Addressing the Psychology of ‘Together Apart’: Free Book Download

“[U]nless or until a vaccine is developed, or we discover medicines to treat the virus, our means of controlling the spread of infection depend on behavioural changes and hence upon human psychology. … Indeed, all we can do to control the virus right now is get people to behave appropriately — to ‘do the right thing.’ … However, it is not enough to understand that we need psychology as a core part of efforts against COVID-19. It is also important to understand what sort of psychology helps or hinders in those efforts.”

So reads the introduction to a new book, part monograph and part edited volume, that examines the psychology surrounding the current pandemic and makes recommendations for how to do that right thing and with a reasonable hope of deploying the right sort of behavioral science. As the authors of Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19, wrote, “Starting from the premise that an effective response to the pandemic depends upon people coming together and supporting each other as members of a common community, the aim of this book is to use social identity theorising to provide a comprehensive and integrated analysis of the psychology of COVID-19.”

Given the import of its subject matter, SAGE Publishing (the parent of Social Science Space) had agreed to make the e-book freely available. Given the moment, Social Science Space has posted the uncorrected draft . You can find the download link below. (And while this is free to read, keep in mind that the copyright holders – the editors and contributors — retain copyright. This download is for personal use only. Please contact SAGE Publishing if you wish to re-use any part of it.) In addition, we are serializing the book and you can find those constituent chapters here: https://socialsciencespace.com/tag/together-apart/

As the authors noted, such hurry-up approaches are both necessary and yet potentially pernicious. “Indeed,” they write, “because we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it is very likely that aspects of our analysis will be somewhat outdated and incomplete by the time the book appears and readers should be mindful of this.

“Nevertheless, we are confident that much of the book’s content has enduring relevance — and indeed it was this that really motivated us to produce it.”



Those authors – who collaborated while distancing — are Jolanda Jetten, professor of social psychology and Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland; Stephen Reicher, Wardlaw Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews; S. Alexander Haslam, professor of psychology and Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland; and Tegan Cruwys, senior research fellow at the Australian National University.

(Many of these familiar names have appeared already among the Social Science Space community: Reicher addressed crowd psychology in a 2016 Social Science Bites podcast, while Haslam spoke to us is 2017 about ‘teams and Trump.’)

As the book notes, “What these four social psychologists have in common is that over the last decades their research has inspired, and been inspired by, research and theory around the topic of social identity. In this, they have shown how the social identity approach helps us to understand processes as diverse as leadership, health, well-being, emergency behaviour, risk perception, stigma, inequality, stereotyping, collective action, crowd behaviour, intergroup violence, social cohesion and solidarity, populism, political rhetoric, obedience, and the psychology of tyranny.”

The authors have been advising a range of bodies around the English-speaking world on responding to the pandemic, offering input “on topics including communications and messaging, adherence to lockdown and physical distancing, trust-building, leadership, public order, how to motivate people to download the COVID-19 tracing apps, and the mental health impact of physical distancing measures.”

Of course, offering input and having impact are not necessarily equivalent. Reicher has blown up on Twitter in the last day with a series of tweets critical of how the Boris Johnson “trashed” the recommendations of a government-sponsored advisory group, the Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B):


Contributors to Together Apart


Niklas K. Steffens, University of Queensland

Frank Mols, University of Queensland

Matthew J. Hornsey, University of Queensland

Katharine H. Greenaway, University of Melbourne

Sarah V. Bentley, University of Queensland

Catherine Haslam, University of Queensland

Orla Muldoon, University of Limerick

Fergus Neville, University of St Andrews

John Drury, University of Sussex

Selin Tekin Guven, University of Sussex

Evangelos Ntontis, Canterbury Christ Church University

Carolina Rocha, University of St. Andrews

Holly Carter, Public Health England

Dale Weston, Public Health England

Richard Amlôt, Public Health England

Clifford Stott, Keele University

Matt Radburn, Keele University

Charlie R. Crimston, University of Queensland

Hema P. Selvanathan, University of Queensland

Yuen Huo, University of California, Los Angeles

John F. Dovidio, Yale University

Elif G. Ikizer, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Jonas R. Kunst, University of Oslo

Aharon Levy, Yale University

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