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Alexander Haslam

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Alexander Haslam
Born1962 (age 61–62)
EducationFelsted School
Alma materUniversity of St Andrews
Emory University
Macquarie University
Known forBBC Prison Study

Stephen Alexander "Alex" Haslam AM (born 1962) is a professor of psychology and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland.[1]

His research focuses on areas of social psychology, organisational psychology and health psychology, exploring issues of stereotyping and prejudice, tyranny and resistance, leadership and power, stress and well-being. This work is informed by, and has contributed to the development of, theory and ideas relating to the social identity approach.[1]



Haslam grew up in Elsenham, Essex and completed his secondary education at Felsted School. He holds a Master of Arts (MA) degree from the University of St Andrews and a PhD from Macquarie University (Sydney). His doctoral work at Macquarie was supervised by John Turner (psychologist) and funded by a Commonwealth Scholarship. This was preceded by a year as a Robert T. Jones Scholar[2] at Emory University (Atlanta). Prior to his current appointment at the University of Queensland, Haslam worked at the Australian National University (Canberra) (1991–2001) and the University of Exeter (2001–2012).

Haslam is a recipient of the European Association of Social Psychology's Kurt Lewin Medal (2005), the British Psychology Society's Presidents' Award for distinguished contributions to psychological knowledge (2016), the International Society of Political Psychology's Nevitt Sanford Award for distinguished contribution to political psychology (2017), and the Australian Psychological Society's Award for distinguished contribution to psychological science (2018). In 2009 he was granted the British Psychological Society's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology, and a National Teaching Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy.[1] He was an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology from 1999 to 2001 and Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Social Psychology from 2001 to 2005, and President of the psychology section of the British Science Association from 2009 to 2010. He is currently an Associate Editor of Leadership Quarterly (from 2017).

Key research projects


BBC Prison Study


In 2001, Haslam collaborated with Steve Reicher (University of St Andrews) on the BBC television programme The Experiment,which became known as the "BBC Prison Study".[3] This examined the behaviour of a group of individuals within a simulated prison environment, returning to issues raised by the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). Amongst other things, the study's findings challenged the role account of tyranny associated with the SPE as well as broader ideas surrounding the "banality of evil".[4][5] The core insight from the study was that tyranny results from the engaged followership of subordinates rather than blind conformity to roles or rules. Recent work has also demonstrated that the same analysis can explain the behaviour of participants in Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiments.[6][7]

New psychology of leadership


Since the 1990s, Haslam has collaborated with a number of social identity researchers, notably Steve Reicher, Michael Platow, and John Turner, developing a social identity analysis of leadership.[8][9] This work focuses on the role of perceived shared identity as a basis for mutual influence between leaders and followers. It argues that leaders' success hinges on their ability to create, represent, advance and embed a social identity that is shared with those they seek to motivate and inspire.

This approach to leadership is informed by two influential social psychological theories: social identity theory and self-categorization theory. The critical contribution of social identity theory is to recognize that, in a range of social and organizational contexts, people’s sense of self is not primarily defined by their sense of themselves as individuals (in terms of their personal identity, as “me” and “I”). Rather, it is defined by their sense of themselves as members of particular groups (in terms of their social identity, as “we” and “us”).

Through its capacity to structure people’s sense of self, social identity has wide-ranging implications for cognition and behavior — two of which are especially important for leadership. First, when people define themselves in terms of a given social identity they are motivated to see that (in)group (‘us’) as positively distinct from other comparison (out)groups. In simple, terms we want the groups that matter to us to be special. Second, when a particular social identity is salient (i.e., psychologically operative in ways that contribute to a sense of social identification) we are focused, above all else, on the fate and standing of the relevant group.

A key point here is that when a person defines themselves in terms of a particular social identity (e.g., as a feminist), they will be motivated both to discover the meaning of that social identity (e.g., what it means to be a feminist) and to act in ways that embody that meaning. But in a changing and uncertain world, these things may be hard to discern. Accordingly, to makes sense of the world and our place within it, we rely on information from other people who are members of our ingroup. But clearly not everyone is going to be helpful here. If you are a feminist, it makes no sense to look to an anti-feminist or a non-feminist for guidance on matters related to gender relations. Instead, you turn to fellow ingroup members (i.e., other feminists) because you see them as best positioned to inform you about self-relevant features of social reality.

More particularly, we will see others as qualified to inform us about a given social identity—and hence seek out and respond positively to their leadership—to the extent that they are perceived to be representative of a relevant ingroup. Stated more formally in the language of cognitive theorizing about the structure of categories, we are influenced by others to the extent that they are seen to be prototypical of a relevant ingroup

At the same time, though, other research inspired by social identity theorizing has shown that leaders’ prototypicality is not all that matters when it comes to motivating followers. As well as being perceived to be “one of us” leaders also need to be seen to “do it for us” through their work as ingroup champions. Indeed, one of the things that is most problematic for leaders’ effectiveness is the perception that they are either acting for themselves or, worse, for an outgroup. In this vein another large body of research shows that regardless of how prototypical they are, leaders will be more effective when they are also seen to act in ways that advance group interests.

But social identities are not set in stone. Instead they are a moveable feast. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of effective leadership is precisely the ability to take advantage of this flexibility. More specifically, leaders need to be entrepreneurs of identity who work not only to create a sense of shared group membership amongst would-be followers but also to shape their understanding of social identity. In these terms, the first task of a would-be leader is to create a sense that they and their followers are bound together by a common cause which they embody.

Again, though, these endeavors are not enough to guarantee success, especially in the long term. For leadership is not only about the behavior of leaders but also about the way they shape the behavior of followers. Accordingly, leaders need to fashion social identity in ways that are compelling for followers and that allow them to act in ways that embed shared group values in social reality. That is, they need to be identity impresarios who devise and choreograph collective activities and events that bring the groups they lead to life and give them a material force. The form that such activities take necessarily varies as a function of nature of the social identity that leaders are seeking to entrench. Nevertheless, whatever the domain, the long-term effectiveness of groups and leadership is generally buttressed by formalized identity performances and structures—such things as competitions and conferences, feasts and festivals, ceremonies and celebrations.

Early work on social identity and leadership focused mainly on leaders’ identity prototypicality. However, as it has evolved, social identity research has broadened out to also explore leaders’ identity advancement, identity entrepreneurship and identity impresarioship. In 2011, this work was brought together in the first edition of Haslam, Reicher and Platow’s monograph The New Psychology of Leadership. This showcased the work of around 50 researchers who had contributed to research on social identity and leadership at that time (a number that had grown to more than 150 by the time the second edition was published in 2020). To capture the breadth of social identity processes understood to be implicated in the leadership process it also referred to this work as being broadly concerned with identity leadership.

Glass cliff


Haslam has worked with Michelle K. Ryan on the leadership experiences of women,[10] and together they coined the term "glass cliff" to describe some of their key findings – specifically, evidence that women are more likely than men to be appointed to leadership roles in organisations that are performing poorly.[11][12][13] This was short-listed for the Times Higher Education "Research Project of the Year" in 2005.

Social cure


Haslam's more recent work (funded by the Australian Research Council) has contributed to the development of the Social Identity Approach to health and well-being, also referred to as "The Social Cure",[14][15] including the Integrated Social Identity model of Stress (ISIS).[16] This work argues that the sense of social identity derived from shared group membership is a basis not only for individuals to have a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, but also for them to receive and benefit from social support.[17] It is also a basis for them to work together to overcome stressors rather than succumb to them.

Awards and honors


In 2011, he was awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship.[18] He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2022 Australia Day Honours for "significant service to tertiary education, particularly psychology, though research and mentoring".[19]

Selected publications



  • Oakes, P. J., Haslam, S. A., & Turner, J. C. (1994). Stereotyping and social reality. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Haslam, S. A., & McGarty, C. (2003). Research methods and statistics in psychology. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Haslam, S. A. (2001). Psychology in organisations: The social identity approach. London: Sage. (2nd ed. 2004)
  • Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D. & Platow, M. J. (2011). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence and power. London: Psychology Press. (2nd ed. 2020)
  • Haslam, C., Jetten, J., Cruwys, T., Dingle, G. A., & Haslam, S. A. (2018). The new psychology of health: Unlocking the social cure. London: Routledge.

Edited books

  • McGarty, C., & Haslam, S. A. (Eds.) (1997). The message of social psychology: Perspectives on mind in society. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Spears, R., Oakes, P. J., Ellemers, N., & Haslam, S. A. (Eds.) (1997). The social psychology of stereotyping and group life. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Haslam, S. A., van Knippenberg, D., Platow, M., & Ellemers, N. (Eds.) (2003). Social identity at work: Developing theory for organizational practice. New York and Hove: Psychology Press.
  • Jetten, J., Haslam, C., & Haslam, S. A. (Eds.) (2012). The social cure: Identity, health and well-being. New York and Hove: Psychology Press.
  • Smith, J. R., & Haslam, S. A. (Eds.) (2012). Social psychology: Revisiting the classic studies. London: Sage. (2nd ed, 2017)


  1. ^ a b c "Professor Alex Haslam - UQ Researchers". University of Queensland. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Robert T Jones Scholarship programme | University of St Andrews".
  3. ^ Reicher, S. D., & Haslam, S. A. (2006). Rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC Prison Study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 1–40.
  4. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2007). Beyond the banality of evil: Three dynamics of an interactionist social psychology of tyranny. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 615–622.
  5. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2012). When prisoners take over the prison: A social psychology of resistance. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16, 152–179.
  6. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2012). Contesting the 'nature' of conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo's studies really show. PLoS Biology, 10(11), e1001426. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001426
  7. ^ Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., & Smith, J. R. (2012). Working towards the experimenter: Reconceptualizing obedience within the Milgram paradigm as identification-based followership. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 315–324.
  8. ^ Turner, J. C., & Haslam, S. A. (2001). Social identity, organizations and leadership. In: M. E. Turner (Ed.), Groups at work: Advances in theory and research (pp. 25–65). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  9. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Platow, M. J. (2001). The link between leadership and followership: How affirming social identity translates vision into action. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1469–1479.
  10. ^ Hass, Nancy (18 July 2012). "Marissa Mayer Stares Down 'Glass Cliff' at Yahoo". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  11. ^ Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2005). The Glass Cliff: Evidence that women are over-represented in precarious leadership positions. British Journal of Management, 16, 81–90.
  12. ^ Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2007). The Glass Cliff: Exploring the dynamics surrounding the appointment of women precarious leadership positions. Academy of Management Review, 32, 549–572.
  13. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Ryan, M. K. (2008). The road to the glass cliff: Differences in the perceived suitability of men and women for leadership positions in succeeding and failing organizations. Leadership Quarterly, 19, 530–546.
  14. ^ Jetten, J., Haslam, C., & Haslam, S. A. (Eds.) (2012). The social cure: Identity, health and well-being. New York and Hove: Psychology Press.
  15. ^ Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., Postmes, T., & Haslam, C. (2009). Social identity, health and well-being: An emerging agenda for applied psychology. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58, 1–23.
  16. ^ Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2006). Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1037–1052.
  17. ^ Haslam, S. A., O'Brien, A., Jetten, J., Vormedal, K., & Penna, S. (2005). Taking the strain: Social identity, social support and the experience of stress. 'British Journal of Social Psychology', '44', 355–370.
  18. ^ "UQ equal tops in nation for ARC Australia Laureate Fellowships". University of Queensland. 10 August 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Australia Day Honours List" (PDF). The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2022.