Caught in the Social Crossfire? Exploring the Social Forces Behind and Experience of Ambivalence About Social Change

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Social change is often negotiated through contentious societal debate. Whereas social and political psychological research often focuses on the extremes on either side of these debates (e.g. activists), we focus on the people who feel conflicted about their position in the debate. We aim to provide a better understanding of the (social) sources of ambivalence of this group. We hypothesized that sources of ambivalence lie not only within the individual but are also related to social forces (e.g. friends, family, existing groups within the societal debate). Conflict between one’s opinion and those of others around you might make it harder to take a stance in contentious societal debates. We conducted extensive interviews with 15 Dutch students experiencing ambivalence about a heated debate in the Netherlands. Additionally, we developed a quantitative survey on the experience of social conflicts among ambivalent people in the context of three different societal debates in the Netherlands (n= 600). Thematic analysis of these interviews and preliminary survey-data, indeed, suggests that different conflicting social forces (such as interpersonal relations, the groups people belong to and beliefs about societal systems) offer a breeding ground for subjective ambivalence. We found that people experience ambivalence and find themselves caught in the (social) crossfire. These findings shed new light on how societal debates may give rise to ambivalence about social change, and about the role of the potentially large group of ambivalents as a force in favour or against social change.
EvenementstitelKLI Conference
Mate van erkenningNational