On The road: Forget encoding! “Motivational relevance determines the cognitive accessibility of information” – Symposium at the 17th EASP general meeting

June 17th, 2014

Forget encoding! Motivational relevance determines the cognitive accessibility of information

Co-Chairs: René Kopietz (University of Münster) & Baruch Eitam (University of Haifa)

Abstract: Traditional approaches to memory and cognition focus on the level of encoding of information with deeper encoding leading to higher accessibility and an increased probability that information will be used. In contrast, the recently introduced Relevance Of Activated Representations (ROAR) framework (Eitam & Higgins, 2010) claims that it is not encoding that leads to activated representations, but rather that the motivational relevance of the encoded information determines their accessibility and use. Four talks will present empirical evidence that is hard to reconcile with the traditional approach and is best understood in terms of motivational relevance. First, Higgins will talk about how truth motivation modulates assimilation effects in memory from ones own communication. He finds that communication affects memory to the extent that it is motivational relevant. Chatman discusses that exercising agency through choice leads to a greater sense of control. She presents experimental evidence demonstrating that representations that are perceived as outcomes of agentic action (i.e., a result of control motivation) lead to better memory. Kopietz discusses an important boundary condition of the social-tuning effect: That is, the memory advantage that stems from encoding information together with homogeneous (vs. heterogenous) group members disappears when group interaction is explicitly not expected (i.e., when it is is no longer relevant for future coordination). Finally, Eitam shows that even when selection is unnecessary (because mental resources are abundant) a significant proportion of people are seemingly ‘blind’ to irrelevant visual stimulation presented for long durations in the focus of their attention.

The symposium (S25) will be held on July, 9th at 5.15pm. 

Click here for more information about the conference.

On the road: Invited talks in Bielefeld and Munich (May 2012)

February 9th, 2012

I will be giving talks in Bielefeld (@ Gerd Bohner’s colloquium) on May 3rd and in Munich (@ Dieter Frey’s colloquium). The first will be on my work on motivated person perception (done together with Oliver Klein) the latter on audience tuning. I will post abstracts shortly before the talks.

On the road: symposium about group-bounded cognition – SPSP 2012 in San Diego, CA

November 29th, 2011

I’ll be part of Adam Galinsky’s highly interesting symposium on group-bounded cognition at the upcoming SPSP meeting. The meeting will be held in San Diego (CA) from January 26th to 28th. The symposium is scheduled for 12.30pm. Apart from me the other speakers are: Adam Galinsky, Sonia Kang, Garriy Shteynberg, and Jacob Hirsh. To receive some more information about the individual talks please click here.

On the road: symposium about self-Enhancement at the TeaP 2012 in Mannheim

November 29th, 2011

Jochen Gebauer and I organized a symposium about self-enhancement for the upcoming Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (or short TeaP) which is a small annual conference focusing on the experimental approach in psychology. In 2012 it will be held in Mannheim from April 1st to 4th. Apart from Jochen Gebauer and me there’ll be talks by Michael Dufner, Daniel Leising, and Michela Schröder-Abé. See the symposium abstract for details.


Humans self-enhance. That is, humans are motivated to evaluate themselves positively. Self-enhancement is a powerful process that builds the basis for many classical self-theories (e.g., dissonance theory, social-identity theory). This symposium aims to show that self-enhancement is also a powerful process driving diverse social phenomena going beyond the immediate self-concept. Specifically, Leising shows how two independent self-enhancer traits—leadership potential and self-regard—drive positive illusions of intelligence. Schröder-Abé shows that speed-daters, who self-enhance regarding their attractiveness, are chosen particularly frequently as short-term partners. Dufner shows that narcissism (the self-enhancer trait) is also linked to more mate appeal because of lowered inhibition among narcissists. Kopietz shows that while we are good at remembering positive self-related feedback we tend to neglect negative feedback and discusses potential mechanisms. Gebauer revisits whether self-enhancement is prevalent in collectivist cultures and shows that highhanded self-reports of prosociality among collectivists is mediated by communal self-enhancement. Together, the five talks showcase that self-enhancement is a powerful process driving divergent believes and behaviors, such as positive intelligence illusions, mate appeal, memory bias, and self-reported prosociality.

Aversive racism in companies’ hiring procedures

May 29th, 2010

In February Leo Kaas and Christian Manger from the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany published an interesting field study about discrimination in German companies’ hiring procedures. Their approach is very similar to John Dovidio and Samual Gaertner‘s now classic studies on aversive racism. These authors introduced the term in 1986 and it refers to a subtle and contemporary form of racism, in which people embrace egalitarian values while they are actually unaware of their negative feelings or affect towards ethnic minorities. This will lead to subtle forms of discrimination, specifically, if discriminating behavior can be justified without using anything related to race or minority status.

The typical finding (e.g., Dovidio & Gaertner, 2002) is that both White and Black job applicants will get hired if highly qualified or not get hired if weakly qualified. If anything, Blacks get hired slightly more often in both cases. However, if qualifications are ambiguous Whites will get hired much more often than Blacks (because it’s easy to justify not hiring the Black guy due to his ambiguous qualifications).

The field study by Leo Kaas and Christian Manger (2010) actually replicated these basic findings outside of the lab. They faked applications for internships at real companies and named their applicants either German or Turkish. Needless to say, Turks got invited much less often than Germans for the same position and with basically the same (high) qualifications.

The problem is, that these authors actually used highly qualified people, which on the one hand decreased the effect considerably—i.e., the bias toward the German was only around 15%—but on the other hand one could say that there is much less awareness or egalitarian values in Germany’s society. One would have expected no real difference between highly qualified Turkish vs. German applicants based on the US American lab study findings. Furthermore, the authors argue, that the pro-German bias should be considerably higher with less qualified applicants. On the other hand, providing letters of reference diminished the effect; that is, if Turkish applicants received positive, personal letters about their personal characteristics their chances to an interview were equal to the German applicants.

So, where does this leave us? One conclusion (or consequence) might be that highly qualified, well-integrated immigrants will actually leave Germany and seek jobs in their parent’s home countries. So, these hiring policies and subtle (?!) forms of discrimination will lead to a special kind of brain drain. That’s just great…


  • Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002).  Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 319-323.
  • Kaas, L., & Manger, C. (2010). Ethnic Discrimination in Germany’s Labour Market: A Field Experiment. Discussion Paper No. 4741. Retrieved from IZA’s website on May 29th, 2010.

Programming online studies

May 26th, 2010

In the past we ran a couple of online studies using Unipark, an online questionnaire/experiment provider not that different from Surveymonkey or Qualtrics. One crucial difference may be that Unipark—at least in theory—allows random allocation of participants to conditions. In practice it is a bit more complicated. In any case, all these providers need money, paid accounts, to work.

By accident I stumbled upon a HTML/JavaScript template by Marianne Promberger, which allows relatively easy, independent programming of one’s experiments. All one needs is a server:) I’ll look into it in the near future and report my experiences here.


February 19th, 2010

This is my new web site, based on WordPress’ CMS and coded by Marc Becher, who is an excellent web designer and even better photographer!

I am planning on infrequently blog about psychology-related interesting stuff, but don’t know yet if I’ll have the necessary time. If you are interested in psychology but don’t have access to psychological journals, or hate reading them, you might want to try out The Inquisitive Mind—a free online magazine that publishes interesting psychological articles for a lay audience.

For everyone who speaks or reads German, a German version has been launched this week and I am encouraging you to check it out and spread the word. If you prefer Portuguese, go for it:)

So much for now!