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 research regarding gender, basic dimensions of perceptions of persons (i.e. human friendlyness and task related competence) play an important role. Here we examine, which traditional ideas with respect to the typical woman/the typical man can still be found today and to what extent a change in our understanding of gender stereotypes can be seen (e.g. acceptance of men who assume educational or caring tasks). As a consequence thereof we are interested in the causes for gender stereotypes, their consequences (e.g. the experience to be “not man enough“), and possibilities how to change them. Our special interest lies in implicit cognitions, that means unconscious cognitions or cognitions persons dont´t want to admit before others, typically based on social desirability processes.

Another aspect of this research is the exploration of the so called “glass ceiling“ - the phenomena that women on their career path at a certain point hit an invisible barrier, which inhibits further success. Here we are interested in inhibiting factors pertaining to (potential) female leaders as well as such pertaining to their environment (e.g. social context, company culture, established gender roles in heterosexual relationships). Related to this are research questions which serve to find helpful interventions (e.g. proportion of females, making people conscious of sexism and beauty norms). An important characteristic of our work is to apply the exisiting knowledge from social psychological research and from results of our ongoing research projects to work contexts, to develop concrete manuals for the praxis and to make these available to actors from economy 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

Beside the category of gender we are interested in additional social characteristics, i.e., a person´s sexual orientation. Here we ask which indirect signals (i.e. mode of speaking, facial cues, clothing), including concrete elements of these (i.e., fundamental frequency, vowel space), are used to accurately rate other people as lesbian/gay and straight respectively. First of all, we are interested which role gender stereotypes play in sexual orientation perception and the consequences of being perceived as lesbian/gay vs. straight. Especially, we explore processes of discrimination in the context of work. We want to know whether lesbian/gay and straight individuals with equal qualifications are attributed equal chances to get an advertised job and to move up the career ladder in the company.

These judgments interact with ideas of traditional femininity and masculinity and influence how people are perceived. Since these ideas change permanently, we also examine changes in the perception of and attitudes toward lesbians and gays as well as measures which contribute to an improvement of attitudes toward sexual minorities (e.g., paradoxic interventions, vicarious contact).

Additionally, in the framework of this research topic, we examine the question which impressions are made and if discrimination results when an individual belongs to more than one stigmatized group (“intersectionality“). This research approach assumes that experiences of discrimination do not simply sum up but rather interact in a complex way. For this purpose we also vary participants nationality in some experiments and examine how for example individuals with German and Turkish names and differing sexual orientation 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 daily events in many different contexts and institutions, e.g. in schools, but also in economic organisations 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 emphasis is to ask why people exclude other people. Here 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 themselfes as well as if they observe others being excluded. These different perspectives contribute to an understanding of causes for social exclusion and to figure out how to prevent social exclusion including the related negative consequences.

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.