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Social Processes

Social Processes Lab

Knowledge acquisition and information exchange between people takes place under different social conditions. To what extent supervisors and employees share information, whether competitors disclose their knowledge to each other, what information people select on the Internet, or how study partners react when, contrary to expectations, the member of a learning group keeps important information to herself, largely depends on social factors. More precisely, social relations between the parties (e.g., competition or power differences), emotions (e.g., anger or threat) and the motivation of the parties involved (e.g., to gain personal advantage or to pursue group goals) play a central role. These factors can affect virtual collaboration, in particular, because here social cues are less obvious than in face-to-face collaboration. As a consequence, existing social relationships (e.g., power differences) are all the more important in virtual cooperation.

The Social Processes Lab focuses on how these social factors help or hinder cooperation. Firstly, the lab considers how social relationships influence the success of cooperation: The influence of power, competition and cooperation (and combinations thereof), as well as standards and standard violations in connection with group identification are in the foreground. The aim is to understand how social relationships that are mediated by motivational processes (i.e. self-regulation) promote or hinder cooperation. Secondly, the lab examines how emotions (e.g., joy or perceived threat) affect the attitude of people towards controversial issues (e.g., a new medical treatment) and processing of information (e.g., internet search).

Team Social Processes


Causality Heuristics in Resolving Ambiguous Situations

Be it in digital or real-world situations – people often face ambiguous situations that they strive to make sense of. When trying to interpret such ambiguous situations, they may experience a sense of “cognitive conflict” (i.e., an insecurity on what the situation means and how events may or may not be causally connected to one another). How do people deal with such ambiguity? And how does the observer’s situation, such as stress or perceived control, influence his or her attempts to overcome ambiguity?

Communication as a means to building intergroup trust

Successful cooperation often requires mutual trust. This is all the more the case when it is about cooperation between groups. When the impression of the outgroup is mostly shaped by prejudice and not by knowledge, trust building means are required. But how can trust in an outgroup be enhanced? Within the scope of this dissertation project, we investigate the conditions under which communication increases intergroup trust.

Determinants and consequences of decisional conflict

People often experience decisional conflicts in their everyday life. In the canteen, for example, a person may experience a conflict between the goal to eat healthily (‘take the salad!’) and the goal to eat something tasty (‘take the pasta!’). The present project studies such decisional (goal) conflicts from different perspectives. First, the project focuses on the circumstances under which people are more vs. less likely to experience decisional conflicts (determinants). Second, our studies investigate the consequences of experiencing decisional conflict on affect/emotions, cognition, and behavior.

Empathizing with the Enemy: Emotion Regulation and Support for Humanitarian Aid in Intergroup Conflicts

In newspapers, on television, and on the internet, reports on conflicts between groups are frequent. These reports often – intentionally and unintentionally – elicit negative emotions vis-à-vis the other group, which then further fuel the conflict. Based on video clips from media coverage, this project investigates how dealing with these negative emotions affects empathy with and willingness to help members of an opposing group.

Power and behavior in social interactions

Social power characterizes many instances in which people exchange knowledge (e.g., across hierarchies in organizations). Power can tempt people to focus on personal benefits, hindering collaboration. Yet, at times, especially those high in power feel responsible and take care of others' interests. When and why is this the case? Which conditions promote responsibility among power-holders?

Reactions to non-normative behavior of other group members

In many situations, groups play an important role: Members of a team work on projects collaboratively, students form learning groups, and members of online groups discuss issues that are important to them. In this context, this dissertation project investigates two key questions: How do group members react when another member of their group does not fulfill their expectations regarding appropriate behavior? And when do they show a certain reaction?

The impact of health threat on knowledge acquisition on the Internet

Besides content-related interest about a specific topic, personal relevance, too, provides motivation for individuals to search for information on the Internet. This personal relevance may, for example, result from experiencing health-related threat. How does health-related threat influence information search on the Internet (e.g., generation of search terms, selection of links, and memory for the information read) and the representation of one's own health?

Former Projects

graduation papers