I graduated in Pedagogy at the University of Florence, Italy, and subsequently I was awarded an MSc in Social Psychology from LSE and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Exeter. After spending one year as a research fellow at the University of Surrey, I became a lecturer at the University of Dundee, in 1996, where I was eventually promoted to senior lecturer, reader, and finally professor of social and health psychology.
- Social Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Research Methods
I have three broad and interrelated research interests: (i) group processes, (ii) social identity, and (ii) the psycho-social determinants of health. Currently, I am actively involved in a research programme investigating the impact of subjective identification with social groups on health (especially mental health). This programme is summarised below.
Current research: Health in groups
In a number of studies, either cross-sectional or longitudinal, my colleagues and I have found that greater group identification (one’s sense of psychological connectedness to a social group) predicts better health. For instance, in a sample of guards working in an Italian prison we found that stronger identification with the group of prison guards was associated with lower levels of psychiatric disturbance and stress, and higher levels of job satisfaction. I have recently completed a large longitudinal (two-wave) and cross-national ESRC-funded project in collaboration with an Italian medical practice and five Scottish medical practices. This project looked at the effects of group identification on various dimensions of mental and physical health (e.g., depression, satisfaction with life, obesity, blood pressure, health behaviours) in adults from all age-groups and socio-economic statuses. The first wave of data revealed that a greater number of group identifications is associated with lower odds to adopt unhealthy behaviours and to suffer from clinical depression. At present we are analysing the longitudinal data.
In the past, I have been involved in three major research programmes. These programmes are highlighted below.
Perceived collective continuity
Identification with a group often implies a sense that this group has temporal endurance, a sense that the group is an entity that moves through time. What are the dimensions of this 'perceived collective continuity' (PCC)? How does PCC relate to central aspects of social identity? What are the implications of PCC for one’s sense of well-being and mental health? And what are PCC’s psychological functions? I developed a research program aimed at addressing these issues, in collaboration with Mhairi Bowe (University of Nottingham Trent) and Marina Herrera (University of Valencia). We found that PCC comprises two main dimensions - one concerning continuity of beliefs, values, customs and traditions ('cultural' continuity), and one related with the perception that different events and ages in the history of the group are causally interconnected ('historical' continuity). We also found that PCC is positively correlated with group-related cognitions, emotions, and behavioural intentions (e.g., ‘group identification’, ‘collective self-esteem’, and ‘collective action’), and with well-being indicators (especially social integration). Concerning psychological functions, our laboratory produced experimental evidence that death-related thoughts lead people to enhance group identification because this affords a sense of collective continuity, which constitutes a form of symbolic immortality and therefore shields people from death-anxiety.
Schisms in groups
What is the dynamics of schisms within social groups? Put differently, what does lead a subgroup to secede from the parent group and form a new, breakaway group? This was the research question that I began addressing during my PhD - which was supervised by Steve Reicher (then at the University of Exeter and now at the University of St. Andrews – and that I kept investigating during my first decade at Dundee University. My research - which was based on both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of schisms taking place in real groups (e.g., the Italian Communist Party; the Church of England) - revealed that social identity occupies a central role in the dynamics of schisms. More precisely, at the basis of a schism there is an argument about the nature of the relationship between a change - typically the adoption of a new norm - and the group identity. Group members may either feel that the change is consistent with the group identity, or that it implies a denial of its ‘true’, deep, historically grounded essence. Those who perceive identity change tend to experience negative emotions and lose their identification with the group, which in turn may lead these alienated group members to join a schism.
The developmental aspects of social identity
During my first decade at Dundee University I collaborated with Mark Bennett(University of Dundee) in the investigation of the genesis of identification with social groups (e.g., the family, the gender group) in children. We also looked at the contextual variability in children’s understanding of the group identity content. We used a variety of research methods, ranging from controlled laboratory experiments to content analysis of verbal material. Our results showed that subjective identification with particular social groups – operationalized either as self-stereotyping in terms of the normative group behaviours or as cognitive confusion between self and ingroup – is likely to emerge between 5 and 7 years of age. Also, we found that conceptions of ingroup identity vary as a function of the intergroup context. For instance, when describing the ingroup, ‘boys’ are more likely to draw attention to being ‘brave’ and ‘tough’ when the cognitively salient outgroup is ‘girls’, but ‘loud’ and ‘talkative’ when the salient outgroup is ‘grown up men’.
Research grants and Fellowships (research rating is provided when available)
- F. Sani, (principal investigator), M. Norbury & V. Madhok. Health in groups: A longitudinal and cross-national study. ESRC; Ref.: ES/I038349/1. (Start and end dates: 01/11/11 – 31/08/15). £504,000.
- F. Sani. Perceiving collective continuity: Social psychological implications. ESRC Fellowship; Ref. RES-000-27-0185. (Start and end dates: 01/09/05 – 31/08/08). £ 166,530. Research rating: Good.
- F. Sani. Perceived group historical continuity: A cross-cultural investigation. ESRC; Ref.: RES-000-22-0738. (Start and end dates: 30/06/04 – 31/07/05). £ 46,925. Research rating: Outstanding.
- S. Reicher (principal applicant), C. Cassidy, F. Sani & P. Cronin. Social immersion lab for the Tay Social Psychology Group. ESRC; Ref.: RES-474-25-0015. (Start and end dates: 01/11/03 – 31/10/05). £. 150,411. Research rating: Outstanding.
- F. Sani (principal investigator) & M. Bennett. The ingroup becomes part of the self: The genesis of children’s sense of “we”. ESRC; Ref.: RES-000-22-0494. (Start and end dates: 01/08/04 – 31/07/05). £ 35,085. Research rating: Outstanding.
- M. Bennett (principal investigator) & F. Sani. A developmental investigation of stereotype variability. ESRC; Ref.: RES-000-22-0203. (Start and end dates: 01/11/03 – 31/07/04). £ 28,126. Research rating: Good.
- F. Sani. Extending the social psychological model of schisms in social groups. BritishAcademy; Ref.: SG-35625. (Start and end dates: 01/03/03 – 31/08/03). £. 4,890.
- F. Sani (principal investigator) & M. Bennett. Developmental aspects of social identity. ESRC; Ref.: R000223776. (Start and end dates: 01/08/02 – 31/10/03). £ 42,661. Research rating: Outstanding.
- F. Sani. An empirical testing of a social psychological model of schisms within social groups. BritishAcademy; Ref.: SG-30189. (Start and end dates: 01/05/00 – 30/09/00). £ 2,510.
- M. Bennett (principal investigator) & F. Sani. Developmental aspects of the process of social categorization. ESRC; Ref.: R000222801. (Start and end dates: 30/04/99 – 31/05/00). £ 35,296. Research rating: Outstanding.
- M. Barrett (principal investigator) et al. (including Fabio Sani). The Development of national, ethnolinguistic and religious identity in children and adolescents living in the NIS. EC INTAS; Ref.: INTAS 97 – 1363. (Starting and end dates: 01/12/98 – 30/11/01). 80,000 ECUs.
'Greater university identification – but not greater contact - leads to more life satisfaction: Evidence from a Spanish longitudinal study' Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. DOI:
'Social isolation predicts frequent attendance in primary care' Annals of Behavioral Medicine. DOI:
'Comparing social group identifications and socioeconomic deprivation as predictors of psychological distress: Evidence from a Scottish primary care sample' British Journal of Social Psychology, vol 56, no. 4, pp. 705-722. DOI:
'On the reciprocal effects between multiple group identifications and mental health: A longitudinal study of Scottish adolescents' British Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol 56, no. 4, pp. 357-371. DOI:
'The role of social support, family identification, and family constraints in predicting post-traumatic stress after cancer' Psycho-Oncology, vol 26, no. 9, pp. 1330-1335. DOI:
'The relationship between group identification and satisfaction with life in a cross-cultural community sample' Journal of Happiness Studies, vol 18, no. 3, pp. 785-807. DOI:
'On the Association between Greater Family Identification and Lower Paranoid Ideation among Non-Clinical Individuals: Evidence From Cypriot and Spanish Students' Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, vol 36, no. 5, pp. 396-418. DOI:
'Posttraumatic stress disorder after cancer diagnosis in adults: a meta-analysis' Depression and Anxiety, vol 34, no. 4, pp. 327-339. DOI:
Group identification and addictive health behaviours in adolescents. in S Buckingham & D Best (eds), Addiction, Behavioral Change and Social Identity: The Path to Resilience and Recovery. Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 71-86. DOI:
'Post-traumatic growth enhances social identification in liver transplant patients: A longitudinal study' Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol 88, pp. 28-32. DOI:
'Greater family identification – but not greater contact with family members - leads to better health: evidence from a Spanish longitudinal study' European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 46, no. 4, pp. 506-513. DOI:
'Greater number of group identifications is associated with healthier behaviour in adolescents' British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol 34, no. 2, pp. 291-305. DOI:
'Beyond Death’s (and Conception’s) Door: The Unsettling Limitations of Incarnate Existence' International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, vol 26, no. 2, pp. 113-123. DOI:
'The pain of low status: the relationship between subjective socioeconomic status and analgesic prescriptions in a Scottish community sample' Psychology, Health and Medicine, vol 21, no. 1, pp. 27-37. DOI:
'Greater number of group identifications is associated with lower odds of being depressed: evidence from a Scottish community sample' Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol 50, no. 9, pp. 1389-1397. DOI:
'Identification with social groups is associated with mental health in adolescents: evidence from a Scottish community sample' Psychiatry Research, vol 228, no. 3, pp. 340-346. DOI:
'Greater number of group identifications is associated with healthier behaviour: evidence from a Scottish community sample' British Journal of Health Psychology, vol 20, no. 3, pp. 466-481. DOI:
'The Immutable Likeness of "Being": Experiencing the Self as Timeless' International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, vol 24, no. 2, pp. 85-103. DOI:
'The effects of identification with a support group on the mental health of people with multiple sclerosis' Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol 74, no. 5, pp. 420-426. DOI:
'Why does ingroup identification shield people from death anxiety?' Social Psychology, vol 44, no. 5, pp. 320-328. DOI:
'Comparing social contact and group identification as predictors of mental health' British Journal of Social Psychology, vol 51, no. 4, pp. 781-790. DOI:
'Perceived family continuity: implications for family identification and psychological well-being' Revista de Psicologia Social, vol 26, no. 3, pp. 387-399. DOI:
'In-group identification mediates the effects of subjective in-group status on mental health' British Journal of Social Psychology, vol 49, no. 4, pp. 883-893. DOI:
'Group entitativity and its perceptual antecedents in varieties of groups: A developmental perspective' European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 40, no. 4, pp. 611-624. DOI:
'Perceived continuity and group identification: implications for social well-being' Revista de Psicologia Social, vol 25, no. 2, pp. 203-214.
'Children's inclusion of the group in the Self:: Evidence from a Self-Ingroup confusion paradigm' Developmental Psychology, vol 45, no. 2, pp. 503-510. DOI:
'Perceived collective continuity and ingroup identification as defence against death awareness' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol 45, no. 1, pp. 242-245. DOI:
'Children's subjective identification with social groups: A group-reference effect approach' British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol 26, pp. 381-387. DOI:
'In the name of Mussolini:: explaining the schism in an Italian right-wing political party' Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, vol 12, no. 3, pp. 242-253. DOI:
'The effect of comparative context upon stereotype content: Children's judgments of ingroup behavior' Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, vol 49, no. 2, pp. 141-146. DOI:
'Perceived collective continuity and social well-being: exploring the connections' European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 38, no. 2, pp. 365-374. DOI:
'Children's subjective identification with social groups: a self-stereotyping approach' Developmental Science, vol 11, no. 1, pp. 69-75. DOI:
'Perceived collective continuity: seeing groups as entities that move through time' European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 37, no. 6, pp. 1118-1134. DOI:
'Contextual variation in stereotype content: An investigation of children's central tendency and group variability judgments' Social Development, vol 15, no. 4, pp. 693-708. DOI:
'The fundamentality of group principles and perceived group entitativity' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol 41, no. 6, pp. 567-573. DOI:
'When subgroups secede: extending and refining the social psychological model of schisms in groups' Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol 31, no. 8, pp. 1074-1086. DOI:
'The role of target gender and race in children's encoding of category-neutral person information' British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol 21, no. 1, pp. 99-112. DOI:
'Should we stay or should we go? A social psychological model of schisms in groups' Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol 28, no. 12, pp. 1647-1655. DOI:
'Children's gender categorization: An investigation of automatic processing' British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol 18, no. 1, pp. 97-102. DOI:
'When consensus fails: an analysis of the schism within the Italian Communist Party (1991)' European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 28, no. 4, pp. 623-645. DOI: