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Current Studies

Social Experiences during the Corona Pandemic

Dr. Stefanie Hechler, Clarissa Wendel (B.Sc.), Dr. Dana Schneider

How do the current threat and its consequential changes in social life, i.e., contact restrictions, affect our social experiences ?

Longitudinal online survey

Participation request
You are willing to participate in three waves of the study (day 1, day 3 and day 5) - each time from 4pm onwards.
Further, you are over 18 and not more than 60 years old.
You are at this very moment in Germany.

Link Starting Day (Students from the University of Jena receive course credit of 1.5hrs in three waves):

The follow-up questionnaire will be send to you via E-mail

Current Research​ Projects

The Janus-faced Effect of Helping Show content
  • David F. Urschler

Helping can fulfill two fundamental human needs: the need for belongingness (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) and the need for independence (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Feelings of belongingness are the basis of social solidarity that binds people together, which, in turn, is the "glue" that makes social life possible (Reicher & Haslam, 2009). However, belongingness creates a feeling of dependence that is diametrical
to the need for independence and self-reliance (cf. Nadler, 2015).

For example, we teach children to value self-reliance from an early age. Consequently, receiving help and relying on help produces an inherent tension between the needs for independence and for belongingness. In one situation, the feelings of belongingness might be salient and people in need are grateful for receiving help, and feel good about
themselves; whereas, in other situations the need for independence might be salient and people are reluctant to seek help, receiving help may even poses a threat to the recipient (for an overview see, Nadler, 2015).

These effects are fostered when we differentiate between autonomy-oriented help (i.e., provide the tools to a help-seeker to solve a problem by him- or herself) and dependency-oriented help (i.e., provide the concrete solution to a problem). In two current research lines, I will examine factors that affect people’s reaction to these different types of help, and factors that affect humans’ intention to provide autonomy- or dependency-oriented help.

DFG Wissenschaftsnetzwerkes „Understanding Others- Integration of Social, Cognitive and Affective Processes“ Show content
  • Dana Scheider (Coordinator)

In order to advance our understanding of social interaction, we will carry out four interdisciplinary scientific workshops that integrate findings from philosophy, psychological science and neuroscience. We wish to focus on social cognitive and affective phenomena as well as related social behaviors when it comes to interpersonal interactions.

In a first workshop, we attempt to define the concepts of 'Theory of Mind', empathy, and related social behaviors to more clearly separate them as constructs, and in turn link them in an overarching theoretical framework. This should set the stage for the following workshops.

In a second workshop, we wish to explore in an integrative manner the specificities and relationships of involved target agents across the phenomena of ´Theory of Mind´, empathy and related social behaviors.

In a third workshop, we wish to address methodological and test-theoretical challenges related to testing and measuring these social interaction phenomena - particularly we wish to address issues concerning validity and reliability as well as issues concerning the multitude of employed dependent measures.

Finally, in a fourth workshop we would like to address technical challenges when studying social phenomena in real-time interpersonal encounters.

As philosophy, psychological science and neuroscience have traditionally all worked intensively on issues of understanding social interactions, as well as their associated cognitive and affective phenomena, processes and mechanisms, we believe bringing particularly these disciplines together will be extremely fruitful when aiming to 'Understand Others'.

Former Research​ Projects

Cooperation between groups Show content
  • Franz Neyer
  • Thomas Kessler
  • Stefanie Hechler

The project "Cooperation in Social Groups" was part of the DFG research unit Person Perception from 2012 to 2015. It was based ont the notion that cooperation is a pervasive feature in human groups, but bears a risk of being a victim of cheating. To ensure high levels of cooperation, people have to perceive and remember cheating in order to punish or avoid the cheater in the future. In this project, we successfully extended research on detection and memory for cheaters from an interpersonal to an intergroup context. We found that participants have an enhanced memory for ingroup cheaters, but not outgroup cheaters (Hechler, Neyer, Kessler, 2016). Ingroup identification (psychological meaning of the ingroup) and authoritarian tendencies (focus on deviant behavior) foster the better memory for ingroup cheaters. Once the cheater is detected, the group may want to punish them in order to maintain ingroup norms and/or protect ingroup victims. A second line of research thus systematically disentangled the roles of cheaters and their victims, and their group memberships. Anger about misdeeds is elicited by the perpetrator’s bad intent, but less by the consequences for the victims (Hechler & Kessler, minor revision). Further studies demonstrated that an interaction between only outgroup members elicits emotional and behavioral reactions, irrespective of involvement with perpetrator or victim. Thus, next to group-based emotions, moral emotions play a crucial role in the evaluation of cheaters. These reactions vary in terms of group membership of cheater and victim. In a third line of research, we examined the role of attention and eye-gaze for cooperation and cheater detection in intergroup contexts. Results show that cooperation is focused in interactions with ingroup members, but less in interactions with outgroup members. In sum, our research refines the understanding of detecting, memorizing, and dealing with cheaters with a particular focus on the maintenance of cooperation within one’s ingroup. One scientific article was published in the peer-reviewed journal Cognition (impact factor: 3.411). Moreover, two theoretical open peer commentaries on cooperation and reactions to cheaters were released in the journal Behavioral and Brain Science (impact factor: 20.415). One more manuscript of a scientific article is currently under review.

Heart of Flesh - Not Stone Show content
  • Martin Leiner, Jena (Leader)
  • Bertram Schmitz, Jena
  • Thomas Kessler, Jena
  • Nicole Harth, Jena
  • Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, Jerusalem (Leader)
  • Arie Nadler, Tel Aviv (Leader)
  • Shifra Sagy, Be’er Sheva (Leader)
  • Zeina Barakat, Jerusalem (Coordinator)
  • Martin O’Malley, Jena (Coordinator)
  • Yael Ben David, Tel Aviv/Be’er Sheva (Coordinator)
  • Michael Sternberg, Ramat Rasiel
  • Sharón Benheim, Hevel Eilot


The project title "Hearts of Flesh - Not Stone" is a reference to an image in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (36:26). The image, which is significant for Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures, gives insight into the central questions of this project which seeks to understand the movement of individuals and groups from lesser to greater willingness for reconciliation. Working in a transdisciplinary manner, we expect major results to impact understanding of reconciliation. The second major result impacts society; we want to deepen the understanding on how encounter groups can lead to greater willingness to reconcile. The project analyses individuals and groups experiencing the "suffering of the other" as a means for understanding how and why groups may become more or less open to reconciliation. This single question forms the focus of the project, which is addressed via three theoretical/methodological approaches:
A. Encountering the suffering of the other (ESO) "experientially"
B. Analyzing the ESO through social psychological experiments
C. Conceptual analysis of the ESO through theological/sociological/political disciplines
The first approach (A) explores the ESO before, during and immediately after the experience as well as one year later, during which the participants will live in their own home community. The study will carefully examine the possible changes among the Palestinian and the Jewish-Israeli participants, especially regarding two central indicators reflecting willingness to reconcile:
1. acceptance of the "other" identity needs
2. perceptions of collective narratives of the in-group and "other" group.
In addition to assisting in the ESO itself, the second approach (B) addresses the question with the models and experiments of social psychology. The final approach (C) addresses the question on a more theoretical level. It examines the groups’ beliefs, attitudes, goals, narratives and their relative power positions - all elements which comprise and influence their social imaginations and group identities. In proposing such a study, we emphasize quite strongly that we are not comparing or equating the suffering of the two groups in any way.

Mobility and Identity Show content
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Beelmann, Forschungssynthese, Intervention und Evaluation
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Kessler, Sozialpsychologie
  • Prof. Dr. Franz J. Neyer, Persönlichkeitspsychologie und Psychologische Diagnostik (Sprecher)
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Noack, Pädagogische Psychologie (Sprecher)
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Rothermund, Allgemeine Psychologie II
  • Prof. Dr. Melanie C. Steffens, Soziale Kognition und Kognitive Psychologie

Mobilität - die ständige oder zeitlich befristete, selbstgewählte oder erzwungene Veränderung des Wohnorts - zählt zu den zentralen Herausforderungen und Chancen für die individuelle Lebensgestaltung im 21. Jahrhundert. Mobilitätserfahrungen können die Identität eines Menschen bereichern, aber auch in Frage stellen. Gleichzeitig kann die Identität eines Menschen ausschlaggebend dafür sein, ob überhaupt Mobilitätsentscheidungen gefällt werden. Damit kann die Wechselwirkung zwischen Mobilität und Identität erhebliche Konsequenzen für das einzelne Individuum sowie für die Gesellschaft insgesamt nach sich ziehen. Die psychologischen Implikationen räumlicher Mobilität sind bislang jedoch kaum erforscht. Mit dem Projekt soll die Grundlage für ein Forschungsprogramm gelegt werden, in dem erstmals Mobilität systematisch aus entwicklungs-, persönlichkeits- und sozialpsychologischer Perspektive untersucht wird. Das Projekt soll zunächst in einen DFG-Antrag für ein Graduiertenkolleg und in einem weiteren Schritt für eine Forschergruppe münden; beteiligt sind Lehrstühle der Jenaer Psychologie mit vorwiegend entwicklungs- (Beelmann, Noack, Rothermund), persönlichkeits- (Neyer) sowie sozialpsychologischer Ausrichtung (Kessler, Steffens).

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