Melike has been fascinated with the brain from an early age, realising that this remarkable organ holds the key to our dreams and creativity, but also our fears
and prejudices. Her research interests fall within the domains of social psychology and social neuroscience. Specifically, her research focuses on intergroup relations and identifying the factors that affect how we see and respond to members of social (racial) outgroups. She believes that a deeper understanding of implicit brain processes that drive behaviour is key.
As a senior researcher in the Historical Trauma and Transformation unit at Stellenbosch University, she leads the neuroscientific investigation of empathy, specifically in intergroup contexts. This research is central to understanding the enduring effects of racial discrimination, and how these effects may impact the way people respond to outgroup members. This work is of particular importance in the South African context, with our unique cross-cultural environment and historical divisions that continue to persist after apartheid.
Melike is interested in examining indigenous knowledge systems in Africa in the
area of contemplative practices, much in the way the Tibetan yogi’s were initially investigated using scientific methods. In this regard, traditional healers (sangomas) routinely make use of rituals and practices of which the underlying mechanism of healing and/or scientific merit remains unexplored. Work of this nature would contribute an African perspective to the rich dialogue between the East and the West on the science of contemplative practices.