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Research

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Image: Rothmund

Mobilisation, radicalisation and fragmentation of the net public

Social networks and spaces for digital communication are increasingly used to exchange information on political topics and content. This development is accompanied by hopes and fears. Hopes lie in a democratization of political discourse by facilitating the dissemination of political news, the formation of political interest groups and political participation. Fears are justified by an increased danger of manipulative opinion control, the increasing fragmentation of net public spheres or a brutalization of political discourse. In our research, we aim to identify the psychological conditions under which positive and negative consequences of political communication in digital environments are realized.

// selected publications

  • Burghartswieser, D. & Rothmund, T. (under review). Antecedents and consequences of selective political exposure in the digital arena. The case of the "migration crisis" in Germany.  
  • Stier, S., Bleier, A., Bonart, M., Mörsheim, F., Bohlouli, M., Nizhegorodov, M., Posch, L., Maier, J., Rothmund, T., & Staab, S. (2018). Systematically Monitoring Social Media: The Case of the German Federal Election 2017. GESIS Papers 2018|04. https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/handle/document/56149
  • Rothmund, T., & Otto, L. (2016). The changing role of media use in political participation. Journal of Media Psychology. 28, 97-99. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000204

// current and completed third-party funded projects

Research Initiative RLP: Online Political Discourses (2018-2020) Show content

To identify structural, dynamic and motivational processes in the context of online political discourses

The increasing digitalization of communication processes is changing the structure as well as the content and dynamics of political discourses. In the context of the research initiative e-democracy we investigate political online discourses in social media in selected communication contexts (e.g. refugee crisis, German federal elections 2017). Using quantitative empirical research methods, we aim to contribute to the understanding of specific structures and dynamics of communication processes. Furthermore, we want to describe and explain the cognitive and motivational basis of these processes.

Project manager: Tobias Rothmund, Stephan Winter

PhD student: Dominic Burghartswieser

Duration: January 2018 December 2020

Third-party funding: Research Initiative of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (funding of the research focus e-democracy, at the University of Koblenz-Landau, http://west.uni-koblenz.de/research/edemocracy)

Psychological foundations of political attitudes and ideologies

Political ideologies can be understood as socially shared belief systems that contain normative assumptions about the structure and order of social processes. In our research, we aim to empirically investigate the psychological foundations of political ideologies and their stability over time. A particular focus is on the relationship between political ideologies and ideas about social justice and social trust.

// selected publications

  • Rothmund T. Bromme L. & Azevedo F. (2019). How justice sensitivity can foster and impair support for populist radical right parties and politicians in the US and in Germany. Political Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12632
  • Azevedo, F., Jost, J. T., Rothmund, T., & Sterling, J. (2019). Neoliberal ideology and the justification of inequality in capitalist societies: Why social and economic dimensions of ideology are intertwined. Journal of Social Issues 75(1), 49-88. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12310
  • Womick, J., Rothmund, T., Azevedo, F, King, L. & Jost, J. (2018). Group-Based Dominance and Authoritarian Aggression Predict Support for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Social Psychology and Personality Science, published online: https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550618778290.
  • Rothmund, T., & Arzheimer, K. (2015). Politische Ideologien. In S. Zmerli & O. Feldman: Politische Psychologie. Handbuch für Studium und Wissenschaft. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 123-143

// current and completed third-party funded projects

Research Initiative RLP: Structural Analysis of Political Dispositions (2017-2019) Show content

Structural analytical studies of political dispositions - for a better understanding of political distrust and populism

Citizens differ in their relatively stable beliefs and attitudes towards the political system, its institutions and their own role in the political process (political dispositions). This project aims to examine the psychological significance of political trust as a generalized attitude towards politics in the context of other political dispositions. In analogy to the Big Five of personality, we first try to identify overarching factors or structures of political dispositions by means of factor and cluster analytical methods of analysis. In a second step, theory-based correlations between these factors and more general personality traits as well as political convictions (especially populist convictions and conspiracy mentality) are analysed. The role of selective media use and reception as a mediating mechanism between personality and the development of attitude structures will also be examined.

Project manager: Tobias Rothmund

PhD student: Laurits Bromme

Duration: January 2017 December 2019

Third-party funding: Research Initiative of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (funding of the research focus Communication, Media, Politics, KoMePol at the University of Koblenz-Landau, https://www.uni-koblenz-landau.de/de/komepol)

Research Initiative RLP: Moral Misconduct of Politicians (2012-2016) Show content

Moral misconduct of politicians On the influence on social trust and civic participation

This project focused on the question of how political scandals affect trust in the person of the politician concerned and to what extent this loss of trust generalizes to other politicians and trust in the political system. To this end, a measuring instrument was developed to record both trust in a specific politician and trust in politicians in general. Furthermore, the desire for punishment as a reaction to the violation of norms by a politician was investigated. Further studies investigated the stability of trust in politicians over time.

  • Halmburger, A., Rothmund, T., Baumert, A., & Maier, J. (2018) Trust in Politicians   Understanding and Measuring the Perceived Trustworthiness of Specific Politicians and Politicians in General as Multidimensional Constructs. In E. Bytzek, U. Rosar, & M. Steinbrecher: Wahrnehmung - Persönlichkeit - Einstellungen. Psychologische Theorien und Methoden in der Wahl- und Einstellungsforschung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
  • Baumert, A., Halmburger, A., Rothmund, T., & Schemer, C. (2017). Every-day dynamics in generalized social and political trust. Journal of Research in Personality, 69, 44-54. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2016.04.006.
  • Rothmund, T., Stavrova, O., & Schlösser, T. (2017). Justice Concerns can feed Nationalistic Concerns and impede Solidarity in the Euro Crisis - How Victim Sensitivity translates into Political Attitudes. Social Justice Research, 30(1), 48-71. doi:10.1007/s11211-017-0280-7.
  • Yudkin, D., Rothmund, T., Twardawski, M., Thalla, N., & van Bavel, D. (2016). Reflexive intergroup bias in third-party punishment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 1448-1459. doi:10.1037/xge0000190.
  • Grimm, R., Maier, M. & Rothmund, T. (2015). Vertrauen. Ein interdisziplinäres Referenzmodell. Datenschutz und Datensicherheit, 39(5), 283-288, doi:10.1007/s11623-015-0414-8x.
  • Halmburger, A., Rothmund, T., Schulte, M., & Baumert, A. (2012). Psychological Reactions to Political Scandals: Effects on Emotions, Trust and the Need for Punishment. Politische Psychologie - Journal of Political Psychology, 12-02, 30-51.
  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M., Baumert, A, & Schmitt, M. (2013). The Psychological Functions of Justice in Mass Media. In R. Tamborini (Ed.), Media and the Moral Mind (p. 170-197). Routledge.

Project manager: Tobias Rothmund, Anna Baumert

Associate: Anna Halmburger

Duration: January 2012 December 2015

Third-party funding: Research Initiative of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate (funding of the research focus Communication, Media, Politics, KoMePol at the University of Koblenz-Landau, https://www.uni-koblenz-landau.de/de/komepol)

Politically motivated processing of evidence and arguments

People tend to select, evaluate and remember information based on individual goals, needs or motivational states in such a way that they come to conclusions that are in line with their motivations. Based on this socio-psychological phenomenon (motivated cognition) we investigate personal and social conditions under which political arguments and scientific evidence are processed in a motivated way.

// selected publications

  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M., Nauroth, P., & Bender, J. (2017). Motivierte Wissenschaftsrezeption. Psychologische Rundschau, 68, 193-197, doi:10.1026/0033-3042/a000364.
  • Nauroth, P., Gollwitzer, M., Kozuchowski, H., Bender, J., & Rothmund, T. (2016). The effects of social identity threat and social identity, affirmation on laypersons perception of scientists. Public Understanding of Science. 26(7), 754770. doi:10.1177/0963662516631289.
  • Bender, J., Rothmund, T., Nauroth, P., & Gollwitzer, M. (2016). How Moral Threat Shapes Laypersons Engagement with Science. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(12), 1723-1735. doi:10.1177/0146167216671518.

// current and completed third-party funded projects

DFG Project: Motivated Processing of Scientific Evidence II (2013-2016) Show content

Motivated distortions in the reception of empirical research findings (II): mechanisms and consequences

In the second funding phase it was investigated (1) whether the findings of the first funding phase can be transferred to other areas of application (e.g. to the debate on genetically modified food or the effectiveness of psychotherapy), (2) what the underlying psychological processes are that can be used to explain the findings and (3) what behavioural consequences result from them. With regard to the underlying psychological processes, it was investigated whether the negative evaluation of research findings that threaten certain groups can be attributed to the fact that highly identified group members read such findings differently from low-identified group members. For example, high-identified group members might search for errors in studies more than low-identified group members. As a possible underlying motivation behind the effects of a threat to moral convictions, we investigate whether individuals have the goal of maintaining the moral order in society or their self-image as good and moral human beings.

Another interesting question is what concrete behavioural consequences result from the effects found. For example, it will be investigated whether shitstorms on the Internet can be the consequence of a threatened group membership. Furthermore, it is to be investigated whether persons after the threat of a moral conviction use communication about research findings on the Internet to convince other persons that the moral conviction is important and should be protected.

  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M., Nauroth, P., & Bender, J. (2017). Motivierte Wissenschaftsrezeption. Psychologische Rundschau, 68, 193-197, https://doi.org/10.1026/0033-3042/a000364. Baumert, A., Halmburger, A., Rothmund, T., & Schemer, C. (2017). Every-day dynamics in generalized social and political trust. Journal of Research in Personality, 69, 44-54. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2016.04.006.
  • Bender, J., Rothmund, T., Nauroth, P., & Gollwitzer, M. (2016). How Moral Threat Shapes Laypersons Engagement with Science. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(12), 1723-1735. doi:10.1177/0146167216671518.
  • Nauroth, P., Gollwitzer, M., Kozuchowski, H., Bender, J., & Rothmund, T. (2016). The effects of social identity threat and social identity, affirmation on laypersons perception of scientists. Public Understanding of Science. 26(7), 754770. doi:10.1177/0963662516631289.

Project manager: Tobias Rothmund, Mario Gollwitzer

Associates: Jens Bender, Peter Nauroth

Duration: October 2013 April 2016

Third-party funding: German Research Foundation (DFG) in the Priority Programme Science and the Public (http://wissenschaftundoeffentlichkeit.de)

DFG project: Motivated processing of scientific evidence I (2011-2013) Show content

Motivated distortions in the reception of empirical research findings: The role of social identity and moral values

The research project examined the handling of research findings by lay scientists from a socio-psychological perspective. The studies aimed at a better understanding of the behaviour of laypersons when dealing with research findings. A special focus was placed on psychological phenomena that must be considered novel in the context of the increasing reception of scientific information on the Internet and the increasingly dense communication about research in virtual discussion forums, blogs and social networks. The studies we conducted are based on the common question of the extent to which the protection of personal or social convictions or motives in the sense of defensive motivation favours a research-critical style of reception and communication. We were able to demonstrate a motivated distortion in the handling of scientific information in persons who (a) feel threatened in their social identity by a research programme or (b) for whom a certain topic to be scientifically researched implies a moral value threat.

  • Rothmund, T., Bender, J., Nauroth, P., Gollwitzer, M. (2015). Public concerns about violent video games are moral concerns - How moral threat can make pacifists susceptible to scientific and political claims against violent video games. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(6), 769-783, doi:10.1002/ejsp.2125.
  • Nauroth, P, Gollwitzer, M., Bender, J., Rothmund, T. (2015). Social Identity Threat Motivates Science-Discrediting Online Comments. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117476. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117476.
  • Maier, M., Rothmund, T., Retzbach, A., Otto, L., & Besley, J. (2014). Informal Learning Through Science Media Usage. Educational Psychologist., 49(2), 86-103, doi:10.1080/00461520.2014.916215.
  • Nauroth, P., Gollwitzer, M., Bender, J., & Rothmund, T. (2014). Gamers against Science. The Case of the Violent Video Games Debate. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(2), 104-116, doi:10.1002/ejsp.1998.
  • Gollwitzer, M., Rothmund, T., Klimmt, C., Nauroth, J., & Bender, J. (2014). Gründe und Konsequenzen einer verzerrten Darstellung und Wahrnehmung sozialwissenschaftlicher Forschungsbefunde: Das Beispiel der Killerspiele-Debatte. In R. Bromme & M. Prenzel (Hrsg.), Von der Forschung zur evidenzbasierten Entscheidung: Die Darstellung und das öffentliche Verständnis der empirischen Bildungsforschung. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 17(4), 101-117. Wiesbaden: VS Springer.
  • Nauroth, P., Bender, J., Rothmund, T., & Gollwitzer, M. (2014). Die "Killerspiel"-Diskussion. Wie die Forschung zur Wirkung gewalthaltiger Medien in der Öffentlichkeit wahrgenommen wird. In T. Porsch & S. Pieschl (Hrsg.), Neue Medien und deren Schatten. Mediennutzung, Medienwirkung und Medienkompetenz. Hogrefe.

Project manager: Tobias Rothmund, Mario Gollwitzer

Associates: Jens Bender, Peter Nauroth

Duration: October 2011 September 2013

Third-party funding: German Research Foundation (DFG) in the Priority Programme Science and the Public (http://wissenschaftundoeffentlichkeit.de)

Experiencing injustice as motivation for political action

The experience of social inequality and injustice is an important motivation for political protest and the development of social movements. In addition to the unjust distribution of resources, the violation of procedural forms of justice in particular is an important source of anger and outrage. We investigate the connection between cognitive and emotional reactions to injustice and political engagement. We also focus on interindividual differences in sensitivity to injustice and how people differ in their responses to different types of injustice.

// selected publications

  • Rothmund, T., Stavrova, O., & Schlösser, T. (2017). Justice Concerns can feed Nationalistic Concerns and impede Solidarity in the Euro Crisis - How Victim Sensitivity translates into Political Attitudes. Social Justice Research, 30(1), 48-71. doi:10.1007/s11211-017-0280-7.
  • Rothmund, T., Baumert, A., & Zinkernagel, A. (2014). The German Wutbürger - How Justice Sensitivity Accounts for Individual Differences in Political Engagement. Social Justice Research. 27(1), 24-44, doi:10.1007/s11211-014-0202-x.
  • Rothmund, T., Becker, J., & Jost, J. T. (2016). The Psychology of Social Justice in Political Thought and Action. In C. Sabbagh & M. Schmitt. Handbook of Social Justice Theory and Research (p. 275-293). Springer: New York.

// current and completed third-party funded projects

EU Project: Procedural Justice, Public Communication and Noise Pollution (2018-2021) Show content

As part of a consortium, the German Aerospace Institute is investigating new methods and approaches in the EU project Aviation Noise Impact Management through novel Approaches (ANIMA, https://anima-project.eu) in order to reduce the annoyance perceived by airport residents due to aircraft noise. This sub-project is specifically concerned with the question to what extent the implementation of principles of procedural fairness can increase confidence in airport operators and thus reduce the subjectively perceived annoyance caused by aircraft noise.

Project name: Procedural Fairness, Public Communication and Noise Pollution

Project manager: Uwe Müller

PhD student: Dominik Hauptvogel (external supervision of the dissertation by Tobias Rothmund)

Duration: September 2018 August 2021

Third-party funding: European Commission // Horizon 2020

Reception and effects of media violence

The short- and long-term effects of media violence on recipients is one of the most traditional fields of research in media psychology. In addition to the question of what kinds of consequences reception can have, we are also interested in the way society communicates about the possibility of negative consequences.

// selected publications

  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M.., Bender, J., & Klimmt, C. (2015). Short- and Long-Term Effects of Video Game Violence on Interpersonal Trust. Media Psychology, 18(1), 106-133, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2013.841526
  • Bender, J., Rothmund, T., & Gollwitzer, M., (2013). Biased Estimation of Violent Video Games Effects on Aggression: Contributing Factors and Boundary Conditions. Societies, 3, 383-398.
  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M. & Klimmt, C. (2011). Of Virtual Victims and Victimized Virtues: Differential Effects of Experienced Aggression in Video Games on Social Cooperation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 107-119.

// current and completed third-party funded projects

VW-Projekt: Improving the Media Relations of Social Science Research (2009-2013) Show content

Improving the Media Relations of Social Science Research: The Case of the Violent Video Games Debate

The goal of the project was to investigate and ultimately improve communication between social sciences, the media and the public through systematic empirical research and practical intervention strategies. The debate about violent video games (VVG) served as a contemporary example to study this complex relation.

We analyzed the triangular relation between the three stakeholders, social sciences media public, with a multi-method cross-national research approach. Our research program consisted of a qualitative and quantitative content analysis, a comparative survey of social scientists and journalists as well as a survey of the general audience. All studies were conducted in Germany and the U.S., allowing international comparisons. Research results provided us with broad insights about (social) science-with-public communication (in case of the VVG debate).

The empirical work conducted within the project built the foundation for an improvement intervention in form of a one-day workshop with journalist trainees. A systematic evaluation attested the effectiveness of the workshop with regard to the journalists understanding and handling of social scientific source material. At the same time, however, it pointed at the necessity for long term solutions and integrated improvement strategies to gain sustainable effects.

  • Klimmt, C., Sowka, A., Sjöström, A., Ditrich, L., Gollwitzer, M. & Rothmund, T. (2016). Wie Journalisten mit sozialwissenschaftlicher Evidenz umgehen: Erkenntnisse aus einem Workshop. In G. Ruhrmann, S. H. Kessler & L. Guenther (Hrsg.), Wissenschaftskommunikation zwischen Risiko und (Un-)Sicherheit (S. 75-90). Köln: Halem.
  • Sjöström, A., Sowka, A., Gollwitzer, M., Klimmt, C., & Rothmund, T. (2013). Exploring Audience Judgments of Social Science in Media Discourse: The Case of the Violent Video Games Debate. Journal of Media Psychology, 25(1), 27-38.
  • Gollwitzer, M., Rothmund, T., & Sjöström, A. (2010). Psychologische Forschung zur Wirkung gewalthaltiger Videospiele. Ein Überblick. In-Mind, 4/2010,www.in-mind.org.

Project manager: Mario Gollwitzer, Christoph Klimmt, Tobias Rothmund

Associates: Arne Sjöström, Alexandra Sowka

Duration: October 2009 March 2013

Third-party funding: Volkswagen Foundation

DFG project: Reception and effects of violent computer games (2006-2009) Show content

Reception and effects of violent computer games: Promotion of antisocial behaviour by the activation of a mean world scheme

The research project aimed to gain a better theoretical understanding of the effects of violent computer games on hostile or antisocial cognitions and undesirable social behavioral tendencies as identified in social and media psychological research.

An effect model based on social and media psychology has been developed, according to which violent video games can activate a mean world scheme (now suspicious mindset) in recipients who have a dispositional sensitivity for hostile cues (originally mean world cues; now simple meanness cues). This mindset is a scheme of perception and interpretation that consists on the one hand of hostile attribution biases, an attitude of mistrust and expectations of selfish, ruthless action by others, and on the other hand also serves as legitimation for one's own antisocial (selfish, immoral) action and as such can be used strategically. It was also expected that the antisocial effects of violent computer games would be moderated by media-related variables (media competence; cf. Groeben, 2004). The project thus achieved a systematic integration of media and social psychological concepts.

  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M.., Bender, J., & Klimmt, C. (2015). Short- and Long-Term Effects of Video Game Violence on Interpersonal Trust. Media Psychology, 18(1), 106-133, doi:10.1080/15213269.2013.841526.
  • Bender, J., Rothmund, T., & Gollwitzer, M. (2013). Biased Estimation of Violent Video Games Effects on Aggression: Contributing Factors and Boundary Conditions. Societies, 3, 383-398.
  • Gollwitzer, M., Rothmund, T., Alt, B., & Jekel, M. (2012). Victim Sensitivity and the Accuracy of Social Judgement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(8), 975-984.
  • Rothmund, T. & Gollwitzer, M. (2012). Digitale Spiele und prosoziales Verhalten. In L. Reinecke & S. Trepte (Hrsg.), Unterhaltung in Neuen Medien (S. 326-343). Köln: Halem.
  • Gollwitzer, M. & Rothmund, T. (2011). What Exactly Are Victim-Sensitive Persons Sensitive To? Journal of Research in Personality, 45(5), 448455.
  • Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M. & Klimmt, C. (2011). Of Virtual Victims and Victimized Virtues: Differential Effects of Experienced Aggression in Video Games on Social Cooperation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 107-119.
  • Hefner, D., Rothmund, T., Gollwitzer, M., & Klimmt, C. (2011). Implicit Measures and Media Effects Research: Challenges and Opportunities. Communication Methods and Measures, 5(3), 181-202.
  • Rothmund, T. & Klimmt, C. (2010). Kämpfen und Killen in Computerspielen: Ergebnisse der Medienwirkungsforschung und Folgerungen für die Gewaltprävention. In H. Lange & T. Leffler (Hrsg.), Kämpfen-Lernen als Gelegenheit zur Gewaltprävention. Interdisziplinäre Analysen zu den Problemen der Gewaltthematik und den präventiven Möglichkeiten des Kämpfen-lernens (S. 77-92). Würzburg: Sports Media.
  • Gollwitzer, M., Rothmund, T., Pfeiffer, A. & Ensenbach, C. (2009). Why and When Justice Sensitivity Leads to Pro- and Antisocial Behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(6), 999-1005.
  • Gollwitzer, M. & Rothmund, T. (2009). When the need to trust results in unethical behavior: The Sensitivity to Mean Intentions (SeMI) model. In D. De Cremer (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on unethical behavior and decision making (pp. 135-152). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Project manager: Mario Gollwitzer, Christoph Klimmt

Associate: Tobias Rothmund

Duration: October 2006 December 2009

Third-party funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)

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