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Professor Kevin Durrheim.
Professor Kevin Durrheim.

Psychology Professor in the School of Applied Human Sciences, Kevin Durrheim has been awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF). A-rated researchers are leading international scholars in their respective fields that are acknowledged for the high quality and impact of their recent research output.

‘I am thrilled to receive this recognition for the work I have done over the years,’ said Durrheim. ‘It is gratifying and validating. While the ratings system tends to single out individuals for their work, it must be noted that research is a collective endeavour, produced in partnership with colleagues and students, including (in my case) longstanding collaborators and friends. UKZN and the NRF have also been great supporters of research.’

Durrheim is a social psychologist with his research and thinking having been shaped by his experience of living under apartheid and through the transformation of South Africa.

‘My overarching interest has been to understand how social identities, social practices and social worlds evolve as they respond to changing circumstances; and how individuals, caught up in these dramas, conduct themselves, reflecting the interests and intentions of their time and place,’ he said.

Durrheim’s research interests lie in transformation, intergroup relations, prejudice, racism, polarisation, de-segregation and social change. ‘Opinions are expressed as emblems of our identity, and our investment in these identities and the intergroup dynamics they promote can prevent us from moving toward a just and productive society.’

He has published articles on these topics in journals such as the American Psychologist, the British Journal of Social Psychology, the European Journal of Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and Brain and Behavioural Sciences. He has also co-authored and co-edited books.

His work on research methodology and intergroup contact sparked his interest in developing a technology for studying intergroup contact and exchange in evolutionary and interactive contexts. The VIAPPL (Virtual Interaction APPLication) experimental platform enables researchers to study a wide range of social interactions in controlled environments and to test hypothesis about the foundations of human behaviour (see www.viappl.org).

‘I love the many challenges that VIAPPL presents and the collaboration and exciting research it makes possible,’ said Durrheim.

His advice to students and scholars is, ‘Research involves lots of hard work but it also needs to be fun. There is joy to be found in creativity and collaboration. It’s thrilling to discover how the world we live in functions, apply and develop methods that reveal these dynamics, and write to address an international community of scholars from our vantage point in the Global South.’

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