for example, what is classified as disinformation? How can we distinguish between misinformation and disinformation? How can we best safeguard elections and build trust in electoral systems whilst retaining our democratic rights of freedom of speech? That is, to advise on how to build more constructive information systems that are fit for democratic and inclusive purposes.

You recently received an LSE Excellence in Education award (congratulations!), what does the award mean to you?

I am incredibly proud of the fact that my teaching was recognised by the School. I have always thought that academic work has to include passionate teaching – if we are not able to engage with our students and tell them of all the interesting theories, models, debates, and ideas, we are doing a disservice not only to them, but also to our own research.

Having started at LSE during the COVID-19 pandemic, it means a lot to me that I have forged relationships with colleagues, students, and the wider LSE community. For the latter, I have recently won the LSE Innovation Challenge award to set up an applied arm of my research. This is really exciting, as it allows me to engage with practical problems and couple these to fundamental research questions on misinformation, belief revision, and information systems. Both the LSE Excellence in Education award and the Innovation Challenge shows the support that LSE is prepared to give to assistant professors such as myself, which is encouraging.

What have you got coming up over the next year?

Aside from the usual spiel of publishing, teaching, supervising, mentoring, applying for funds, and the committee work, there are a few things that I want to focus on over the next 12 months.

Firstly, with my PhD students, I am building a small group within the department. We are called the Decision-making in Interactive Complex Environments (DICE) lab and focus on computational approaches to social scientific questions (e.g. Bayesian models, agent-based models, data scraping, and such methods). I have been fortunate to engage with some brilliant PhD students in this group such as Sayeh Yousefi, Chen-Ta Sung, and Da’Quallon Smith as well as former undergraduate students with whom I continue to work such as Nicole George and Cassy Teigen. I want to build DICE within the department over the next couple of years.

Alongside this, I want to promote data science and computational social science within PBS. For example, a number of students and colleagues are interested in learning more about complex human-environment systems modelling. To do this, I am building a coding club (tentatively called the Turtle Club because agents in a programming language called Netlogo are called turtles). I hope that this, alongside DICE, is a step toward building a community of CSS people at PBS. 

More on Jens's research

Jens recently spoke to LSE about his research in this short film which you can watch on Instagram here.

Dr Miriam Tresh

Miriam Tresh 2021

Miriam Tresh is Assistant Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science.

What are you currently researching?

Currently I’m researching democratic aspirations in Libya and the role of public perception and attitudes in democratic transition processes. I’m applying theoretical frameworks from psychology and behavioural science to large scale data. The aim is to understand the dissonance between people’s stated preference for democracy and increasing political apathy in the context of socio-political and economic uncertainty. 

This work has emerged from my wider interest in how people seem to readily adapt to high-stakes environments of exceptional background risk (i.e., risk or uncertainty out of our immediate control). For instance, my research has shown patterns of pandemic risk perception and associated negative mental health are not normative. For those living in conditions of pre-existing risk of war in Libya, the pandemic unravelled against the backdrop of a more immediate crisis and so was not perceived as the existential threat as we had experienced it.  

I’m also working with undergraduate students to develop further research projects that explore how background risk and uncertainty impacts individual and society-level perceptions, attitudes and behaviours more broadly. Some of this research is attempting to simulate aspects of risk and uncertainty in the lab, or drawing on available datasets to examine risk perception in various other contexts. 

Why did you choose this area of research?

My interests were sparked by two observations. First, I was struck by people’s adaptability to high-stakes environments of risk and uncertainty. Not just conflict, but people readily adapt to economic instability, natural disasters and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, I believe there is a greater role for psychology and behavioural science to play in understanding and addressing major issues in a more socially and culturally sensitive way. For example, following developments in Libya I believe, political agendas aside, not accounting for the immediate context is one factor contributing to diplomatic failures to facilitate processes and mediate negotiations. Libya is an interesting case study, but it’s certainly not the only context in which the role of psychology could better inform responses in the context of uncertainty. 

What wider impact would you like your research to have on the world?

I’d like my research to better inform how policymakers and stakeholders facilitate and mediate efforts to resolve conflict, and social and political issues, both within and across cultural and social divides. Policy responses in various domains (health, politics, diplomacy, etc.) must be more sensitive to the social and cultural backdrop against which events, and people’s responses to those events, unfold. In fact, in a book “Behavioural Conflict: Why Understanding People and their Motivations Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflicts”, Andrew Mackay and Dr Steve Tatham make this same case, arguing the main lesson learned from conflicts has been a failure to understand people and a bias to examine people’s behaviour through our own cultural and historical lens, rather than their own. 

More broadly, the same lessons apply to other contexts, particularly at a time when upheaval seems magnified. I would like my research to show that people’s behaviour in these various contexts of risk is ‘rational’ and so policy responses should reflect that.

You are a course tutor on the BSc Psychological and Behavioural Science programme. What have been your highlights so far?

It’s been a privilege to have been part of designing the BSc Psychological and Behavioural Science programme since its inception in 2019, and to work with a talented group of academics who have a genuine drive to deliver an undergraduate programme that is cutting edge and truly grounded in the real-world. There have been many highlights but one stand-out moment for me was a Simulation Assessment we ran for the first time in Summer 2022 with our final year students, who were also our first graduating cohort. 

We set up our own, albeit fictitious, not for profit organisation “Next Generation Behavioural Science” and hired our final year undergraduate students to a number of professional roles. Their task was to demonstrate how the psychological and behavioural sciences could be utilised to investigate pressing real world issues, from the increasing use of cryptocurrencies, to tackling administrative complexity in accessing public services and dark patterns in consumer outcomes. The assessment has been a highlight for me as it represents the culmination of the programme.

We took our students to Canary Wharf, they worked hard to produce white papers that presented scalable, ethical and culturally sensitive recommendations using everything they had learnt during their time with us. It was also a great opportunity to take PBS out of the ivory tower and have students really grapple with the realities of applying insights to policy and practice. Ultimately, it was a highlight for me because as faculty, we could pause and take stock of what we had helped our students achieve. And I’m looking forward to the next iteration! 

What have you got coming up over the next year?

This year I’m working on some pedagogical research, exploring the PBS curriculum and assessments. The decolonise the curriculum initiative is one that has really resonated with me and I believe PBS, concerned with the global human condition as it is, should be leading on acknowledging the discipline’s historical, political and social ties. As part of the IEAP Fellowship, I’ve been working with undergraduate and postgraduate students in PBS to understand their perceptions of the curriculum, and of efforts and resistance to decolonising. This year I plan to continue this ground work and use the work to inform practice in the department and wider School. At the same time, I’ll be examining the impact of some of the innovative assessments we’ve adopted on the undergraduate programme, notably the simulation assessment. I’ll be leading a research project to determine the impact and authenticity of simulations as an assessment form for PBS learning and teaching. Beyond that, I plan to continue building my research portfolio.