On this page, you may find a list of our current and finished research projects mainly contributing to sociopolitical issues, economy & business, learning & education as well as basic research.


In many contexts, dealing with respect also includes dealing with disrespect. Peaceful coexistence can only be reached if all parties involved find respect for each other’s needs and wishes. However, if supposed signs of respect are suspected to serve ulterior motives, they can cause a lot of damage. Our work seeks to investigate the essence and functioning of interpersonal respect in diverse sociopolitical contexts.


Domestic violence is a widespread phenomenen. However, it is often hidden and we do not recognize it at such (read dossier). Also, frontline responders struggle to identify domestic violence or abuse and if they do so, they are unsecure how to involve other frontline responders to comprehensively meet the needs of victim-survivors.
IMPRODOVA is a research and innovation project funded by the European Union. It is designed to provide solutions for an integrated response to high impact domestic violence, based on comprehensive empirical research of how police and other frontline responders (e.g. medical and social work professionals) respond to domestic violence in European countries. The project consortium consist of a group of experienced researchers and practitioners from eight countries, Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia, and UK (Scotland). Research results involve for example a training platform for frontline responders on how domestic violence can be managed. The project is presented on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, ResearchGate, and Facebook.

The last twenty years have witnessed the emergence of numerous autobiographical works that claim kinship across the color line, most prominently, Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father. My dissertation project subsumes these works under the umbrella term ‘interracial family memoirs’ and draws up a typology of ‘genealogies’ to categorize, contextualize, and interrogate these acts of cross-racial affiliation as part of a larger cultural paradigm shift toward multiracialism.

Political talkshows on TV suggest that all norms of social conduct cease to be valid in the political arena. Political opponents label each other „liars“, „pretenders“, or „lame ducks“, and will slam whatever the opponent suggests. Seemingly, many politicians believe that attack politics can help them convince people and, in the long run, win elections.
In my research project, I aim at a deeper understanding of how voters process perceived disrespect in political debates. Can disrespect really help to win elections? Or is there a bumerang effect for the attackers, the party they represent, and ultimately the whole professional of politicians?
The project title “Hearts of Flesh – Not Stone” is a reference to an image in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26). The image, which is significant for Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures, gives insight into the central questions of this project which seeks to understand the movement of individuals and groups from lesser to greater willingness for reconciliation. The project group is composed of scholars from many disciplines committed to helping and learning from each other. Working in a transdisciplinary manner, we expect major results to impact understanding of reconciliation. The project analyses individuals and groups experiencing the “suffering of the other” as a means for understanding how and why groups may become more or less open to reconciliation. This single question forms the focus of the project, which is addressed via three theoretical/methodological approaches:
A. Encountering the suffering of the other (ESO) “experientially”
B. Analyzing the ESO through social psychological experimentation
C. Conceptual analysis of the ESO through theological/sociological/political disciplines

The first approach (A) explores the ESO before, during and immediately after the experience as well as one year later, during which the participants will live in their own home community. The study will carefully examine the possible changes among the Palestinian and the Jewish-Israeli participants.

Social Psychology Experimentation Work Programme on willingness to reconcile:
The PhD students in social psychology conduct laboratory experiments in Germany and Israel as well as field studies, surveys, and interview. Below, exemplary studies are detailed for Germany (B1-B3), and Israel/Palestine (B4). They will be conducted in years one and two, and the work includes preparation of materials, data collection and analysis (B1-B3 in Jena, B4a,b in Tel Aviv). Conceptual replications and extensions as experiments or field studies will follow. In Germany, 360 participants will take part in the three experiments (participant cost: 360*7,50=2700 €).

Respect as a factor in the reconciliation process (N = 160 university students):

A set of studies examined the role of respect on the willingness to reconcile with an adversarial group (Nadler & Shnabel, 2008). Study 1 (N = 106) focused on how the victims’ willingness to reconcile is affected by respectful and empowering messages, using a 2 Respect (Yes, No) x 2 Empowerment (Yes, No) between-subjects design. Results show that willingness to reconcile is highest when empowerment is conveyed respectfully. In Study 2 (N = 220) we examined the perspective of both victims and perpetrator groups, using a 2 Respect (Yes, No) x 2 Need-specific Treatment (Yes, No) x 2 Role (Victim, Perpetrator) between-subjects design. The results replicate our findings of Study 1 and show that respect is more influential for victims than perpetrators. In sum, our study findings support the crucial role of respect in building positive social relations for groups whose relations have been shattered by misdeeds. We will discuss the theoretical contribution of these findings and link them to relevant societal issues and discuss practical implications.

How do Persons with Learning Difficulties* perceive respect in social interactions? This is the main question raised in this dissertation project. Persons with Learning Difficulties, especially in adult age, are confronted with the difficulty to be accepted as full members of the community and to be involved in decisions concerning their linving environment. The subject of respect is central to the development of an inclusive society and for the integration of people with disabilities, as it is the basis of a culture of positive interaction that includes all members of society as equals. Respect can be seen as important factor to forward and learn a positive dealing with diversity. It is a precondition for integration and inclusion of Persons with Disabilities and an important factor to strengthen social cohesion to make available the potential of all members of society. To take the perspective of Persons with Learning Difficulties is necessary to be able to learn from one another and to involve Persons with Learning Difficulties to shape an inclusive society. Respect is important when being unprejudiced open to the view of other persons. Respect means the „particular consideration of specific features and specific needs of persons, which we should not only encounter with recognition and appraisal, but also with empathy and compassion“ (Schmetkamp 2012, 23).
The research project focusses on preconditions for conceptions of individual perceptions of respect in interactions. Perceived respect is described as an interactive process.
70 guided interviews were conducted with Persons with Learning Difficulties, Persons with Physical Impairment and Persons without Impairments, including questions on 1) the perception of respect, 2) emotions associated with perceived respect and 3) respectful interactions in case of dispute.

* The term „Persons with Learning Difficulties“ is the official name for persons with so called mental disability used by the People First Movement. More information: People First

SCHMETKAMP, S. (2012). Respekt und Anerkennung. Paderborn: mentis Verlag.

Nuclear Programmes, specifically, have been associated with the notion of security and prestige. This study aims to understand the notion of Prestige, how it is viewed and interpreted by states, its relation with the security of a state, and the role it plays in the Indian and Iranian Nuclear Programmes. Using Social Identity Theory, the study seeks to provide an alternative understanding to how a states’ decision to have a Nuclear Programme is linked to its ‘self’.

As a value cluster, prestige joins respect, glory, reputation and status. My research work delves into content analysis, looking at the texts of leaders and what influences the state’s prestige in the international order; how humiliation has a negative effect, pushing the state towards glorification; and how nuclear programs imply respect for States that have adopted the Westphalian state.

Economy & Business

A company as a place where work is highly deemed, words of recognition come easy, where people are accepted as they are … sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? In fact, successful team work, an attractive organisational culture, employees satisfied with their jobs and willing to excel – all these can only evolve in an environment of interpersonal respect. A company management in favour of that principle is likely to be respected among its employees in return – unless interpersonal respect is blatantly used as strategic means to maximize economic efficiency. So, how is it possible to establish a respectful work environment? How is it possible to align a company’s economic interests with the diverse interests of its employees – without compromising credibility? What are common obstacles or facilitators? In our work, we seek to investigate those and further issues related to respect, leadership or organisational values.


As a result of demographic changes, workforces in industrialized economies are increasingly becoming older and more age diverse. In many organizations members of four different generations (e.g., so-called Generation Y, Baby Boomers) co-exist and are required to interact effectively.

In my research project, I examine how and when members of different generations interact and exchange resources effectively. Further, I analyze consequences of intergenerational resource exchanges, such as differential need fulfillment, well-being, and performance.

Financial bonuses are used in many organizations. Indeed, they are seen as a substantial tool for increasing individual motivation and performance. As a result, we see numbers report that, for example, for Great Britain only, bonus payments in the economy have risen from 22.6 billion GBP in 2000/2001 to 41.3 billion GBP in 2013/2014. Two mechanisms are generally proposed to underlie the effectiveness of financial bonuses for organizations: First, following the principles of classic economic and motivation theories, bonuses are assumed to continuously motivate the existing workforce to perform better as every increase in performance is expected to be rewarded. Second, a selection effect helps to attract and retain an especially competitive workforce that will in tournament like settings inspire each other to ever higher performance. While there is a general debate waging as to whether pay for performance is generally desirable for the performance of employees, or if it undermines intrinsic forms of motivation, thus far, there is little discussion about potential side effects of any increased motivation that may come from being incentivized with a bonus.

In my PhD project, I focus on three research questions:

First, I argue that research on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of organizations should include compensation and benefits systems in its analysis. These systems, specifically performance-contingent incentive schemes, are used to align organizational and individual goals, and to manage employee performance in organizations. However, these systems can also motivate irresponsible employee behavior, when they evoke conscious and unconscious processes that eventually lead to unethical decision-making, which directly concerns the responsibility of an organization.

Indeed, there are reasons to expect that bonuses may also be a central ingredient to the competitiveness of a workplace, that is a climate of constant interpersonal comparison and competition. This in turn may lead to more interpersonal deviance, i.e. harmful behavior against others within the organization, in particular when respectively incentivized employees already show high levels of individual competitiveness – a personality trait of employees, highly welcomed by organizations in competitive markets. A cross-sectional field study and two experiments provide support for the hypotheses.

Last, the psychological process that can explain the negative interpersonal behavior when receiving a bonus has not been investigated in detail yet. It is unclear if this process is different than the one that is triggered by money, i.e. an unconscious process that makes people work harder on their tasks, but at the same time prefer more solitary activities and show less helping behavior towards others. In experiments I try to find out if bonuses have other unconscious effects than money. I hypothesize that bonuses lead to more competition and comparison concerns than money, and thereby increase the likelihood of unwanted aggressive behavior.

Social comparisons (comparisons with other persons) influence interpersonal behavior among employees at the workplace as employees‘ performance is often evaluated relative to each other. Many companies nowadays implement competitive reward systems (e.g., „forced rankings“) to motivate their workforce. Within such systems, supervisors evaluate an employee’s performance relative to performance of his/her coworkers. This enforces social comparisons among employees as one’s relative performance to others is often more important than performance in absolute terms. This can lead to fierce competition among coworkers as some employees would rather weaken their colleagues‘ performance instead of working harder.

So far, extant research assumed that employees only show negative behavior (less cooperation, more social undermining) toward those coworkers who currently outperform them as they are potential competitiors for promotion, bonuses etc. At the same time, practitioners often observe that supervisors and employees whose performance/career is stagnating feel threatend by those coworkers whose performance/career improved a lot in the recent past.

In my thesis I investigate and show that people do not only consider the status quo when they compare themselves to others but rather engage in comparisons with others over time. Consequently, trends (e.g., in performance) influence the social comparison process. Based on these trends, people form expectations about their future standing relative to the comparison person. Thereby also those coworkers who currently perform worse than a focal employee but who show a steep performance trend can become a threat to the focal employee as they might outperform him/her in the future.

As a consequence, competition among employees is much greater than previously assumed and companies currently undererstimate the social costs of competitive reward systems. At the same time, they risk losing the so-called „rising stars“ who might leave the company at some point due to social undermining and lack of support from their colleagues or supervisor.

If we think about leadership, we often think about individuals, empathetic, authoritarian or charismatic, our boss, a grand idol or even ourselves. However, leadership is not a position and it is nothing that you have or don’t have. In its essence, leadership is social interaction. It means to win others over for one’s ideas and make them happen together. And since ideas compete with each other, leadership is nothing that you do alone.

My research addresses the question how people lead together, be it in a team, at the top of a corporation or in the mids of an hierarchy. I’m thereby interested in two questions. First: How important is the relationship between multiple leaders for their followers? And second: How can multiple leaders complement each other effectively and when do they stand in each other’s way? I’m addressing these questions in a diverse set of context, from complex matrix organizations to small doctor practices or pharmacies. One of my methodological emphases thereby lies on social network analysis.

Getting respect from one’s leader – who does not wish for something like that. Nonetheless, often there is a lack of respect at workplaces and there is also a lack of research on this topic. Thereby, the challenge is that the term “respect” includes two different meanings: On the one hand, it is about respect as an interaction on par, as unconditional recognition of the counterpart for his/her human dignity (horizontal respect). On the other hand, it is about respecting performance, effort, and competence (vertical respect).

With two surveys and one experiment we already found that leaders’ horizontal respect led to more self-determination, lower intentions to leave, and higher job satisfaction for employees. These relations get stronger, when employees report having vertical respect for their leaders.
A next study showed that leaders who are less representative for their led employees (e.g., because of differing norms and values) can foster employees’ personal initiative by leading respectfully.

Currently, my colleagues and I are working of further studies on the relation of respectful leadership and employee personal initiative. With our research we hope to motivate leaders and employees to see the value of respect at their workplaces.

Click here to find an overview of our finished projects.