In our research we focus on
- intergroup relations (especially intergroup contact)
- prejudice (ethnic prejudice and sexism)
- coping with discrimination/stigma, effects of (ethnic and cultural) diversity, and migration.
In addition, we are interested in the application of complex statistical methods (structural equation modelling, multi-level analysis, multiple imputation of missing values) for survey data
Our Current Research Projects
Antagonistic secondary transfer effects of intergroup contact
Antagonistic secondary transfer effects of intergroup contact (Miles Hewstone, Oliver Christ, Olivia Spiegler; Forschungsförderung durch den Leverhulme Trust (UK), 2018-2021) The secondary transfer effect of contact is a phenomenon whereby contact with a primary outgroup (e.g., immigrants) improves attitudes towards secondary outgroups (e.g., gay men). We propose that contact has another, so far unconsidered and potentially harmful, side-effect that most likely occurs for antagonistic groups. For example, if Muslims and Jews are perceived as social opponents, positive contact with Muslims should worsen people’s attitudes toward Jews. We investigate this novel hypothesis by integrating relevant socialpsychological theories and using a range of methods (including experiments and surveys).
„Inclusivity Norms to Counter Polarization in European Societies (INCLUSIVITY)"
(PIs Oliver Christ, Marcin Bukowski, Eva Jaspers, Miranda Lubbers, Maarten van Zalk; Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation; 10/2021-09/2025)
The project team focuses their research on inclusivity norms, which are social group norms that promote equality-based respect, dialogue and unity, to prevent the harmful consequences of polarization for the social tissue of European communities. The goal of the project is to advance research on current European challenges in three ways. First, to provide an evidence-based approach to countering polarization in Europe. Second, they use experimental and network approaches o inclusivity norms, is meant to uncover the relational nature of norm transmission, as well as the conditions under which inclusivity norms amplify tolerance, contact and cooperation. Third, the project will result in open-access empirical data on similarities and differences in inclusivity norms between 16 European countries and groups within European countries, including EU separatist movements (e.g., Catalonia). The team will use an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods approach, which combines a cross-European survey, laboratory experiments, social network analysis, and an evaluation of school-based interventions to study how inclusivity norms can change individuals' attitudes and behavior toward opposing groups. With the project the team intends to provide knowledge on how to optimize transmission and adoption of inclusivity norms in contemporary Europe. The project team plans to transfer valuable knowledge to both stakeholders and the general public by creating an international hub of research on inclusivity norms, facilitated by implementing workshops, conferences, a multilingual website specifically designed for practitioners and non-experts, and ongoing collaborations with these and other stakeholders.
„Societal Integration through Pro-Contact-Norms? The Influence of Social Norms on the Willingness to Engage in Intergroup Contact“
(PIs Oliver Christ, Mathias Kauff; funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research; 10/2021-09(2023))
In light of increasingly diverse societies it becomes important to address the question how the social co-existence of individuals with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be organized in a positive way and how peaceful societal integration can succeed. One precondition for social integration is intergroup contact, that is contact between members of different social groups. Increasing diversity enhances opportunities for such intergroup contact. However, research shows that such opportunities are not necessarily exploited and sometimes even avoided.
In our research project, we aim to answer the question how willingness to engage in intergroup contact can be facilitated for ethnic majority members. In our view, one central construct in this regard is social norms. Social norms are standards that are shared among members of a certain groups and that facilitate individual behavior. We argue that individual willingness to engage in intergroup contact is dependent on perception of social norms that depict intergroup contact as common and desirable. We aim to study the influence of three different sources of social norms (behavior of ingroup members, summary information about the ingroup, and information about decisions of ingroup institutions) on intergroup contact.
We also expect that social norms influence behavior only when their content is compatible with individuals’ attitudes (towards outgroups and diversity in general) and when individuals are identified with the groups in which norms exist. We, hence, study ideological attitudes (i.e., right-wing-authoritarianism) and ingroup identification as potential moderators of the relationship between social norms and willingness to engage in intergroup contact.
So far, social psychological research has mainly looked at consequences of intergroup contact. Only a few studies have studied predictors of intergroup contact. With the present research project, we try to close this gap.
We study our assumptions in nine experimental studies in which social norms are manipulated by varying the content of different sources of social norms and intergroup contact seeking is measured with innovative and behavior-related operationalizations. Studies will be conducted online as well as in the laboratory using student and general population samples.
In our project, we apply a social-psychological perspective on (the prevention of) societal conflicts. On the basis of the results of this project implications can be drawn for the implementation of concrete interventions aiming at enhancing intergroup contact. Moreover, the results of the project can inform more general policy decisions. Compared to individual characteristics social norms can be influenced with relative ease and can be used for interventions that target a broad audience.