Our lab investigates a broad number of topics in social psychology, with overlap to neighboring disciplines such as motivation science, health psychology, personality psychology, and behavioral economics. These collaborative projects include research on self-control and self-regulation, social comparison, intergroup relations, moral judgment, sustainable lifestyles, consumer and health behavior, social media, and close relationships, among others. On this page, we provide a brief overview of some ongoing or recent lines of research.

Acceptance of Nudging and Other Public Policy Measures

Motivating slogans on stairs, happy faces on trash cans or shocking images on cigarette packets are common public policy tools nudging people through to the right decision (e.g., the healthier, environmentally friendlier or more social decision). Thaler and Sunstein (2009) defined nudging as influencing people's behavior in a predictable way without using prohibitions or economic incentives. They stress its voluntary and transparent nature. A policy tool promoting environmental preservation and people’s well-being without manipulating their decision-making processes sounds promising. In this project, we wonder what citizens actually think about being nudged? Who accepts which public policy measures and why or why not? We propose that people who tend to attribute the responsibility of making the right decision to external factors (such as the presence or absence of proper regulations) rather than to their own show a higher acceptance of public policy tools in a given domain (e.g. smoking behavior, physical activity, environmental care). We also explore if people´s acceptance ratings are influenced by their political affiliation. Further, we investigate if the perceived intrusiveness, transparency and effectivess of these measures affects their acceptance ratings.

This project is part of the Research Area on "Markets and Values" from the Cluster of Excellence of "ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy", a joint initiative of the Universities of Bonn and Cologne funded by the German Excellence Strategy.

Contact: Sonja Grelle and Wilhelm Hofmann

Pushing, Coasting, Disengaging: How Social Comparison Impacts Self-Regulation

People often strive to improve on important challenging goals, such as the wish to lead a healthier lifestyle, to save more money, or to climb up the career ladder. However, these struggles for self-improvement do not occur in a social vacuum. Rather, people often turn to their social environment to assess their current standing. Depending on the outcome of such social comparisons, people may receive a motivational boost and invest additional effort into their projects (“pushing”), slow down and feel good about themselves (“coasting”), or even disengage entirely (“giving up”). However, despite decades of research into social comparison processes, the fundamental connection between social comparison and motivation remains ill-understood. This project investigates the motivating or demotivating role of social comparison processes for the pursuit of self-improvement goals—in laboratory and also in field studies, one in collaboration with the Deutsche Sporthochshule Köln (Prof. Markus Raab). Taking a dynamic perspective, we also look at how different motivational mindsets influence the strategic selection of social comparison partners. We hope to not only improve the theoretical understanding of the motivational implications of social comparison; The project may also help to design better campaigns and interventions in those fields in which self-improvement motivation or lack thereof has tangible benefits and costs, respectively, including health science, work psychology, and education.

Contact: Kathi Diel and Wilhelm Hofmann

This project is part of the DFG Research Unit "Relativity in Social Cognition"