Main research areas


Summary of topics


Gender, gender roles, and gender stereotypes

Sexual orientation, intersectionality, and discrimination

Social exclusion


Conflict and cooperation between groups


Gender, gender roles, and gender stereotypes

Contact persons: Melanie Steffens, Claudia Niedlich, Carolin Scheifele, Sven Kachel, & Franziska Ehrke

In our gender research, the basic dimensions of person perception (i.e., interpersonal warmth and task-related competence) play an important role. Here, we investigate which traditional ideas of the typical woman/man can still be found today and to what extent a change in our gender stereotypical thinking can be observed (e.g., acceptance of men taking over Along with this, we are interestedin the origins of er stereotypes, which effects they have (e.g., experiencing being "not man enough"), and how they can be changed. We pay special attention to implicit cognitions - those cognitive contents that individuals are either not aware of  or do not want to admit to others, typically due to social desirability.

Another aspect of this research is to investigate determinants of the so-called "glass ceiling" - the phenomenon that at a certain point in their careers, women encounter an invisible barrier that prevents them from advancing further. Here, we are interested in both inhibiting factors on the part of (potential) female leaders and those attributable to their environment (such as social context, corporate cultures, established gender roles in heterosexual relationships). Related to this, we ask what interventions could help (e.g., quotas for women, awareness of sexism and beauty norms). An important characteristic of our work is to apply available findings of social psychological research as well as the results of our ongoing projects to the work context, to develop concrete instructions for action for practice, and to make these available to actors from business and politics.

Selected publications:

Steffens, M. C., & Ebert, I. D. (2016). Frauen – Männer – Karrieren. Eine sozialpsychologische Perspektive auf Frauen in männlich geprägten Arbeitskontexten. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Steffens, M. C., Preuß, S., & Scheifele, C. (2019). Work-related impression formation: Reviewing parenthood penalties and investigating a “fatherhood penalty” for single fathers. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 41(5), 287–304.

Scheifele, C., Ehrke, F., Viladot, M. A., Van Laar, C. & Steffens, M. C. (in press). Testing the basic socio-structural assumptions of social identity theory in the gender context: Evidence from correlational studies on women’s leadership. European Journal of Social Psychology (Special Section of Registered Reports on the topic “Revisiting basic tenets of and new directions for Social Identity Theory”).

Kachel, S., Steffens, M. C., & Niedlich, C. (2016). Traditional masculinity and femininity: Validation of a new scale assessing gender roles. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

Sexual orientation, intersectionality, and discrimination

Contact persons: Claudia Niedlich, Melanie Steffens, Sven Kachel, Elena Ball, & Franziska Ehrke

In addition to the category of gender, we are interested in other social characteristics, such as a person's sexual orientation. Here we ask which indirect signals (e.g., manner of speaking, face, clothing) and their concrete components are used to (correctly) judge persons as lesbian/gay or straight. We are particularly interested in which role gender stereotypes play in this regard and which impact the perception of a certain sexual orientation has. Primarily, we examine processes of discrimination in the work context. We are interested in whether lesbian/gay and straight individuals with same qualifications are ascribed equal chances to get an advertised job and to move up the career ladder in a company.

These judgments interact with ideas of traditional femininity and masculinity and influence how individuals are perceived. Because these images are constantly changing, we also examine changes in perceptions and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men as well as interventions that contribute to improve attitudes toward sexual minorities (e.g., paradoxical intervention, vicarious contact).

In addition, as part of this research focus, we are concerned with the question of what impressions are formed and whether discrimination results when a person belongs to more than one stigmatized group ("intersectionality"). This research approach assumes that experiences of discrimination do not simply add up  but rather interact in a complex way. For this purpose, in some experiments we also vary applicants' nationality and examine how, for example, people with German and Turkish names and different sexual orientations are rated.

Selected publications:

Niedlich C. & Steffens M. C.  (2019). Gleiche Chancen für alle? Wie Stereotype den Erfolg von BewerberInnen beeinflussen. Das In-Mind Magazin. Special Issue: Gender, 10(1).

Kachel, S., Steffens, M. C., Preuß, S., & Simpson, A. P. (2020). Gender (conformity) matters: Cross-dimensional and cross-modal associations in sexual orientation perception. Journal of Language and Social Psychology (Special Issue: Sounding strange(r): Origins, consequences, and boundary conditions of socio-phonetic discrimination), 39(1), 40–66,

Steffens, M. C., Niedlich, C., & Ehrke, F. (2016). Discrimination at work on the basis of sexual orientation: Subjective experience, experimental evidence, and interventions. In T. Köllen (Ed.), Sexual Orientation and Transgender Issues in Organizations (pp. 367–388). Springer International Publishing.

Niedlich, C., Steffens, M. C., Krause, J., Settke, E., & Ebert, I. D. (2015). Ironic effects of sexual minority group membership: Are lesbians less susceptible to invoking negative female stereotypes than heterosexual woman? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(5), 1439–1447. https://doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0412-1.

Preuß, S., & Steffens, M. C. (2020). A video intervention for every straight man: The role of pre-attitudes and emotions in vicarious-contact effects. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. Advance online publication.


Social exclusion

Contact person: Selma Rudert

Social exclusion and ostracism are common events in many different contexts and institutions, e.g. in schools, but also in economic organizations and on a societal level. However, since social exclusion has negative effects on performance and wellbeing, it can cause great damage on an individual as well as on an economic level.

One focus of this research focus is to investigate why people exclude others. Particularly, we examine the impact of different motives, personality traits, and social contexts which promote exclusion behavior. Another focus is to examine how people understand and experience social exclusion – if they are excluded themselves as well as if they observe others being excluded. Those different perspectives help to gain an understanding of the reasons for social exclusion and to figure out how social exclusion and its negative consequences can be prevented.

Selected publications:

Rudert, S. C., Keller, M. D., Hales, A. H., Walker, M., & Greifeneder, R. (2020). Who gets ostracized? A personality perspective on risk and protective factors of ostracism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(6), 1247–1268. https://doi: 10.1037/pspp0000271

Rudert, S. C., Janke, S., & Greifeneder, R. (2020). The experience of ostracism over the adult life span. Developmental Psychology, 56(10), 1999–2012.

Rudert, S.C., Sutter, D., Corrodi, C., & Greifeneder, R. (2018). Who’s to blame? Similarity affects moral judgments of observed ostracism episodes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(1), 31–53. https://doi: 10.1037/pspa0000122



Contact persons: Franziska Ehrke, Melanie Steffens, & Selma Rudert

In our research regarding diversity we examine how social diversity is perceived and from whom and under which circumstances social diversity is evaluated as positive or negative. Additionally, we address the question how the perception of diversity makes an impact on relationships inside of and between different groups (e.g. cooperation, conflicts).

An additional aspect of this research considers the meaning of social diversity in the field of politics, e.g. with regard to trust in parties as well as in politicians. Another concern of our diversity-research is to relate it with other relevant psychological focal points, such as research about justice (e.g. sensibility regarding inequity).

An important aim of our research is to identify diversity based strategies of intervention to improve attitudes between groups and to apply these to the development of intervention measures. Thus, first of all we engage in the conception and evaluation of diversity-trainings – one of the measures most practiced in diversity management. Thereby we also want to consider different target groups. For example, we examine how one can prevent that privileged groups feel threatened when perceiving diversity and the presence of underprivileged minority groups. We closely cooperate with projects and organisations which implement anti discrimination measures to improve the external validity of our research. 

Selected publications:

Ehrke, F., Ashoee, A., Steffens, M. C., & Louvet, E. (2020). A brief diversity training: Raising awareness of ingroup privilege to improve attitudes towards disadvantaged outgroups. International Journal of Psychology55(5), 732–742.

Ehrke, F., Berthold, A., & Steffens, M. C. (2014). How diversity training can change attitudes: Increasing perceived complexity of superordinate groups to improve intergroup relations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 53, 193–206.

Ehrke, F., Bruckmüller, S., & Steffens, M. C. (2020). A double-edged sword: How social diversity affects trust in representatives via perceived competence and warmth. European Journal of Social Psychology50(7), 1540–1554.

Jaffé, M. E., Rudert, S. C., & Greifeneder, R. (2019). You should go for diversity, but I’d rather stay with similar others: Psychological distance modulates one’s preference for diversity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 85. https://doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103881

Steffens, M. C., Reese, G., Ehrke, F., & Jonas, K. J. (2017). When does activating diversity alleviate, when does it increase intergroup bias? An ingroup projection perspective. PLoS one, 12, e0178738.


Conflict and cooperation between groups

Contact persons: Melanie Steffens, Tamara Wolf, & Selma Rudert

An important topic in research and teaching in the field of social psychology is conflicts between social groups and how to cause cooperation and reconciliation. Which stereotypes and prejudices, which feelings of threat and emotions do determine interactions with out-groups (e.g. if someone campaigns for or against refugees)? Can support be explained best by considering social identification with different groups as well as a personality trait (the so called sensibility regarding inequity)? And what kind of interventions do improve the willingness to campaign for an out-group?

Further we address the question to what extent victim and perpetrator groups differ regarding their preferred description of transgressions. Our aim is to understand if the differing needs members of victim and perpetrator groups have reflect in these preferences. Here we cooperate with the Tel Aviv University examining this question using German and Jewish-Israeli samples.

Moreover we are interested in a kind of positive and unconscious discrimination of refugees in Germany. Here we observe to which factors (e.g. stereotypes) persons who support refugees attribute their norm violating behavior.  

Selected publications:

Klein, S.A., Rudert, S.C. (2021). If they don’t care, I won’t share: Feeling unrelated to one’s in-group increases selfishness instead of behavior for the greater good. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Knab, N., & Steffens, M. C. (2018). One world in diversity – a social-psychological intervention to foster international collective action intention. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 6(1), 8–26.

Knab, N., & Steffens, M. C. (in press). Emotions for solidarity: The relations of moral outrage and sympathy with hierarchy-challenging and prosocial hierarchy-maintaining action intentions in support of refugees. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology.

Knab, N., Winter, K., & Steffens, M. C. (in press). Flexing the extremes: Increasing cognitive flexibility with a paradoxical leading questions intervention. Social Cognition.