Professor Giovanni Travaglino

Personal profile

Giovanni Travaglino is Professor of Social Psychology and Criminology in the Department of Law & Criminology. He is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Power, Crime, and Society and the Principal Investigator for the 2021 European Research Council StG project "Secret Power" (awarded by the ERC and fulfilled by UKRI). Secret Power uses cutting-edge quantitative methods to investigate how criminal groups may express political power and control territories in Italy, the UK and Japan. 

Giovanni joined the Department in 2021 as a Senior Lecturer and previously held faculty positions in Applied Psychology (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, SZ) and Social Psychology (University of Kent).

In 2012, Giovanni founded Contention: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest, and since 2015 he co-edits the journal with Dr Benjamin Abrams. He is also a member of the editorial boards of the Asian Journal of Social Psychology and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Giovanni is a reviewer for several journals, including the British Journal of Social Psychology, the European Journal of Social Psychology, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Sex Roles, and Political Psychology.


Giovanni welcomes applications from students interested in pursuing a PhD in one of the research areas and themes listed below or linked to the Secret Power project. The Institute supports applications from potential postdoctoral fellows. To discuss potential research ideas, please email him at 



Educational background

  • PhD, Social Psychology, University of Kent, UK (Supervisor: Prof. Dominic Abrams)
  • MSc, Social & Applied Psychology, University of Kent, UK
  • BSc, Psychology, University of Padua, IT
  • FHEA, Higher Education Academy

Research interests

  • Organised crime and criminal governance
  • Political behaviour, political violence and radical action
  • Vicarious dissent and social banditry

Cutting across the three themes listed above, Giovanni's research focuses on:

  • Social identity, group dynamics and intergroup relations
  • Cultural psychology

Research interests (continued)

Giovanni's interdisciplinary research interests focus on the nexus among culture, politics and crime. The main themes are:

  • Organized crime and criminal governance: Criminal groups are a threat not only to security and prosperity but also to democracy. They are sometimes able to control entire territories and displace the state, exerting governance over communities. This research examines the cultural values and beliefs that enable criminal groups to gain legitimacy and social influence among people. For instance, this research has examined the role of masculine honour values in adolescents’ attitudes towards criminal organizations in Southern Italy. This research focuses on a vast array of different criminal groups and organisations, including vigilantes, mafias, gangs and terrorist organisations. 


  • Political behaviour and political violence: This line of research examines why and when people engage in collective forms of political action, including demonstrating and protesting, signing petitions or voting. In addition, this research has investigated the cultural bases of radicalization and violent behaviour in Korea and the US (with Dr Chanki Moon ).


  • Vicarious dissent and social banditry: Individuals lacking cultural or material resources to engage in direct forms of political action may express their dissent vicariously. That is, they may support and legitimize illegal or semi-legal actors perceived as disrupting the status quo on their behalf. This research focuses on explaining the psychological processes involved in individuals' expressions of vicarious dissent: why and when are such expressions more likely, and vicarious dissent's implications for individuals' engagement in political behaviour. The research has been applied to the context of cyber-criminal and hackers (for instance, people's attitudes towards the group Anonymous). 

Across these different themes, Giovanni's research focuses on different geographical areas, including Italy, the UK, Korea and the US. The research pays particular attention to the role of intra- and inter-group relationships and cross-cultural variations across contexts.

To learn more about this research, a full list of publications is available on ResearchGate








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