Israel Palestine Hope in conflict

The paradox of hope: how hope may fuel violent conflict

The paradox of hope: how hope may fuel violent conflict 1456 816 Culture and Society Research Lab

Intractable conflicts are prolonged, stubborn, and often violent disputes that seem immune to resolution. These conflicts, whether they are territorial, or ideological, persist over generations, leaving devastation and division in their wake. In such contexts, hope is often seen as a positive force, that can drive people towards peace and unity. However, research from our lab reveals that collective hope is a multifaceted construct with a paradoxical role: it can both promote peaceful resolution, and facilitate political radicalization.

 By Sora Park (intern)

Group-based hope in intractable conflicts

Group-based hope is an emotion, experienced by individuals due to their affiliation with a specific group or society. It is characterized as a forward-looking sentiment that drives individuals toward future goals. This sentiment becomes particularly significant in the sphere of intractable conflicts, where the collective hope may serve as a driving force behind important decisions in international policy.

Often, political organizations make efforts to instill hope among the public, in order to generate support for conflict-related decisions. Therefore, it is important to understand the implications of hope, and consider its potential undesirable consequences. In the literature, hope has been associated with positive intergroup outcomes such as attitudes that favor peaceful resolution. However, we argue that the relationship between hope and conflict-related attitudes are more nuanced, and that a distinction can be made between hope for peace and hope for victory.

Hope directed toward achieving peace involves a desire for resolution, harmony and the cessation of conflict, emphasizing dialogue, understanding, and compromise. Conversely, when people hold hope for victory, they may dehumanize the other group, have less empathy, and justify unethical actions, including the use of personal violence or extreme militant actions.

Hope for victory and support for violence

In a series of studies, we showed that hope for victory and hope for peace are differentially related to conflict-related attitudes. In a survey study conducted among Israeli Jewish students, we analyzed how hope for peace and hope for victory are linked to conflict-related policy support, namely support for compromise, support for extreme war policies, and violent behavioral intentions.

We found that hope for peace was related positively to support for compromise, and negatively related to extreme war policies. For violent intentions, no statistically significant relation was found. Hope for victory, conversely, was related negatively to support for compromise, and positively to both endorsement of extreme militant actions and violent intentions against the outgroup. Additionally, we found that hope for peace was positively, but weakly related to hope for victory. This tells us that the two constructs of hope should not be seen as two mutually exclusive concepts, but rather as two domains of the same emotion that have differing outcomes in behavioral intentions and attitudes.

Evidence from a different context: the Indo-Pakistani conflict

To replicate these findings, we conducted the same study in a different context, namely that of the conflict between Pakistan and India, in the region of Kashmir. This conflict shares similarities with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute before the recent outbreak of war, characterized by recurring violence and the constant threat of war, amidst various attempts to achieve peaceful resolution. We evaluated the same factors as in the first study, this time among Muslim Pakistani students, adjusting the measures to fit the context of the Indo-Pakistani conflict.

We found results consistent with those in the Israeli-Palestinian context. In that, hope for victory over India was linked to higher support for radical war policies and violent intentions, along with reduced support for compromise. Furthermore, consistent with of Study 1, we found a weak but positive relationship between hope for peace and hope for victory.

Uncovering hope-profiles: victory hopers, peace hopers and dual hopers

In our two initial studies, we discovered a weak but positive correlation between the two types of hope. Intuitively, hope for peace and hope for victory may seem to pull in opposite directions, but our findings indicate that the two constructs can be correlated and can co-exist within individuals, and suggest an underlying common motivational and emotional-cognitive factor. In a following study, we aimed to assess both types of hope and their cognitive evaluations. This time, we not only measured wishes and expectations, but incorporated desirability and expectancy as components, as suggested by appraisal theories.

We used latent profile analysis, a data-driven technique that classifies cases into latent subgroups that are not directly observable. In a survey among Israeli Jewish adults we measured their wish and expectation for peace/victory, hope for peace/victory, peace-over-victory preference, support for compromise, support for extreme war policies, and support for violence.

Our studies revealed three distinct hope profiles among participants:

  1. Victory Hopers (18.1%): High hope for victory, low hope for peace. More likely to be non-secular males without education, politically right-leaning, and younger. More focused on achieving a decisive victory and having a confrontational orientation.
  2. Dual Hopers (54.3%): High hope for both peace and victory. Predominantly right-wing secular Jews with varied religiousness levels, showing a nuanced orientation striving for conflict resolution that may be based either on peace or victory.
  3. Peace Hopers (27.6%): High hope for peace, low hope for victory. Wished for a peaceful resolution, prioritized peace over victory. More likely to be academically educated, secular women with mixed political orientations.

The results aligned with the first two studies, providing even more support for the differential role of hope. Dual hopers represented the largest subgroup, showing again that individuals can hold both peace and victory hopes simultaneously. This may seem conflicting, but it may just be a reflection of the complex nature of humans within conflict, where individuals desire a peaceful resolution, while also feeling a need to stand up for their country’s rights and achieve victory. Although dual hopers show a higher peace-over-victory preference than peace hopers, they may be still be at risk of radicalization as they show high support of extreme war policies and violent intentions.

Another notable finding is that even among those hoping for peace, expectations for peace were generally low. The fact that hope remained present across all profiles suggests that one can hold hope, even without having confidence in achieving it. The manifestation of hope is thus not dependent on realistic beliefs, but it is rooted in perseverance even when the odds are unfavorable.

Latent profiles for hope for victory and peace in Israel

How does hope change over the course of a war?

In a subsequent study, we aimed to explore the factors driving war mobilization within the Israeli society, as well as the stance of Israeli political and military leaders advocating for the nation’s victory over Hamas. In a longitudinal assessment, we inspected how hope differed between points of low and high conflict intensity. We analyzed survey data among a sample of Israeli Jews before (2021) and during the 2023 Israel-Hamas war.

In doing so, we found a substantial increase in hope for victory, support for extreme war practices, and violent intentions, while hope for peace and support for compromise decreased. This shift coincided with increased intentions for personal violence and support for extreme militant measures, including actions potentially bordering war crimes, such as the disregard for the lives of civilians. Another notable finding was that during the period of low conflict intensity, levels of hope for peace and hope for victory were relatively balanced. In contrast, when conflict-intensity was increased, the difference between the two types of hope grew larger.

Figure 1

Differences in hope for victory between low and high conflict intensity in Study 4.

Hope in the Israel Palestine conflict after Hamas attach

Furthermore, we found a direct correlation between increased hope for victory and an increase in support for extreme war tactics and violent intentions. These findings not only align with our previous results, but also provide temporal evidence for the role of hope for victory on radicalized conflict behavior, opposing that of hope for peace. Surprisingly, although hope for peace largely decreased, support for compromise was less strongly affected, which suggests that individuals may still support to peace-favoring policies even when conflict is heightened.

Countering radicalization: Instilling hope for peace, not victory

Taken together, the four studies contribute to a nuanced understanding regarding the role of hope for peace and hope for victory in persistent intergroup conflicts. While hope for peace is related to peace-promoting attitudes, hope for peace may foster support for more extreme militant actions which may in turn fuel further conflict.

Based on these findings, we propose that interventions aimed at countering extremism and fostering reconciliation should focus on instilling hope for peace, while reducing hope for victory. This may be achieved by emphasizing the costs of war and the limits of power, promoting cooperation and peace, and simultaneously negating the feasibility and benefits of victory. However, it should be noted that hope for peace and victory sometimes go hand in hand as shown in our studies. This means interventions must to be designed carefully to ensure that increases in hope for peace do not imply more peace for victory.

Reference to research:

Shani, M.Kunst, J. R.Anjum, G.Obaidi, M.Leshem, O. A.Antonovsky, R.van Zalk, M., & Halperin, E. (2024). Between victory and peace: Unravelling the paradox of hope in intractable conflictsBritish Journal of Social Psychology00128



Research seminar with Dr. John Dovidio hosted by the CSB and DECO labs

Research seminar with Dr. John Dovidio hosted by the CSB and DECO labs 1500 1125 Culture and Society Research Lab

Recently, the CSB and DECO labs hosted a research seminar where members of the labs and Dr. John Dovidio presented fascinating studies, shedding light on various aspects of intergroup relations, anomie, self-esteem, social isolation, and discrimination. The seminar showcased the work of five esteemed researchers from the University of Oslo and the University of Bergen as well as John Dovidio. In this blog post, the key findings and implications of each study will be summarized, providing an overview of the valuable insights gained from these research endeavors.

 By Aisha Vogel (intern)

Digital Intergroup Contact and Prejudice Reduction: A Meta-Analysis by Kinga Bierwiaczonek, University of Oslo

Kinga Bierwiaczonek focused on examining the effectiveness of digital intergroup contact in reducing prejudice. The research explored three lines of inquiry: virtual contact, exposure to non-playable characters (NPCs), and embodiment using technological means. The goal was to compare the three forms of digital intergroup contact and determine the factors necessary for effective anti-prejudice intervention.

The study analyzed 60 reports, including 88 independent samples and a total of 9,385 participants. The results indicated that digital intergroup contact had a small effect in reducing prejudice (g = -0.25). Interestingly, the effect did not depend on the type of target group, use of virtual reality (VR), valence of contact, sample gender, contact duration, or explicit/implicit measures of prejudice. Overall, direct contact and computer-mediated contact showed the most significant effects, while virtual reality and embodiment did not offer additional advantages.

Although digital intergroup contact appears to be a promising avenue for prejudice reduction, the study emphasized some caveats that require further investigation.

The Effect of Anomie on Willingness to Join Collective Actions by Ali Teymoori, University of Bergen

Ali Teymoori’s research delved into the concept of anomie and its impact on individuals’ willingness to engage in various forms of collective action. Anomie, defined as the collectively shared perception of the state of society, has been associated with several social and psychological consequences.

Research revealed that anomie is related to reduced well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, increased depression, helplessness, confusion, and even suicide. Moreover, anomie has been found to contribute to anti-immigrant attitudes, conflict, and political violence.

One of Teymoori’s studies explored the relationship between anomie and actions such as crime, anti-immigrant attitudes, conflict, political violence, nostalgia, and support for normative actions. Teymoori found evidence that there is a small to moderate correlation between anomie and both normative and nonnormative actions. Participants demonstrated a willingness to separate themselves from broader society and join independent autonomous zones like the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). However, the role of psychological processes underlying this inclination remains to be investigated further. The lack of political control can be understood as a compensatory control mechanism. Political uncertainty can be explained using the uncertainty reduction model and sense-making mechanism.

In a second study, the results showed that uncontrollability mediates the relationship between anomie and various types of social and political actions. The tendency to join various types of actions seems to be the result of the perceived respective type of action efficacy.

Teymoori concluded that anomie has an impact on the way in which people engage in their social and political world and that the lack of political control plays a mediating role.

The Role of Emotions and Mental Health in Intergroup Relations by Anne-Marie Fluit, University of Oslo

Anne-Marie Fluit’s research focused on understanding the role of emotions and mental health in intergroup relations, with a particular emphasis on political psychology. One study examined the relationship between self-esteem and opposition to immigration. Contrary to common assumptions, the study found that low self-esteem in adolescence was associated with higher opposition to immigration in midlife. The findings suggest that depressed self-esteem, rather than high self-esteem, contributes to negative attitudes toward out-groups.

Another study explored the concept of perceived indispensability and its impact on opposition to separatism. The research showed that stronger perceptions of minorities being indispensable for identity and societal functioning were associated with lower outgroup prejudice and stronger endorsement of minority rights. This highlights the importance of considering both functional and identity indispensability for improving intergroup relations.

Fluit’s findings indicate that in scenarios where subgroups express a desire to disassociate themselves from the larger category (such as China or the EU), the perception of indispensability is associated with a greater likelihood of anti-separatism protest intentions. This relationship is partly attributed to dissatisfaction with the subgroup’s act of separation. However, discerning the varying political-psychological consequences between the two forms of indispensability remains challenging.

“No sex, no partner, no kids: Adolescent precursors and adult attitudinal correlates of social isolation in midlife” by Michal Kozák, University of Oslo

Michal Kozák’s study addresses the social outcomes of diminishing sexual activity, increasing singleness, and a rise in childless older adults.

Kozák’s study reveals that a small but noticeable gender gradient exists, with men being over-represented in various categories of isolation, except for sexlessness. Approximately 7% of men and 5% of women experience severe social isolation.

Moreover, there is evidence for an effect on well-being: Both socially isolated men and women report higher levels of depression and loneliness compared to their non-isolated peers.

Importantly, Kozák focused on differences in socio-political attitudes based on people’s social isolation: Socially isolated women display a 7% decrease in conservatism and an 8% increase in support for gender equality. Conversely, socially isolated men exhibit a 16% decrease in support for gender equality and a 12% increase in opposition to immigration. Across the genders, socially isolated individuals showed lower levels of trust.

Concluding, the study highlights the prevalence of social isolation among young Norwegian adults in their early 40s and its negative impact on various outcomes. It suggests that socially isolated individuals tend to attribute their situation to the political system. Interestingly, socially isolated women seem to envision a more liberal and egalitarian society as a solution, while socially isolated men tend to lean towards a return to a patriarchal and closed regime.

“How Do Ethnic Minorities Navigate Discrimination in Hiring in Norway?” by Aino Petterson

 In her presentation, Petterson focused on prejudice and discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in the hiring process. The study utilized a within-subjects design, involving three candidate ethnicities, two candidate sexes, and two job status/pay levels. Participants assisted minority candidates in selecting application photos, with the assimilation tendency as the key variable of interest.

Predictions included a main effect of diversity support, with participants showing higher assimilation tendencies for no-diversity employers. An interaction between diversity support and job status was expected, particularly in high-paying positions.

Petterson explored interactions with minority ethnicity and participants’ perceived discrimination. The study also analyzed warmth and threat ratings of selected photos from the Chicago Face Database in relation to racial assimilation tendencies.

Results showed no significant main effects of diversity support or job status on assimilation tendencies. It is important to note that this analysis is preliminary.

Further investigation into interactions with participants’ ethnicity was suggested. Petterson acknowledged limitations and proposed future research using different markers of group membership.

In conclusion, Petterson presented exciting opportunities for future research, involving participants “assisting” minority candidates with application components and exploring the impact of assimilation vs. multiculturalism statements on hiring outcomes.

“Reducing Discrimination: Alternative Psychological Approaches” by Professor Dovidio, Yale University

Finally, Prof. John F. Dovidio gave an overview of alternative psychological approaches to reduce discrimination. He highlighted the distinction between prejudice as an attitude (evaluative judgment) and discrimination as behavior (unfair treatment). The relationship between prejudice and discrimination is small to moderate, ranging from 0.25 to 0.35.

Dovidio claimed that traditional interventions to reduce discrimination have limitations. For example, anti-bias training and attempts to reduce implicit bias have shown limited long-term effects and enduring reduction.

Dovidio therefore suggests two alternative interventions for reducing discrimination: An approach to reducing discrimination involves intervention through norms, where norms serve as guides to behavior. These norms operate on a social level, influencing how people should behave and interact with others (referred to as injunctive norms). They are recognized as changeable and influenced by situational factors. By emphasizing and promoting positive norms, there is a potential for individuals to internalize these norms, leading to a shift in their behavior and attitudes toward greater equality and fairness.

Another approach to reducing discrimination involves intervention through a focus on outcomes. This approach emphasizes the aggregation of outcomes, considering the overall pattern rather than isolated incidents. It entails analyzing outcomes in a sequential manner and assigning accountability for these outcomes. By adopting a macro justice framing, the focus shifts to addressing systemic injustices rather than solely individual instances of discrimination. This approach aims to create a broader understanding of the impact of discrimination and promote equitable outcomes on a larger scale.

The research presented emphasizes that prejudice reduction does not necessarily lead to a reduction in discriminatory behavior. It underscores the importance of shifting from color blindness to color consciousness and highlights the significance of focusing on outcomes and promoting equity at a systemic level.


Attending this research seminar provided valuable insights into the complex dynamics of intergroup relations, anomie, self-esteem, social isolation, and discrimination. The studies presented shed light on the effectiveness of digital intergroup contact in prejudice reduction, the consequences of anomie on individuals’ willingness to engage in collective actions, and the role of emotions and mental health in shaping intergroup attitudes. Moreover, the presentations shed light on critical societal issues such as the prevalence and negative consequences of social isolation, discrimination in the job application process, and alternative approaches to address discrimination. Understanding and addressing these challenges can help create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Racism Among the Well-Intentioned: Racial Disparities in Healthcare

Racism Among the Well-Intentioned: Racial Disparities in Healthcare 1145 851 Culture and Society Research Lab

In our ongoing efforts to understand and address prejudices and how this affects society, we recently had the privilege of hosting a guest lecture by renowned psychologist and researcher, Dr. John F. Dovidio. His talk shed light on the topic of racial disparities in healthcare among minority populations in the United States, particularly in the realms of physical and mental healthcare. In this blog post, we will summarize some of the key points discussed during his lecture and delve into the social psychology behind these racial disparities in healthcare.

By Aisha Vogel  (intern)

Racial Disparities in Healthcare: Understanding the Social Psychology of Prejudice

“Today in the United States there are substantial inequalities in the treatment of patients based on their race and ethnicities”, Dr. Dovidio opened his lecture on racial disparities in healthcare. He hereby refers besides others to research by Hahm et al. (2015) which revealed that Black, Latin, and Asian clients are less likely than White clients to have their depression detected or diagnosed. Furthermore, Alegria et al. (2008) found that Black and Latinx clients are significantly less likely than White clients to receive minimally adequate care, even when accounting for diagnostic differences.

To comprehend the reasons behind these racial disparities in healthcare, Dr. Dovidio explored the social psychology of prejudice. He emphasized that prejudice is not limited to a few “bad apples”, but rather stems from normal cognitive, motivational, and sociocultural processes.

One of the key factors contributing to prejudice is social categorization, which is described as a natural tendency to simplify the world and classify people (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). In the United States and other countries, race, gender, and age are primary dimensions of categorization, leading to stereotypes and biases. Dr. Dovidio highlighted that categorizing individuals into ingroups and outgroups is a universal phenomenon that can lead to various forms of discrimination, such as ageism, sexism, and racism.

Racial disparities in healthcare

From Explicit to Implicit Attitudes

Moreover, Dr. Dovidio discussed the distinction between explicit and implicit attitudes and their role in shaping behavior. Explicit attitudes are conscious and deliberative, representing what individuals consciously report about their beliefs and values. On the other hand, implicit attitudes are unconscious, spontaneous, and reflexive. These attitudes operate automatically and can influence behavior, especially in quick and reflexive situations or when individuals are unaware of their biases.

The Nature of Racial Bias

The lecture further explored the nature of racial bias, distinguishing between explicit and implicit biases. Dr. Dovidio explained that explicit biases are the ones individuals consciously report, whereas implicit biases are automatic and often influence behavior unconsciously. Both explicit and implicit biases can coexist within an individual, with implicit biases playing a significant role in quick, reflexive behaviors and nonverbal interactions and decisions, which is discussed in the following paragraph.

Racial disparities in healthcare, research results

Personnel Decisions and Intergroup Interactions

The impact of implicit biases on personal decisions was demonstrated through a study conducted by Dr. Dovidio and his colleagues. The research revealed that when evaluating job candidates with mixed qualifications, decision-makers tended to focus on the strengths of White applicants and the weaknesses of Black applicants, leading to biased decision-making. This bias, which disadvantages Black applicants, occurred even when decision-makers denied any explicit prejudice.

Dr. Dovidio also highlighted a study that examined intergroup interactions between White and Black participants. The study found that explicit attitudes predicted verbal behavior, while implicit biases affected nonverbal behavior. The Black participants, perceiving the nonverbal behavior, viewed the interactions less favorably, considering the White participants to be unfriendly and untrustworthy. This disconnect between explicit and implicit attitudes showcased the impact of implicit biases on real-life interactions. These inequalities due to biases underline the relevance of research examining such biases in everyday life, e.g. in medical and therapeutic settings. Studies examining this topic will be presented in the following.

Unveiling Implicit Bias in Medical and Therapeutic Settings

Examining the presence of implicit bias among healthcare providers is crucial to understanding how it affects patient care. Research has shown that medical professionals, including doctors, psychologists, and counselors, exhibit implicit bias, similar to the general population (Green et al., 2023). These biases can potentially influence treatment decisions and patient interactions, leading to racial disparities in healthcare.

A study on racial disparities in healthcare 

The Impact of Implicit Bias on Medical Decisions: Example of Racial Bias in Pain Care

One area where implicit bias becomes particularly evident is in the treatment of pain. Studies have revealed that healthcare professionals, influenced by stereotypes and ambiguity, may exhibit racial bias in pain care. In the United States, there is a stereotype that Black individuals experience less pain than White individuals, which can result in undertreatment. Additionally, stereotypes associating Black individuals with criminality and drug-seeking behavior can lead to the withholding of pain medication (Fiscella et al., 2021), which can have detrimental consequences for Black individuals. Ultimately, this perpetuates racial disparities in healthcare.

Racial disparities in healthcare - implicit bias

Implications for Patient Interactions and Outcomes

Implicit bias among healthcare providers can also affect patient interactions and outcomes, thereby leading to racial disparities in healthcare. Studies have found that providers with higher levels of implicit bias exhibit shorter visits, faster speech, less patient-centeredness, and reduced supportiveness during interactions with Black patients (Fiscella et al., 2021). Patients, in turn, perceive these behaviors and report feeling less involved, respected, and trusting of their healthcare providers. This lack of trust can negatively impact treatment adherence and patient outcomes, particularly in critical areas such as cancer treatment (Epstein, 2005).

 Inequalities in medical settings due to biases in Norway

“Despite Norway’s longstanding efforts to reduce inequities through welfare policies and structural measures, inequalities in health and social determinants of health persist and, in some groups, are widening” (Goldblatt et al., 2023). Dr. Dovidio explained that implicit bias, particularly among healthcare providers, plays a significant role in perpetuating these racial disparities in healthcare. Even in a perfect medical system, biased doctors can lead to biased health outcomes. According to Dr. Dovidio, to achieve true equity, it is crucial to address both social inequities and the biases present in healthcare professionals. Dr. Dovidio explored the impact of implicit organizational bias, highlighted strategies to mitigate bias, and emphasized the importance of addressing racial bias in medical practice.

Implicit Organizational Bias

Next, Dr. Dovidio introduced the concept of implicit organizational bias which refers to how biases become ingrained within the hidden norms and functions of organizations, influencing staff perceptions and behaviors in biased ways (Desai et al., 2021). Organizations operate as organisms with their own goals, motivations, and communication mechanisms. They can perpetuate biases by reflecting societal biases and reinforcing individual biases. Bureaucratic centering, driven by the goal of efficiency, often leads to biased treatment: Healthcare organizations tend to prioritize patients who are healthy, wealthy, and White, neglecting those who require more time and tend to be members of underrepresented groups.

Addressing Racial Disparities in Healthcare

According to Dr. Dovidio, interventions must target individuals, interpersonal dynamics, and organizational structures to combat racial bias in medicine. Diversity education alone has limited effectiveness in reducing bias. Observing bias among professors, instructors, and medical staff can increase implicit bias among doctors in training. On the other hand, intergroup contact, or meaningful experiences with members of other racial groups, can significantly reduce implicit bias. Providing experiential learning opportunities that challenge existing associations and foster positive interactions is crucial in overcoming biases.

Addressing Racial Bias in Medicine: On the Same Team

Changing the structure and environment within healthcare settings can profoundly reduce bias and subsequently racial disparities in healthcare. In one study by Dr. Dovidio and colleagues, a clinic divided into different wings, with one emphasizing that doctors and patients were on the same team, yielded significant results. The wing that promoted a sense of shared responsibility, joint decision-making, and cooperation between doctors and patients fostered trust and patient-centered care. Color-coding rooms, buttons, and pens to reinforce the concept of being on the same team further enhanced the positive outcomes. By creating a bond that transcends racial differences and focuses on shared goals, healthcare providers can overcome implicit biases and improve patient outcomes.


Reducing implicit bias in mental healthcare is essential to guarantee equality and fight racial disparities in healthcare. This requires a comprehensive approach that addresses individual, interpersonal, organizational, and structural factors. It is crucial to recognize the joint influence of these factors and implement strategies that challenge biases at all levels. Healthcare professionals can provide more equitable care by acknowledging and confronting implicit biases. Additionally, organizations must create inclusive environments, support ongoing education and reflection, and prioritize patient advocacy and representation. By working collectively and continuously striving for improvement, we can make significant progress in addressing implicit bias and achieving equitable mental healthcare for all individuals regardless of their skin color or cultural background.

racial bias in health group picture


Alegría, M., Chatterji, P., Wells, K., Cao, Z., Chen, C. N., Takeuchi, D., … & Meng, X. L. (2008). Disparity in depression treatment among racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. Psychiatric services, 59(11), 1264-1272.

Desai, M. U., Paranamana, N., Restrepo-Toro, M., O’Connell, M., Davidson, L., & Stanhope, V. (2021). Implicit organizational bias: Mental health treatment culture and norms as barriers to engaging with diversity. American Psychologist, 76(1), 78.

Epstein, R. M., Franks, P., Fiscella, K., Shields, C. G., Meldrum, S. C., Kravitz, R. L., & Duberstein, P. R. (2005). Measuring patient-centered communication in patient–physician consultations: theoretical and practical issues. Social science & medicine, 61(7), 1516-1528.

Fiscella, K., Epstein, R. M., Griggs, J. J., Marshall, M. M., & Shields, C. G. (2021). Is physician implicit bias associated with differences in care by patient race for metastatic cancer-related pain?. PLoS One, 16(10), e0257794.

Goldblatt, P., Castedo, A., Allen, J., Lionello, L., Bell, R., Marmot, M., … & Ness, O. (2023). Rapid review of inequalities in health and wellbeing in Norway since 2014. Institute of Health Equity.

Green, T. L., Vu, H., Swan, L. E., Luo, D., Hickman, E., Plaisime, M., & Hagiwara, N. (2023). Implicit and explicit racial prejudice among medical professionals: updated estimates from a population-based study. The Lancet Regional Health–Americas, 21.

Hahm, H. C., Cook, B. L., Ault-Brutus, A., & Alegría, M. (2015). Intersection of race-ethnicity and gender in depression care: screening, access, and minimally adequate treatment. Psychiatric Services, 66(3), 258-264.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior. İçinde Worchel, S. & Austin, WG (Eds.), psychology of ıntergroup relation (ss. 7-24).

Tell me about your interracial friendships and I tell you who you are.

How interracial friendships change the way we perceive others

How interracial friendships change the way we perceive others 1067 724 Culture and Society Research Lab

Recent research from our lab shows that individuals with friends of a different race are perceived as “looking” more racially similar to the racial group of their friends. This phenomenon has significant consequences for how individuals with interracial friendships are perceived.

By Aisha Vogel & Jonas R. Kunst

Interracial friendships remain very rare

How common are interracial friendships?

According to an Ipsos poll (Dunsmuir, 2013), roughly 40% of white Americans and around 25% of non-white Americans have exclusively same-race friendships. However, exceptions to the rule exist. Throughout history, interracial friendship has been a source of inspiration and hope in the midst of racial strife (Ambar, 2022). In the following, interracial friendships are highlighted that defied social norms and challenged the status quo of race relations in the United States. 

Examples of famous interracial friendships

One famous example of an interracial friendship is the one between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (Ambar, 2022). They formed a political alliance and interracial friendship, with Douglass helping Lincoln to inform those enslaved in the South that the Emancipation Proclamation would grant their freedom.

Another well-known example is the interracial friendship between Mary McCleod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt. Bethune’s relationship with Roosevelt gave her significant power and influence as the first black woman to serve as an advisor to the president. Together they worked on many efforts to advance the position of Black Americans and served as a symbol of what was possible on a national level.

The interracial friendship between Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr is also an excellent example of a famous interracial friendship (Ambar, 2022). They had a strong moral sense of justice in common. They got to know each other at the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race in 1963. Their friendship was exemplified during the Selma march in 1965 and King’s Riverside speech condemning the Vietnam War in 1967. Their bond drew attention to moral courage in the face of profound injustice and overcame historical tensions in Black-Jewish relations.

A current example of an interracial friendship is between Barack Obama and his Vice President, Joe Biden. Their friendship has attracted much public attention and academic discourse, including memes, and played a significant role in Biden’s rise to the presidency as the 46th and current president of the United States.

Interracial friendships can have lasting effects

What friendships tell us about others

Friendships play an essential role in an individual’s social life and can provide valuable insights into other people’s personalities, behaviors, and attitudes, which will be discussed in this section.

One important aspect friendships reveal about others is their social skills and abilities: Studies have found that individuals with better friendship qualities tend to be more sociable (Flannery & Smith, 2017). There is also evidence that individuals with more empathetic friends become more empathetic (Miklikowska, 2022).

Friendships are also important for breaking down prejudices based on ethnic origin. For example, contact with people from different ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds can help to reduce prejudice (Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005).

Another way in which friends can influence how others perceive us is through social comparison processes. According to Festinger’s (1954) theory of social comparison, people tend to compare themselves to others to evaluate their abilities and opinions. This means that the qualities and characteristics of our friends can influence how others perceive us, as people may judge us based on the people we associate with. For example, if someone is friends with a group of highly successful and accomplished people, others may see that person as more successful and accomplished themselves.

Yet a different way in which friends can affect how others perceive us is through the process of social identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This theory suggests that people derive a sense of self-esteem and self-worth from the groups to which they belong. Therefore, the characteristics and qualities of our friends can also influence how others perceive us, as our association with certain groups can signal our own identity and values. For example, if someone is friends with a group of environmental activists, others may see that person as environmentally conscious and caring.

Overall, these studies suggest that friends can significantly impact how others perceive us. Our friends’ qualities and characteristics can signal our identity and values, influence others’ judgments of our personality traits and behavior, and even enhance others’ perceptions of us. Friendships can reveal much about others’ personalities, behaviors, and attitudes. The literature has shown that friendships can provide valuable insights into social skills, emotional stability, and values. Therefore, paying attention to the quality and quantity of friendships can provide useful information for understanding individuals’ social lives and overall well-being.

Our research

But what about interracial friendships? How do they influence how we evaluate others? Research from our lab suggests that perceiving individuals to have friends from an out-group fundamentally changes our perception of them, including their race, their personality traits, and perceptions of their solidarity with their own and other racial groups.

We conducted four studies with U.S. American participants of both Black and White ethnicity to test these assumptions. For this purpose, we used the so-called reverse correlation task (Dotsch & Todorov, 2012): Participants were shown two faces visually altered with random noise over a series of trials (see Figure 1). For each trial, they were asked to select the person who looked like an individual with either (a) only out-group friends, (b) only in-group friends, or (c) an equal number of in-group and out-group friends. Based on participants’ responses to 300 trials, we then calculated the average mental representation (image) they had of a person with each of the three friendship groups.

Figure 1

Reverse-correlation task used in Study 1 and 2 with aggregated images

The method used to study the effect of interracial friendships

Could interracial friendships change perceptions of race?

Our first study aimed to explore if mental representations of a Black person’s race are affected by the racial makeup of their social circle. Participants had to complete the reverse-correlation task described above (Dotsch & Todorov, 2012; see Figure 1) with Black individuals shown in the images. They were assigned randomly to one of the three conditions described above. Our results showed that the mental representations of Black individuals with mostly Black friends had a darker skin tone than those of Black individuals with mostly or partly White friends.

Figure 2

Black And White Participants’ Mental Representations of Black And White Targets as a Function of the Target’s Friendship Networks in Study 1 and 2

How we visualize people based on their interracial friendships

Study 2 used the same procedure as Study 1 – only the individuals that were shown to participants were different: Instead of Black individuals, White individuals (see Figure 1) were presented. Our results showed that the mental representations of White individuals with mostly White friends had a lighter skin tone than those of White individuals with mostly or partly Black friends.

To not solely rely on visual analyses of the skin tone of the images, in Studies 3 and 4, independent samples of raters evaluated the images generated in Studies 1 and 2. The results confirmed that individuals with partly or mostly out-group friends were rated as looking racially similar to their friends. 

Interracial friendships change the traits we assign to people

In Study 4, for both Black and White individuals, participants rated targets generated in the mostly own-race friends’ condition as more supportive regarding social action that benefits their in-group. Moreover, images of individuals generated in the mostly own-race friends condition were perceived as least supportive regarding social action to benefit the respective out-group.

However, some striking differences were observed between the ratings of images generated by Black and White individuals in Studies 1 and 2. Participants of both races generally generated favorable images of racial in-group members with primarily own-race friends.

Yet, White participants generated negatively-biased images of in-group members who had many Black friends, possibly perceiving this as a betrayal of the dominant group. Conversely, Black participants generated positive images of in-group members with many White friends.

For out-group members, both Black and White image generators generated more negative images of out-group subjects who had mostly own-race friends, possibly interpreting this as an exclusionary attitude or prejudice.  


In the United States, having friends of the same race can be considered to be the default. We found evidence that the mental representations of individuals’ race and traits can be influenced when the friendship group of an individual is perceived as deviating from this default. Individuals believed to have partly or mostly friends of a racial out-group were mentally represented as racially more similar to their friends.

Additionally, out-group individuals perceived to have mostly other-race friends were rated more positively, while White participants tended to have particularly negative images of in-group individuals believed to have predominantly out-group friends.

Overall, our present research suggests that interracial friendships may potentially change the traits that individuals assign to people of different races. However, future research is needed to investigate the potential downstream consequences of this effect.

Reference to Study:

Kunst, J. R., Onyeador, I. N., & Dovidio, J. F. (2022). Knowledge About Individuals’ Interracial Friendships Is Systematically Associated With Mental Representations of Race, Traits, and Group Solidarity. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 48(5), 718-734.  

Cultural appropriation or genuine change? How minority groups perceive majority acculturation

Cultural appropriation or genuine change? How minority groups perceive majority acculturation 1280 716 Culture and Society Research Lab

When majority-group members acculturate, they adopt the aspects of minority-group cultures, such as attitudes, behaviors, and cultural norms, to varying degrees. But when does such acculturation become cultural appropriation? How do minority-group members perceive it? A new study from our lab provides some first insights.

By Dena Mohebbinooredinvand

What is majority-group acculturation?

Acculturation refers to cultural and psychological change resulting from intercultural contact. It involves various changes in an immigrant’s psychological, social, cultural, and economic life domains. In theory, acculturation involves mutual accommodation and change by all individuals from all groups involved in intercultural contact. However, most research has focused on cultural change experienced by those self-identifying as minority-group and majority-group members. Thus, we know relatively little about cultural changes among majority-group members.

Majority-group acculturation refers to the process by which members of the dominant cultural group adjust to the presence and influence of minority groups in their society. This complex process involves various dimensions, including changes in attitudes, behaviors, and values towards the minority group and changes in the dominant society’s broader social and cultural norms.

Understanding majority-group acculturation is essential for promoting positive intergroup relations and reducing prejudice and discrimination towards minority groups. These cultural changes in majority groups can also affect the way we understand migrants’ acculturation strategies and preferences, so it is necessary to shed light on majority group acculturation.

Is there cultural appropriation of the culture of Turks in Germany?

Let us take Germany as an example – the Western European country home to the largest Turkish population outside Turkey. Considering the influx of immigrants from different cultures, it seems naive to consider today’s Germany the same as a century ago. If one nowadays walks the streets of various cities in Germany, such as Berlin and Frankfurt, one can easily find restaurants, local ingredients, shops, and communities all over the city from other ethnicities like those originating from Turkey.

Thus, Germans’ life is altered compared to decades ago. Today, a German might eat a simit (Turkish bread) for breakfast, then go to work, talk to Turkish colleagues, and meet friends with a Turkish background in a Turkish restaurant. Indeed, Döner kebab has become a popular street food in Germany, reflecting the lasting influence of Turkish cuisine.

The presence of Turkish people in Germany has facilitated cultural exchange and enrichment. Turkish cultural festivals, music, dance, and art exhibitions have become an integral part of the cultural landscape in many German cities. This exposure has broadened German perspectives, fostering an appreciation for other traditions, celebrations, and artistic expressions. Besides, Turkish is one of the most widely spoken languages among immigrant communities in Germany. Turkish-German bilingualism has led to a blend of language and cultural influences. Turkish phrases and words have been incorporated into colloquial German, especially in regions with a significant Turkish population.

The presence of Turkish people has challenged and shaped societal attitudes and policies toward multiculturalism, diversity, and integration. Turkish Germans have played vital roles in politics, arts, sports, academia, and other fields, contributing to the overall cultural landscape of Germany.

In addition, Turkish fashion designers and artisans have made their mark in Germany, infusing their designs and craftsmanship into the fashion industry. This influence is visible in clothing styles, accessories, and traditional Turkish textiles incorporated into contemporary fashion trends.

Many Turkish Germans also have a passion for sports, particularly football (soccer), which has influenced the sporting culture in Germany. Turkish German players have represented Germany in international competitions, contributing to the success of German national teams. In addition, sports clubs and leagues in Germany have created spaces for community engagement and cross-cultural interactions.

In sum, when we describe the daily life of a majority ethnic German today and compare it to the past, we witness substantial changes. Therefore, if we want to gain a more complete picture of acculturation research, it is insufficient to focus only on minority groups. Instead, we must explore the intriguing gap in acculturation research: Majority-group acculturation.

Turkish culture and cultural appropriation

The relation between majority-group acculturation and cultural appropriation 

But when is majority-group acculturation genuine change, and when does the minority perceive it as cultural appropriation? In research, cultural appropriation is often defined as similar to cultural adoption. It is used to describe the adoption or use of aspects of a culture, such as symbols, artifacts, genres, rituals, fashion, music, or technologies, by members of another culture. 

What is Cultural Appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology that refers to the adoption or imitation of elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can involve using traditional clothing, language, art, religious symbols, and social behavior, often without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.

Cultural appropriation is generally viewed as problematic, particularly when members of a dominant culture appropriate elements of a marginalized, less privileged culture for their own use. This can be seen as an exploitative act, as it often involves the appropriation of elements without permission and without any acknowledgment or understanding of their cultural significance. In many cases, the appropriating culture may reap social or economic benefits from these cultural elements, while the originating culture may not.

Cultural appropriation can lead to widespread misunderstanding about the cultures being appropriated and can reinforce stereotypes. It can also result in cultural elements being taken out of context and stripped of their original meanings and significance.

However, the concept of cultural appropriation is also a subject of intense debate. Some argue that cultural exchange is a natural and inevitable part of human interaction and that efforts to police cultural appropriation may inhibit free expression. Others, however, stress the need for greater cultural sensitivity and respect, particularly when dealing with elements of cultures that have been historically oppressed or marginalized.

The Difficulty in Differentiating Cultural Appropriation from Genuine Acculturation

Distinguishing between cultural appropriation and genuine acculturation can be challenging due to the complex nature of cultural exchange. Both processes involve the adoption of elements from another culture, but the contexts, motivations, and impacts of these adoptions vary considerably.

Cultural appropriation often involves a power dynamic, with members of a dominant culture appropriating elements of a marginalized culture, typically without an understanding or respect for their cultural significance. On the other hand, genuine acculturation involves a more reciprocal exchange and is generally marked by a deeper level of engagement and understanding between cultures.

Despite these general distinctions, the line between the two can blur. For instance, someone may genuinely admire and wish to engage with another culture but, due to a lack of understanding, may inadvertently appropriate certain elements in a way that is seen as disrespectful or exploitative.

Asking minority-group members about how they perceive cultural change can be a key tool in discerning between cultural appropriation and acculturation. Minority cultures often have a unique insight into the ways in which their traditions and symbols are being used or misused. Their perspectives can shed light on whether a particular instance of cultural exchange is seen as respectful engagement or damaging appropriation.

However, it is also essential to remember that members of the same cultural group can have different views on cultural appropriation and acculturation. Some may view certain forms of cultural exchange as enriching and positive, while others may perceive the same exchange as exploitative or disrespectful. The interpretations can vary based on individual experiences, values, and beliefs.

Hence, understanding cultural change and distinguishing between cultural appropriation and genuine acculturation requires ongoing dialogue, respect, and a willingness to listen and learn from the perspectives of those whose cultures are being engaged with.

What do minority-group members think of majority-group acculturation themselves?

We tried to find answers to this question by conducting a study investigating acculturation dynamics in a Muslim minority sample living in the U.K. The United Kingdom, especially England, has been a colonial power and can provide interesting insights into majority-minority relations, power dynamics, and potential cultural appropriation.

Finding 1: No clear oppposition to majority-group acculturation

According to our research, Muslim minority-group members have normally distributed acculturation expectations towards White Christian majority-group members. Put differently, at least in this group, minority-group members did not per se reject majority-group acculturation on average, making it unlikely that they saw it as cultural appropriation.

There seems to be no clear opposition to the idea that majority-group members should acquire the culture of minority-group members. On the contrary, many Muslim participants endorsed that majority-group members adopt other cultures. Therefore, at least in this specific context, minority-group members seemed to view acculturation as a mutual cultural change rather than cultural appropriation.

Little evidence of cultural appropriation

Finding 2: No relationship with threat perceptions

Furthermore, the acculturation expectations that minority-group members held were not rooted in realistic or symbolic threat perceptions. Realistic threats refer to the tangible threats individuals perceive in their environment, such as economic competition or physical harm. Symbolic threats refer to more abstract threats, such as toward one’s cultural identity, traditions, or values. The fact that acculturation expectations were unrelated to these threat perceptions again makes it unlikely that cultural appropriation concerns influenced them.

These findings cast doubt on the assumption that most Muslim minority group members in the U.K. would, in principle, consider the majority group’s adoption of immigrants’ and minority group’s cultures as cultural appropriation. However, it is essential to note that the study focused on the views of Muslim minority-group members in the U.K., and the results may not be generalizable to other minority groups or different cultural contexts.

Additionally, the study only assessed broader cultural expectations in a limited range of domains. Therefore, it is possible that, although minority-group members generally support majority groups adopting minority cultures, they may regard it as cultural appropriation and find it offensive in other domains.

In conclusion, this study offers valuable insights into the dynamics of acculturation and cultural appropriation within a Muslim minority group residing in the U.K. It appears that these individuals do not generally perceive the majority group’s adoption of their culture as cultural appropriation. Instead, acculturation is seen as a two-way process and is often endorsed by the minority-group members, disputing the notion that they inherently view cultural assimilation by the majority as an act of appropriation.

However, it is important to underline that this study focused solely on a Muslim minority group in the U.K. context. Consequently, the results may not be transferrable to other minority groups or varying cultural contexts. Additionally, given the study’s limited assessment range, perceptions of cultural appropriation might still emerge in other cultural domains, despite the generally positive outlook towards majority groups adopting minority cultures. Further research is therefore recommended to explore these potential nuances and broaden our understanding of cultural dynamics in diverse societies.

Implications and future research

Our findings are significant not only theoretically but also in practice. They have implications for public policies and ways of fostering positive intergroup relations. By understanding the acculturation of the majority, we can help policymakers develop more inclusive and effective strategies for managing cultural diversity. By considering the expectations and perspectives of both minority and majority-group members, conflicts and tensions arising from intercultural interactions can be reduced. We hope to promote greater social cohesion and coexistence by fostering cultural exchange and mutual acculturation.

Reference to the study

Kunst, J. R., Ozer, S., Lefringhausen, K., Bierwiaczonek, K., Obaidi, M., & Sam, D. L. (2023). How ‘should’ the majority group acculturate? Acculturation expectations and their correlates among minority-and majority-group members. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 93, 101779.

Kunst, J. R., Lefringhausen, K., Sam, D. L., Berry, J. W., & Dovidio, J. F. (2021). The missing side of acculturation: How majority-group members relate to immigrant and minority-group culturesCurrent directions in psychological science30(6), 485-494.

Challenging the integration hypothesis

Challenging the Integration Hypothesis in Acculturation Psychology: 3 Critical Findings

Challenging the Integration Hypothesis in Acculturation Psychology: 3 Critical Findings 1280 789 Culture and Society Research Lab

New meta-analytic research from our lab on the integration hypothesis suggests that acculturation generally and the integration strategy specifically are much less robust predictors of migrants’ adaptation than previously assumed.

By Natascha JanhoJonas R. Kunst, & Kinga Bierwiaczonek

It is not unusual in psychological research to encounter rivaling standpoints and controversy regarding a particular theory or paradigm. Indeed, controversies are inherent to scientific advances because they allow the research community to critically evaluate the beliefs they took for granted for a long time. Most recently, in the field of acculturation, new meta-analytic research from our lab suggests that acculturation generally and the integration strategy specifically are much less robust predictors of migrants’ adaptation than previously assumed.

What is acculturation?

When a person leaves their home to move to another country, they can find themselves in a challenging position. They are often members of an ethnic minority group. Their socialization, education, values, traditions, and every experience down to their native language are part of their heritage cultural identity – an identity they do not share with the majority-group members within the new society. This circumstance requires a response, a strategy for successful adaptation. It is this response acculturation research aims to investigate. The term acculturation refers to the bidirectional processes of psychological and cultural change that occur on an individual and group level when people of different cultural backgrounds come into contact.

The integration hypothesis in acculturation psychology

With his seminal model of acculturation, John W. Berry (1997) contributed an influential framework that is still widely used today. According to the model, the acculturation of minority-group members can be categorized into four acculturation strategies.

First, people who follow the assimilation strategy adopt parts of the majority culture while abandoning their heritage culture. Second, those who follow a separation strategy reject the majority culture while maintaining their heritage culture. Third, when immigrants follow the integration strategy, they adopt the majority culture while maintaining their heritage culture. Lastly, when they follow a marginalization strategy, they neither adopt the majority culture nor maintain their heritage culture.

With this four-fold categorization of the different acculturation styles, acculturation theory does not only aim to describe how immigrants relate to different cultures but also to predict their adaptation. In acculturation research, adaptation is often divided into two interconnected but distinct dimensions: psychological adaptation and sociocultural adaptation. These dimensions refer to the ways in which individuals adjust to a new culture after migration or exposure to a different cultural environment.

1. Psychological adaptation: This dimension refers to the mental and emotional well-being of an individual as they adapt to the new cultural context. It encompasses aspects such as self-esteem, life satisfaction, mental health, and overall psychological well-being. In acculturation research, psychological adaptation is often assessed through indicators like stress levels, anxiety, depression, and subjective well-being. A successful psychological adaptation means that the individual is able to maintain a positive sense of self and mental health while navigating the challenges of adjusting to the new culture.

2. Sociocultural adaptation: This dimension focuses on the individual’s ability to function effectively and navigate the social and cultural aspects of the new environment. Sociocultural adaptation involves learning and mastering the skills, norms, and behaviors required to interact with the majority culture and its social institutions successfully. Indicators of successful sociocultural adaptation include social competence, communication skills, and the ability to establish and maintain productive relationships with members of the new culture. This adaptation also involves understanding and adhering to cultural norms, customs, and expectations in various social situations.

Importantly, Berry (2013) postulates with his prominent “integration hypothesis” that the integration strategy leads to the most favorable psychological and sociocultural adaptation for immigrants and minority-group members. In other words, individuals are thought to achieve the best psychological and sociocultural adaptation by adopting the majority culture while maintaining their heritage culture.

Does more research always equal more knowledge?

Psychological theories can influence which measures are considered politically or socially useful. When it comes to the study of acculturation, knowledge can have far-reaching implications. Determining successful adaptation and the policies that could promote it is a core challenge in these globalized times. The integration hypothesis by Berry aims to provide a useful theoretical framework to inform solutions to this challenge, but is it based on reliable evidence?

The importance of acculturation is well reflected in the rapid growth of academic attention the topic has received: more than 13,000 scientific articles related to acculturation were published within less than a century, between 1923 and 2020 (Web of Science, 2021). Generally speaking, it seems plausible that more research on a topic leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter. When theories get validated or challenged through peer-reviewed research, hypotheses are thought to be supported, disregarded, or become more refined. However, the overall findings within a research field often first become comprehensible through a meta-analysis.

A meta-analysis is a statistical technique used to combine and analyze the results of multiple individual studies, providing a more comprehensive understanding of a particular research question. By aggregating data from various sources, it increases statistical power and helps to draw more reliable conclusions. Meta-analyses are particularly useful in identifying overarching trends, reducing inconsistencies between studies, and highlighting areas for further research.

Throughout the years, Berry’s influential model of acculturation (1997) and the derived integration hypothesis have not remained unchallenged, both conceptually and methodologically. In 2003, Floyd Rudmin contested the original concept of the four acculturation tendencies. His criticism focused on the often-weak reliability of measures of acculturation as well as logically implausible correlations between acculturation strategies that are mutually exclusive. Instead, he suggested the field should consider the two dimensions of heritage-culture maintenance and mainstream-culture adoption separately instead of measuring the four strategies with so-called four-fold acculturation measures (with distinct items measuring each strategy).

Berry and colleagues responded to this criticism with empirical evidence that seemed to demonstrate support for the integration hypothesis regardless of how integration was measured or calculated (Berry et al., 2006). Seemingly settling the debate, Nguyen and Benet-Martínez (2013) published a comprehensive meta-analysis that appeared to provide robust support for Berry’s integration hypothesis. Across 83 studies, the researchers found what they described as a strong positive relationship between integration and adaptation.

Thus, many researchers and practitioners have long assumed that the existing evidence overwhelmingly favored the integration hypothesis. However, more recent meta-analytical research from our lab (Bierwiaczoneck & Kunst, 2021) suggests that this conclusion is based on much less robust evidence than previously assumed. Indeed, it seems as if acculturation strategies, including the integration strategy, may be of very little importance when it comes to immigrants’ and minority-group members’ adaptation.

Revisiting the Integration Hypothesis

Specifically, the meta-analytic paper empirically addressed two main points of criticism. The first one is statistical in nature and regards the meta-analysis by Nguyen and Benet-Martínez (2013). In their original meta-analysis, these authors analyzed their data with the Rosenthal approach to random effects (Rosenthal, 1995; Rosenthal & DiMatteo, 2001; Rosenthal & Rubin, 1994), an approach proposed in the 90s that today remains largely unknown to meta-analysts worldwide. This approach estimates random effects as counternull values of fixed effects, a statistic that requires very careful interpretation in the context of other statistics.

The counternull values are considerably larger than, and often twice as large as, the fixed effects, and they are not point estimates of the average effect across studies (Rosenthal & Rubin, 1994). Thus, this original analysis should not be interpreted in the usual way effect sizes are evaluated. This rather uncommon method for analyzing the data increases the risk of misinterpretation.

 Therefore, our lab members first reanalyzed the data from Nguyen and Benet-Martínez (2013) using a state-of-the-art robust approach based on the Hedges and Olkin (1985) method to obtain readily interpretable effects. In contrast to the original results, the reanalysis found only a weak and inconsistent correlation between adaptation and the integration strategy. Overall, acculturation could only explain as little as 0.8% to 1.4% of the differences in adaptation. Thus, the first study’s findings gave reason to consider the claim of the integration hypothesis (Berry, 2013) as being based on uncertain evidential grounds.

However, the second study addressed a more fundamental criticism regarding the entire acculturation field. Whereas the definitions of acculturation may differ in their exact wording, most define it as a causal process (Kunst, 2021). To investigate causal relationships, only experimental or longitudinal methods are suitable. Yet, strikingly, the vast majority of papers published on the topic of acculturation are correlational. For instance, 94% of the primary studies in the Nguyen and Benet-Martínez (2013) meta-analysis were based on correlational data (Bierwiaczoneck & Kunst, 2021).

Thus, the divergence between the conception and the actual research conducted on acculturation is a significant limitation because correlational data are not suitable for drawing reliable causal inferences. Therefore, in a second study, our lab members conducted a meta-analysis using only primary studies that utilized longitudinal data. In total, 19 papers with 6791 participants satisfied this inclusion criterion and were included in the meta-analysis.

The findings of the longitudinal analyses were generally in line with the first study. Almost all longitudinal relationships between acculturation strategies and orientations and adaptation approached zero. Furthermore, the effects were often inconsistent (i.e., weakly positive for one longitudinal path but weakly negative for the other).

testing the integration hypothesis

What determines the importance of a small acculturation effect?

 A recurring argument in defense of the integration hypothesis is the claim that even a reliable small effect found in research still matters at a large scale. In principle, this is a valid argument. Indeed, it is common in psychology that effect sizes are small. However, the argument overlooks that the small effects observed in a correlational meta-analysis do not imply causality. Longitudinally, there is little evidence for even a small effect of the integration strategy on adaptation. Second, such an argument overly focuses on p-values which are of less importance in high-powered meta-analyses, while ignoring the large heterogeneity of effects, that is, the fact that effects might differ dramatically from one study to another.

One statistic that can give us some insight into how heterogenous effects are is , which indicates how much of the variability in the results is attributable to heterogeneity instead of random variance. Guidelines suggest that I² values above 50% – 75% percent indicate high heterogeneity (compare Bornstein et al., 2017 for further detail). Such high heterogeneity complicates the interpretation of results substantially. According to Stanley (2017), values above 80% indicate that there might not be a consistent true effect because the consistency of the underlying phenomena is questionable.

According to a recent review (Kunst, 2021), the heterogeneity of the effects of acculturation orientations and strategies on adaptation is problematically high in every existing meta-analysis. Importantly, attempts to identify moderators that may explain a meaningful portion of this heterogeneity have been unsuccessful.

To further demonstrate the problematic nature of high effect heterogeneity in the field of acculturation, we in a recent paper (Bierwiaczonek, Cheung & Kunst, 2022) calculated and visualized the estimated distributions of true effects of acculturation on adaptation with bell curves. The distribution of true effects across studies shows that integration has a negative correlation with adaptation in almost one third of all cases (27% – 30%). Thus, even when we ignore the lack of causal evidence and only focus on correlational studies, the evidence for the integration hypothesis remains highly inconsistent, indicating that in one in three cases, adopting the integration strategy will be associated with worse adaptation.

Contradicting the integration hypothesis, integration was negatively related to adaptation in one of three studies

Implications for the next generation of acculturation research

The new meta-analytic evidence has important implications. The combination of small effect sizes and high heterogeneity makes it difficult to interpret the evidence and identify its societal implications. It underlines the problematic reliance on correlational research to study a causal phenomenon and emphasizes the need for more experimental and longitudinal studies (Kunst, 2021). The proportion of these designs in the field of acculturation is still very small – under 10% for longitudinal studies and 3% for experiments. Although longitudinal studies are not ideal for causal inference, they are better than relying on correlational data.

the integration hypothesis has mostly been tested with correlational data

Furthermore, enhancing the variety of experimental designs should be a key objective for future research, which may involve developing and validating innovative experimental manipulations. While this endeavor is undoubtedly challenging, drawing inspiration from existing work in other domains, such as social identity research, could provide valuable insights (see for example Ben-Nun Bloom et al., 2015Liu et al., 2019Wojcieszak & Garrett, 2018 ).

Finally, the finding that acculturation seems to play a minimal role in the adaptation of immigrants and minority-group members has practical implications for policymakers and practitioners. These implications emphasize the importance of focusing on factors that more reliably predict psychological and sociocultural adaptation, such as discrimination experiences and the presence or absence of social support. Thus, it may be meaningful for policymakers to prioritize addressing discrimination experiences and promoting social support systems for immigrants and minority-group members. This focus may include implementing anti-discrimination laws, promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, and fostering community programs that facilitate social integration.

References to studies from the lab:

Bierwiaczonek, K., Cheung, M. W., & Kunst, J. R. (2022, October 20). Revisiting the integration hypothesis again: High heterogeneity complicates the interpretation of cross-sectional evidence.

Bierwiaczonek, K., & Kunst, J. R. (2021). Revisiting the integration hypothesis: Correlational and longitudinal meta-analyses demonstrate the limited role of acculturation for cross-cultural adaptation. Psychological Science32(9), 1476-1493.

Kunst, J. R. (2021). Are we facing a “causality crisis” in acculturation research? The need for a methodological (r) evolution. International Journal of Intercultural Relations85, A4-A8.

(links to other references are provided in text)

Attractiveness Bias at Work

Can photo filters offset attractiveness bias and discrimination at work?

Can photo filters offset attractiveness bias and discrimination at work? 960 960 Culture and Society Research Lab

A recent research study from our lab shows that physically less attractive job applicants are evaluated negatively and discriminated against in the hiring process. But using photo filters may to some extent level the playing field, by offsetting attractiveness biases at work.

By Merve Kuloglu & Jonas R. Kunst

What is Attractiveness Bias in Hiring?

Attractiveness bias in hiring is a cognitive process that results in evaluating physically less attractive job applicants as less capable in some aspects, including socially and intellectually, and as ineffective and mentally unstable. This bias often results in a reluctance to hire less attractive applicants, offer them lower starting salaries, and may lead to fewer opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Previous evidence shows that this attractiveness bias is prevalent among HR experts and can have negative consequences for some individuals with different characteristics such as age, gender, race, religion, or disability. To overcome this bias, some individuals may attempt to modify their resumes or online profiles by altering their names, backgrounds, ethnicities, or photos.

The Role of Beautifying Photo-filters

Beautifying photo filters are digital tools that modify a person’s appearance in photographs by enhancing certain features or reducing others. This recent feature of technology is used in different platforms for several purposes. According to Renfrew Center Foundation 2014 study report, the majority of the U.S. population tends to edit their photos before sharing them on social media. Therefore, their followers see them in the way that the users want to be seen, namely as more attractive, at least in light of mainstream beauty standards.

Apart from social media users, HR professionals are also exposed to filtered photos when they are searching the applicants through social media or job application websites. In many countries, people are also expected to attach a photo to their job applications. As a result of these potentially edited pictures, the applicants might be assessed propitiously by the recruiter.

Our research explored the impact of beautifying filters on hiring decisions, taking into account attractiveness bias in relation to gender, ethnicity, and job type. This is an important topic, as the use of such filters can create biases in the evaluation of job applicants. Moreover, it is crucial to understand the interplay between factors such as gender, ethnicity, and job type to identify intersecting factors. To do so, we utilized the Stereotype Content Model (described below), which helps us to understand how individuals are perceived based on stereotypes associated with their gender, race, and other characteristics.

Gender, Race, Job Type, and the Stereotype Content Model

Studies demonstrate that bias can be detrimental to female job applicants when applying for roles that are stereotypically associated with the opposite gender. This discrimination occurs because individuals are expected to fit specific perceived gender roles and expectations when being recruited for particular jobs. For instance, leadership positions are often associated with masculine traits, and attractive women may become disadvantaged due to their feminine features. Conversely, roles that do not align with specific gender expectations and stereotypes are perceived to require both masculine and feminine traits, meaning that male applicants are typically less likely to experience discrimination. 

Hiring decisions are influenced by race and its intersection with gender and attractiveness, and this situation can be explained by the ‘’Stereotype Content Model.’’ According to this model, people evaluate others by using two fundamental dimensions: warmth and competence. The warmth dimension refers to the judgments of traits such as friendliness, trustworthiness, and empathy. The competence dimension involves traits such as being knowledgeable, an expert, efficient, and skilled.

These dimensions may have a mediating effect in terms of attractiveness bias, gender-job type combination, and the type of job-race combination. Attractive people are often perceived as more warm and competent, regardless of gender. Warmth is typically associated with female characteristics and competence with male characteristics in job contexts. High-status racial groups are often seen as both warm and competent.

All of these factors and others play a significant role in the hiring process and can impact hiring decisions and initial salary offers. Therefore, it is important to examine the effects of these mediators and moderators to better understand the hiring process and the attractiveness bias.

Attractiveness bias in hiring can be pervasive

Our Research on Attractiveness Bias

We conducted two experiments on the attractiveness bias during hiring with samples of managers. In the first experiment, we showed a group of managers 24 equally-qualified White applicants for either a female-typed job (social worker) or a male-typed job (computer and information specialist). Half the applicants were women, and the other half were men.

The managers were then asked to indicate how warm and competent the applicants seemed to be and how likely they were to hire them for the jobs. Importantly, for each applicant that the managers saw, the images were either presented in the original format or after a photo filter was applied, which was intended to make the applicant more attractive. 

In the second experiment, we added race as a factor to our design to see if the results would be the same or differ when Black versus White applicants were evaluated. As job type had little influence in the first study, we only used one type of job setting in the second study – HR Professional. This profession was chosen because it was considered a job stereotypical for both men and women and was given moderate importance of appearance in a previous study. 

Attractiveness bias affects people differently at work and in hiring

Finding 1: Photo Filters Consistently Reduced Discrimination

Our evidence support that photo filters may provide an advantage during the early stage of the hiring process, particularly for individuals who are the possible target of attractiveness bias due to their perceived unattractiveness. By contrast, very attractive people did not benefit from filtered photos.

Finding 2: Male Managers Discriminate the Most and Especially When Applicants are Women

We found that the use of edited photos had a significant impact on the hiring process, but this also depended on the gender of the managers. Specifically, male managers were more likely to hire job applicants whose photos were filtered and beautified, especially when the applicants were women. This opposite gender effect has not been observed among female managers. Possibly, female managers may be more aware of attractiveness biases and purposely try not to display it during the evaluation process.

Finding 3: Black Women Are Stereotyped the Most Based on Their Looks

In the second study, our findings demonstrated that edited photos had a positive impact on hireability for both genders and races, but the effect was most significant for black female applicants and least significant for white female applicants. This result confirms the presence of racist beauty stereotypes that result in discrimination and ultimately fewer job opportunities for black women.

Finding 4: Warm-Competence Perception in Terms of Gender

Our findings revealed the underlying process for our effects. As suggested by the stereotype content model, that photo filters created a perception of increased competence for both genders, but only enhanced warmth perception for male applicants. This could be due to the algorithms used in the filters for women and men, or because women as a default are rated as relatively warmer.

Attractiveness bias in hiring

Implications and Possible Drawbacks

Everybody should have equal employment opportunities; however, discrimination in the work setting and hiring process is undeniable. Our findings replicate that physical attractiveness plays a significant role in the hiring process and this might lead to discrimination against certain individualsEven though there have been several social movements against Western idealized beauty standards over the years, our study suggests that attractiveness bias in hiring still is a problem.

So, can photo filters level the playing field by offsetting some of the attractiveness biases people who are subjectively rated as less attractive experience? According to our results, filtered photos may indeed decrease discrimination at the pre-interview stage. However, potential discrepancies between the edited photo and the real appearance could have unintended negative consequences during the interview. For instance, a large discrepancy may be perceived as a sign of inauthenticity – a trait highly valued, especially by younger generations.

Moreover, our attractiveness bias research suggests that Black women are most discriminated against based on their looks. Training and interventions may counter such biases among HR professionals, promoting knowledge of how attractiveness influences our judgments and minimizing discriminatory practices. Male managers, in particular, are more susceptible to biased evaluations, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions.

Reference to Research Article

Kunst, Jonas R., et al. “Hacking Attractiveness Biases in Hiring? The Role of Beautifying Photo-Filters.” Management Decision : Managing Change in the Workplace, vol. ahead-of-print, no. ahead-of-print, 2022,

COVID-19 conspiracy theories and health-related responses

COVID-19 conspiracy theories and health-related responses 1920 1157 Culture and Society Research Lab

By performing a meta-analysis on 53 studies conducted in 2020 and 2021, we demonstrated under which conditions believing in COVID-19 conspiracy theories influences prevention responses. 

By Silvia Allegretta, Kinga Bierwiaczonek, Jonas R. Kunst

What are COVID-19 conspiracy theories?

In the 21st century, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of information coming at us from all angles. With so much information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction—especially when it comes to news stories that have the potential to provoke strong reactions and divisive opinions in readers.

Conspiracy theories are explanations for events or situations that are not widely accepted by the general population. These theories often involve secret cabals, fictitious plot points, and far-fetched ideas about covert operations being carried out under our very noses. Many of these conspiracy theories center on well-known events or figures from history—and some contain kernels of truth that have been warped and exaggerated beyond reality.

Conspiracy theories offer alternative explanations of events or phenomena, often opposing the official explanations provided by experts, institutions, or governments. They tend to become more prevalent during societal crises. Indeed, the coronavirus outbreak has led to an unprecedented spread of conspiracy theories. Already in January 2020, the idea that COVID-19 could have been spread because of an “accidental leakage” from a bio lab in Wuhan started gaining popularity.

This theory was then endorsed by state officials like former US President Donald Trump and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, resulting in international tensions. Other popular conspiracy theories include the belief that the virus was a manufactured bioweapon or that Bill Gates was involved in spreading the disease. Given the massive dissemination of fake news, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the COVID-19 pandemic as an “infodemic.” This overabundance of information makes it hard for the reader to identify which news and sources are reliable and truthful. 

Four major types of COVID-19 conspiracy theories exist:

  • Hoax: Some conspiracy theories contend that the COVID-19 pandemic was entirely made up. It does not exist.
  • Big Pharma: People who believe in the Big Pharma conspiracy theory think that pharmaceutical companies either created or made up the virus to profit from it financially.
  • Political conspiracy: Some theories argue that the COVID-19 virus and pandemic were created to control people and to increase the political power of some groups.
  • Bio Weapon: Some theories contend that COVID-19 is a bioweapon that was intentionally or unintentionally released.

While this lists some major types of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, many more exist. Moreover, conspiracy theories often combine elements from different categories.

The impact of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on health behavior

While some state officials actively contributed to the spread of conspiracy beliefs during the pandemic, health officials warned that conspiracy theories might have disastrous consequences for how people respond during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, COVID-19 conspiracy theories may dissuade people from complying with health guidelines and getting vaccinated or even motivate people to seek alternative treatments. To test if that is true, we conducted the first meta-analysis on this topic and analyzed data from 53 published and unpublished manuscripts from 2020 and 2021. Indeed, our meta-analysis showed that conspiracy theories predict people’s reluctance toward coronavirus prevention measures. Although some of the effects were small, they may still be very dangerous on a global scale.

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Predict Health Behavior over timeTo see how the effects of coronavirus conspiracy theories on health-related responses behave over time, we integrated the results of all available longitudinal studies on this topic. We found that the more people believed in COVID-19 conspiracy theories at one point in the pandemic, the more they tended to be reluctant about prevention measures later.

Interestingly, we also observed the opposite direction of effects: the more people were reluctant toward prevention measures at one point, the more they were likely to believe in conspiracy theories later on. This finding may mean that people use conspiracy beliefs to justify their behaviors. 

Some COVID-19 conspiracy theories are more harmful than others

Some COVID-19 conspiracy theories are more dangerous than othersOur next question was whether some COVID-19 conspiracy theories are more dangerous than others. Indeed, this seems to be the case. Of all tested COVID-19 conspiracy theories, those that propose that COVID-19 is a hoax seem to be the most dangerous. According to our results, such COVID-19 conspiracy theories have the most significant power to dissuade people from complying with health guidelines.

Interestingly, the bioweapon theory seems the least damaging for how people respond to the pandemic, probably because it implies that COVID-19 is lethal, so it makes sense to comply with prevention measures. This observation, however, does not mean that the bioweapon theory is completely inoffensive. Although it does not seem to affect people’s health responses, it may still damage international relations and lead to prejudice, something we did not test in this study.

COVID-19 conspiracy theories influence some prevention measures more than others 

The effect of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on different health behaviorsThe next question was what kind of health responses are the most susceptible to conspiracy beliefs. We found that people believing in COVID-19 conspiracy theories were reluctant toward vaccination and social distancing but not toward mask-wearing and hygiene (e.g., hand washing). The possible reason is that social distancing and vaccination imply relatively high psychological costs (e.g., loneliness and fear of side effects). Hence, people who do not believe the official narratives about COVID-19 are less willing to “pay” these costs but can still engage in less costly measures such as hand washing.

The effect of COVID-19 conspiracy theories over timeFinally, we tested if the effects of COVID-19 conspiracy theories differed depending on how much time into the pandemic the data were collected. Indeed, the further the pandemic progressed, the stronger the observed negative association between conspiracy beliefs and health responses was. As the pandemic progressed, COVID-19 conspiracy theories became more and more typical for people reluctant toward COVID-19 prevention. Those who were initially hesitant for other reasons (e.g., because they questioned the safety or effectiveness of the measures) may have become less reluctant later. Alternatively, reluctant people started adopting COVID-19 conspiracy theories to justify their own reluctance.

Why is this important?

Given the global impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had in recent years and still has today, raising awareness of the dangers of conspiracy theories is extremely important. Unfortunately, throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 conspiracy theories were deliberately nourished by politicians, media, and even the scientific community. Our results show that such endorsements are more than irresponsible because the consequences of conspiracy theories can be disastrous. Our meta-analysis provided robust evidence that, during the pandemic, COVID-19 conspiracy theories dissuade people from adhering to health guidelines. They might, therefore, seriously undermine global efforts to contain the virus. 


Bierwiaczonek, K., Kunst, J. R., & Gundersen, A. B. (2021, September 9). The role of conspiracy beliefs for COVID-19 prevention: A meta-analysis.

Bierwiaczonek, K., Kunst, J. R., & Pich, O. (2020). Belief in Covid‐19 conspiracy theories reduces social distancing over time. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being12(4), 1270–1285.


The great replacement theory

How the Great Replacement Theory can lead to violent outcomes

How the Great Replacement Theory can lead to violent outcomes 1507 1262 Culture and Society Research Lab

New research from our lab shows that believing in the Great Replacement theory elicits hostile intergroup attitudes and violent intentions toward minority groups.

By Silvia Allegretta, Jonas R. Kunst, & Milan Obaidi

What is the Great Replacement conspiracy theory?

The Great Replacement Theory is a far-right conspiracy theory that posits that there is a deliberate plot to replace white European people with non-white immigrants. The theory originated in France in the early 2000s, and was popularized by the French philosopher Renaud Camus in 2011 in his book “Le Grand Replacement” (the great replacement). The theory has since been propagated by a number of far-right figures. It gained particular prominence in the wake of the Brexit vote in 2016, when a number of far-right politicians and commentators in the UK began promoting the theory as a way of explaining why Britain had voted to leave the European Union.

The theory has been roundly debunked by a number of experts, who have pointed out that there is no evidence to support the claim that there is any sort of deliberate plot to replace white European people. Nevertheless, the theory continues to be promoted by a small but vocal minority of far-right activists, and has been linked to a number of violent attacks, including the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019

The conspiracy theory has clear antisemitic components. It is based on conspiracy theories about Jewish elites attempting to control the world through media and finance systems, as well as a fear that globalist elites want to destroy national identities through mass immigration and multiculturalism. The alleged replacement is oftentimes thought to be initiated and controlled by people with a Jewish background such as George Soros. 


Spread of the Great Replacement Theory by terrorists, politicians and media anchors such as Tucker Carlson

The theory was spread especially by the high-profile right-wing extremist Brenton Harrison Tarrant who published a manifesto entitled “Great Replacement” before killing 50 Muslim worshipers in a mosque in New Zealand. Tarrant warned of the Islamisation of Europe and accused liberal politicians of planning a deliberate extinction of the white race through encouraging mass immigration of non-Whites. The following excerpt of his manuscripts sums up his ideas rather well :

“Mass immigration and the higher fertility rates of the immigrants themselves are causing this increase in population. We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally. Invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labour, new consumers and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive. This crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”

However, the Great Replacement theory is not confined to the extreme fringes of the political spectrum. It has also become prominent in the mainstream media and politics. In recent years, far-right politicians in Europe (e.g., Pia Kjærsgaard, Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen, etc.) have played a central role in propagating the replacement narrative to a broader audience. Also, prominent media anchors such as Fox New’s Tucker Carlson have actively promoted the theory (see video below). As a result, the Great Replacement conspiracy has quickly spread worldwide and is currently used to legitimize terrorist attacks and Islamophobia. 

Brenton Harrison Tarrant’s manifesto inspired other terrorists

Many white supremacists and terrorists in the U.S. and Germany have adopted the rhetoric of replacement and claimed that their actions were inspired by Tarrant’s manifesto. Specifically, the Walmart El Paso shooter who killed 20 and wounded 26 others near the Mexican border spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and warned that White people were being replaced by foreigners.

Thus, given its anecdotal potential to elicit extreme forms of violence and its wide spread in societies, understanding whether and how beliefs in the Great Replacement conspiracy theory are propelling violence is of urgent importance.

Belief in the Great Replacement theory incites violence

In a set of two correlational and one experimental studies conducted in Denmark and Norway, we investigated the relationship between the beliefs in the Great Replacement theory and different types of outgroup hostility. The dependent outcomes, we were interested in were islamophobia, the willingness to violently persecute Muslims, and general violent behavioral intentions.

The first study was conducted in Denmark, a country in which the intergroup relations between immigrants and the native population have become increasingly hostile. Indeed, Denmark has been described as having the most restrictive immigration policies in Europe and to be “Europe’s least attractive country for refugees”. Further, Danish right-wing politicians frequently used language that mirrored the rhetoric of replacement. This made Denmark an ideal context to test our hypothesis.  

The results showed that the more white Danes believed in the Great replacement conspiracy theory, the more Islamophobia they expressed and the more willing they were to violently persecute Muslims. To replicate these results, we conducted an additional study with another sample of Danes. The study’s results confirmed the results obtained in the first study.

To obtain evidence of causality, we then conducted an experiment in Norway — the country in which Anders Behring Breivik justified his terrorist attacks based on theories suggesting that the white race of Europe is being replaced. In this experiment, participants were assigned to a control or replacement condition. Those in the control condition watched a neutral video, whereas those in the replacement condition watched a video suggesting that the white Norwegian population may become a minority within 50 years because of the increasing immigration influx. Providing causal evidence for our model, the results showed that participants in the replacement condition showed more Islamophobia than those in the control condition.

the great replacement theory can motivate violence

The role of perceived threats

In addition to showing that beliefs in the Great Replacement theory can lead to violent tendencies, we wanted to know why this is the case. We, therefore, measured the degree to which participants perceived immigrants and particularly Muslims as realistic and symbolic threats. Realistic threat involves the perception that the outgroup (e.g., immigrants, Muslims) poses a risk to the ingroup’s physical and material welfare. By contrast, symbolic threat involves the perception that the outgroup poses a risk to the ingroup’s culture, norms, values, religion, and identity.

In the models that we tested in the three studies described above, we found that the reason why the belief in the Great Replacement theory predicted out-group hostility and violence was that it was related to more symbolic rather than realistic threats. Put differently, beliefs in the theory led to more perceived threat, which in turn led to more hostility. Thus, beliefs in the theory seem to have the potential to elicit violence primarily because they make people believe that their culture is being threatened. You can find more research on the role of perceived threats in our publications.

the great replacement theory model

Why does the Great Replacement Theory concern all of us?

The Great Replacement conspiracy theory is spreading very quickly as it is propagated by various right-wing politicians and news anchors such as Tucker Carlson. Anecdotal observation (e.g., the terror attack by Brenton Harrison Tarrant) suggests that it plays a key role in the radicalization of some people and can motivate extremist violence. Our research provides empirical support for this notion. Understanding the implications of this theory and building awareness about the topic may be the first step toward preventing the kind of violent outcomes we witnessed in recent years.

Reference to research study

The present research was published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. It is openly available through the link provided below.

The Great Replacement Theory ResearchObaidi, M., Kunst, J., Ozer, S., & Kimel, S. Y. (2021). The “Great Replacement” conspiracy: How the perceived ousting of Whites can evoke violent extremism and Islamophobia. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.



Meta-prejudice: How a “stereotypical” appearance can be misinterpreted as bias

Meta-prejudice: How a “stereotypical” appearance can be misinterpreted as bias 1232 588 Culture and Society Research Lab

New research from our lab shows that people who are perceived to look “stereotypical” of their racial group are believed to be more meta-prejudiced. This effect makes others avoid contact with them.

By Jonas R. Kunst

Definition: How is prejudice defined in psychology?

In psychology, prejudice is typically defined as unfounded negative attitudes that people hold toward others based on the groups they seem to belong to. For instance, psychologists often study prejudice in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, or political orientation. Linguistically, the word “prejudice” is closely related to the word “pre-judgment”, as it involves negative preconceptions that people have about others.

Most people hold some prejudice toward other individuals based on their group memberships, and this can have profound consequences (Professor Keith Maddox provides a good introduction here). One consequence is that prejudice shapes whom people want to interact with and whom they avoid. For instance, prejudiced people often avoid social settings where they may meet people from other racial groups. They are also less likely to have friends from other racial backgrounds than their own. Thus, because it makes people avoid each other, prejudice can lead societies to become socially segregated.

 From prejudice to meta-prejudice

However, beyond the prejudice that individuals may personally hold, there is another layer that influences whether people want contact with each other. Specifically, individuals have an expectation of how prejudiced they believe others to be toward them (so-called meta-prejudice). Unsurprisingly, if individuals believe that people from other groups are prejudiced toward them, they are less likely to want contact with these people.

This has important implications. Even if people themselves are free of personal prejudice, such expectations can continue to negatively influence their contact preferences. For instance, in the context of the U.S., which has a long history of racism and intergroup conflict, people from different racial groups may themselves have overcome their personal prejudices but still expect that others may be prejudiced toward them. Thus, this perception of meta-prejudice can still make people avoid each other.

How people infer meta-prejudice from superficial features (“stereotypical” appearance)

Racial meta-prejudice is perceived based on people's looks (phenotypic prototypicality)

Examples of faces that by a group of raters were evaluated as low or high in prototypicality. Source:

In a series of experiments, we now showed that whether people believe someone is prejudiced in the first place depends on how this person looks and what people associate with their appearance. In the first experiment, participants were presented with several images of people who commonly are assumed to look more or less stereotypical of their group (see image). Two factors underlying this “phenotypic prototypicality” are skin-tone and physiognomy (facial features). Our results showed that the research participants believed that prototypical-looking individuals are more prejudiced than less prototypical-looking individuals. This effect made our research participants less willing to have contact with individuals whose looks were perceived as more prototypical.

Racial prejudice and meta-prejudice in phenotypic prototypicality

Low and high prototypicality versions of the same faces.

To replicate these results, we conducted two additional experiments. In these experiments, we altered the prototypicality of faces by slightly morphing them with a person from another racial group (see image for examples). Participants always saw only one version of the image and were asked questions about the person. Again, we find that the participants who saw the more prototypical versions of the faces thought that these individuals were more prejudiced than those who saw the less prototypical versions of the faces. Once more, this explained why participants were less willing to have contact with them.

Importantly, in each experiment, meta-prejudice (i.e., expectations that others are prejudiced) led participants to become less positive toward contact with them no matter their own prejudice or the frequency and quality of their contact with racial out-group members.

Why is this important?

The processes we observed likely lead to unfair judgments of others based on superficial physical features that tell us little about their actual personal attitudes. Especially individuals who look prototypical of their group may be met with more skepticism and negativity in encounters with members from other racial groups but also with members of their own group. By being aware of this bias, we can try to correct for it and thereby reduce its influence when we form first impressions about other people.

 Reference to the research article

Kunst, Jonas R.; Dovidio, John F.; Bailey, April & Obaidi, Milan (2022). The Way They Look: Phenotypic Prototypicality Shapes the Perceived Intergroup Attitudes of In- and Out-group Members. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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