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Alastair Nightingale


Postal address: Department of Psychology, F2-OP-08, University of Limerick, Ireland


Qualifications:  BSc & MSc Psychology

Project Supervisors: Professor Orla Muldoon and Dr. Michael Quayle

Funding source: Irish Research Council Grant GOIPG/2016/1487 

Project Title:  ‘Love them or leave them’: Understanding ambivalent attitudes to refugees and the European refugee crisis as a function of national identity and identity threat.

Project Description: A central assumption of attitude research is that people have stable and congruent attitudes. However, recent research shows that attitudes are responsive to contextual social and political concerns and that individuals may hold multiple conflicting attitudes simultaneously. Hence people’s attitude towards others does not tend to be fixed and singularly hostile or sympathetic but are better described as flexible and ambivalent. They may wish to help refugees and in so doing maintain a positive national identity (e.g. humanitarian and egalitarian). Equally, they may want to protect national borders and in so doing maintain cultural identity and welfare support for those already within the national boundary. The concept of identity threats is useful in understanding which opinion is likely to be expressed and the shift between the two. Sympathy to refugees is a likely response to salient group image threat which is a threat to the group's desire to see themselves positively. Whilst antipathy to refugees is a likely response to realistic threat induce by competition over material resource and symbolic threat due to a perception that cultural identity is being undermined immigration. This research explores potential ambivalence that Irish people express about the refugee crisis and the contextual factors that drive it. It employs three inter-related research strands. One is a systematic review that explores the extent to which people have been found to hold ambivalent attitudes to the international refuge. Two is an analysis of public discourse. Three is an experimental investigation exploring the effect of identity threat on ambivalence.

Awards and Honours:

Outstanding Performance in Major Research Project, MSc programme. Department of Psychology, University of Limerick (2014)

Scholarship for postgraduate research, Education and Health Science Faculty, University of Limerick, (2015)

Irish Research Council Post Graduate Government of Ireland Award 2016-2019 


Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon, O. (2017). “It’s just heart breaking”: Doing inclusive political solidarity or ambivalent paternalism through sympathetic discourse within the “refugee crisis” debate. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. doi:10.1002/casp.2303 

Nightingale, A., & Goodman, S. (2017). Building the barricade: public and media discourse. The Psychologist

Conference presentations:

  • Title: Confronting privilege on the global stage and attitudes towards immigration

Author(s): Nightingale, A. & Minescu, A.

Venue / Date: International Political Psychology conference, Amsterdam 3rd-4th December 2015 

  • Title: ‘How do conflicting discourses of privilege, power and affect induce potential ambivalent paternalism towards the “refugee crisis”?’

Author(s): Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon,

Venue / Date: FINAL COST ACTION IS1205 CONFERENCE - Social Psychological & Historical Research into Collective Memories, Social Identities & Intergroup Relations – University of Limerick, Ireland. July 7-8, 2016

  • Title: Do conflicting discourses of privilege and liberal values induce ambivalent paternalism towards the “refugee crisis”?

Author(s): Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon,


  • Title: “It’s just heart breaking”: Political solidarity and sympathetic helping discourse within the “refugee crisis” debate.

Author(s): Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon,

Venue / Date: SPSSI-UK Conference - The Current Migration Crisis in Europe – Cardiff, UK - August 30th – 31st 2016

  • Title: How do conflicting discourses of privilege, power and affect, induce potential ambivalent paternalism towards the “refugee crisis”?

Author(s): Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon, O.

Venue / Date: British Psychological Society – Social Psychology Section Annual conference - ‘Reclaiming Social Psychology: Interdisciplinary Dialogues’ – Cardiff, UK. 31st August – 2nd September 2016

  • Panel Title: Rhetorical analyses of ambivalent responses to the “European refugee crisis”

Paper Title: Ambivalent management of conflicting discourse toward the European refugee crisis: A discursive and experimental study

Author(s): Nightingale, A., Quayle, M., & Muldoon, O.

Venue / Date: The 40th Annual scientific meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP) – Edinburgh, UK.  29th June – 2nd July 2017

Technical Reports:

  • Report: Policy brief – SPSSI – UK Executive summary

Author(s): Steven Reicher, Tony Mansted, Alastair Nightingale, Simon Goodman, Katy Greenland, Sam Parker

Commissioning Agency: SPSSI-UK

Course: PhD Student

Role: PhD Student