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The psychological roots of societal self harm: mass participation experiments

Researchers: Dr Daniel Richardson | Jorina von Zimmermann ...

Project overview

Parklife: A mass participation experiment into the psychological roots of societal self harm

Collective acts of societal self-harm, ranging from littering to rioting, have been studied extensively from a sociological and political perspective, but it has proven difficult to investigate them from a psychological perspective because of the practical challenges involved in experimentally manipulating the behaviour of a large number of individuals interacting in real time.

This project will develop a mass participation game, Parklife, that can be played online or among large groups of people, in which teams of players can develop or vandalise a virtual park. By engaging hundreds of people and manipulating certain factors (shown by previous research to drive societal self-harm) within the game, the researchers aim to produce causal experimental evidence that will complement existing scholarship and make an important contribution to the ongoing policy debate on the effects of social inequality.


  • Dr Daniel Richardson
    University College London
  • Jorina von Zimmermann
    University College London
  • Nichola Raihani
    University College London

  • Catherine Dennison
    Programme Head, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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