Major Research Interests / Research Projects
Research in our department investigates a broad range of phenomena relating to action regulation, affect and emotion, learning (evaluative, instrumental, and social), and social cognition (stereotyping, prejudice, lying). Our focus is on studying and identifying the basic cognitive and affective processes and mechanisms underlying these phenomena, employing a combination of experimental methods, behavioral paradigms (response time based), computational modelling, and ambulatory assessment procedures.
A second research area is aging. Psychological aging is understood as a social and individual construction that goes far beyond biological factors. In this area, our research focus is on investigating effects of personal views on aging on development in later life. To investigate these research questions, we combine longitudinal panel studies (based on questionnaires and online assessments) in large, age heterogeneous samples, with experimental methods.
Understanding the fundamental principles of automatic action regulation has been and still is one of the most important research questions in cognitive psychology, connecting processes of learning, attention, and memory. Our approach is inspired by a recent theoretical framework that identifies processes of automatic episodic binding and retrieval of stimulus-response episodes as fundamental for human action control (Frings et al., 2020; for details, see here). In several projects, we investigate the relevance of these binding and retrieval processes for instrumental learning (habit formation, reinforcement), social learning (imitation, vicarious reinforcement), and Pavlovian conditioning (blocking, overshadowing, sensory preconditioning).
Episodic Binding and Retrieval and Instrumental Learning. The basic aim of the project is to investigate and test the hypothesis that episodic binding and retrieval mediates processes of instrumental learning. On the one hand, we investigate whether episodic retrieval can explain effects of reinforcement on behavior ("law of effect"), on the other hand, we are interested in whether episodic retrieval can explain effects of repetition and contingencies ("law of exercise").
Episodic Binding and Retrieval and Social Learning. Research from our lab demonstrated that episodic bindings can be acquired not only by responding oneself, but also by merely observing the response of another person. Intriguingly, whether or not observationally acquired episodic bindings are retrieved in later situation is largely dependent on social relevancy of interaction partners and is contingent on (a) situational or chronic interdependency (e.g., cooperation/competition, Giesen et al., 2014, or interacting with one’s romantic partner, Giesen et al., 2018) and (b) positive vicarious feedback (Giesen et al., 2016), to name just a few findings from our lab. Indeed, we observe a close structural resemblance to observational learning effects. In this new project, we systematically explore this idea and investigate whether observationally acquired episodic bindings are the cognitive basis of social learning by observation. To this end, we developed paradigms that allow us to study observationally acquired episodic bindings in interacting dyads (face-to-face interaction) as well as for online interactions (Giesen & Rothermund, 2022).
Episodic Binding and Retrieval and Pavlovian Conditioning. In this project, we investigate the relation between transient episodic binding and retrieval processes and principles of Pavlovian Conditioning (PC). In PC, a biologically relevant, unconditioned stimulus (US), which elicits an unconditional response (UR), is paired repeatedly with a neutral stimulus. The neutral stimulus thus becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) and elicits a conditioned response (CR). Intriguingly, this rationale bears a close structural resemblance to the logic of episodic stimulus-response bindings, where a single presentation of a task-relevant target stimulus (~US), accompanied by an irrelevant distractor (~CS), is sufficient to bind the response (~UR) to the distractor so that later, distractor repetition retrieves the associated response from memory (Giesen & Rothermund, 2014). With this project, we aim to gain evidence to which extend both effect types reflect similar or different mechanisms. In detail, we investigate the role of episodic binding and retrieval processes for contingency learning in experimental setups known from PC (e.g., overshadowing, sensory preconditioning, blocking, etc.). Ultimately, the project will pave the way for transferring the BRAC framework (Frings et al., 2020) to the broader field of human learning research and provide insights to which extent short-term binding effects can be understood as the cognitive bases of long-term learning effects (e.g., Giesen et al., 2020).
Frings, C., Hommel, B., Koch, I., Rothermund, K., Dignath, D., Giesen, C., . . . Philipp, A. (2020). Binding and Retrieval in Action Control (BRAC). Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 24(5), 375-387. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2020.02.004
Giesen, C., Herrmann, J., & Rothermund, K. (2014). Copying competitors? Interdependency modulates stimulusbased retrieval of observed responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(5), 1978–1991. doi:10.1037/a0037614
Giesen, C., Löhl, V., Rothermund, K., & Koranyi, N. (2018). Intimacy effects on action regulation: Retrieval of observationally acquired stimulus-response bindings in romantically involved interaction partners versus strangers. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1369. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01369
Giesen, C., & Rothermund, K. (2014). Distractor repetitions retrieve previous responses and previous targets: Experimental dissociations of distractor–response and distractor–target bindings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(3), 645–659. doi:10.1037/a0035278
Giesen, C., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Reluctance against the machine: Retrieval of observational stimulus-response episodes in online settings emerges when interacting with a human, but not with a computer partner. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02058-4
Giesen, C., Scherdin, K., & Rothermund, K. (2017). Flexible goal imitation: Vicarious feedback influences stimulus-response binding by observation. Learning & Behavior, 45(2), 147-156. doi:10.3758/s13420-016-0250-1
Giesen, C., Schmidt, J. R., & Rothermund, K. (2020). The law of recency: An episodic stimulus-response retrieval account of habit acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(2927). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02927
Rothermund, K., Wentura, D., & De Houwer, J. (2005). Retrieval of incidental stimulus-response associations as a source of negative priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31(3), 482-495. doi:10.1037/0278-73220.127.116.112
German Research Foundation (DFG): Research Unit "Binding and Retrieval in Action Control" (https://www.brac-psy.de/), projects GI 1295/2-1,2; RO 1272/3-1,2.
Affect and Emotion Regulation
Affect is a fundamental ingredient of the human mind. It informs us about important changes in our environment and influences social interactions. Affective states can also contribute to the development and maintenance of psychological diseases. Our current research focuses on affective dynamics and their underlying processes, and the determinants of these processes. To address our research questions, we use multiple methods such as experience-sampling and experiments.
Modeling Intraindividual Variability in Affect (MIVA) Project. Studying the ebb and flow of affect in daily life provides important insights into psychological functioning and well-being. The MIVA project ("Modeling Intraindividual Variability in Affect") aims at improving our understanding of why individuals show fluctuations in affect, and in explaining individual differences in the underlying processes that determine affective variability, with a particular focus on age group differences. Research in the MIVA project is based on a newly developed mathematical model that incorporates theoretical ideas about affect generation and regulation. Using this model, we address our research aim by combining different methodological approaches that mutually complement and inform each other. Computational methods provide insights into the model’s behavior and can link theoretically derived parameters to simulated affective fluctuations. Ambulatory assessment methodologies will allow us to measure affective processes as they naturally occur in the daily lives of adults from various age groups. Simulation studies and ambulatory assessments will be complemented with experimental paradigms assessing affective micro-processes in the laboratory.
Wirth, M., Voss, A., Wirth, S., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Affect dynamics and well-being: Explanatory power of the model of intraindividual variability in affect (MIVA). Cognition and Emotion, 36(2), 188-210. doi:10.1080/02699931.2021.1993148
Social cognition is a broad area that uses experimental paradigms to study social phenomena, like discrimination (stereotypes and prejudice), attitude formation (evaluative learning), or other interactive behaviors (lying, discrimination). The aim of this research is to identify the underlying cognitive and affective processes and mechanisms of these phenomena. Our research is inspired by models and theories of propositional learning, action regulation, and memory, and we apply these approaches to advance our understanding of social attitudes and behavior.
Activation and Cognitive Representation of Stereotypes. According to Social Cognition textbooks, stereotypes become activated automatically whenever social category information becomes salient. This prevailing account, however, has been challenged by accumulating null-findings of stereotype activation effects of mere category primes. This raises the question of what else is needed to activate stereotypes apart from category information? In several priming studies, we tested the context-dependent account of stereotyping and found that situation-specific stereotypes only become activated in matching contexts (Casper et al., 2011). Based on the perspective of context-dependent stereotypes, we also investigate the relationship between implicit and explicit stereotypical beliefs, the behavioral effects of stereotypes, and processes of stereotype formation and acquisition.
Casper, C., Rothermund, K., & Wentura, D. (2011). The activation of specific facets of age stereotypes depends on individuating information. Social Cognition, 29(4), 393-414. doi:10.1521/soco.2011.29.4.393
Huang, T., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Implicit and explicit age stereotypes assessed in the same contexts are still independent. Experimental Aging Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/0361073X.2022.2039507
"Implicit Self-esteem." Individuals typically behave in a way that seems to imply a positive evaluation of themselves even when they are not asked to self-evaluate: They like their initials better than other letters, they have more positive reactions to their own face than other faces, they are better in associating themselves with "good" than "bad", and they spontaneously react with agreement to positive statements about themselves. It has been controversially discussed, whether these different phenomena can be understood as unspoken self-evaluations that are rooted in a common underlying construct with meaningful interindividual variance, namely "implicit self-esteem". In this project we try to further this discussion by eliminating methodological and conceptual problems of existing paradigms and introducing new paradigms that circumvent these problems. Investigating dissociations of these paradigms and self-reported self-esteem, we try to assess the validity and utility of the idea of "implicit self-esteem".
Jusepeitis, A., & Rothermund, K. (2021). Mixed Evidence for Name Priming Effects as a Measure of Implicit Self-Esteem: A Conceptual Replication of Krause Et Al. (2012). Social Cognition, 39(5), 591–607. doi:10.1521/soco.2021.39.5.591
Jusepeitis, A., & Rothermund, K. (2022). No elephant in the room: The incremental validity of implicit self-esteem measures. Journal of Personality. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/jopy.12705
Evaluative Learning. Attitudes, preferences and tastes have a strong influence on human behavior. In our research, we study when and how these evaluative tendencies are acquired and changed. To address these questions, we pursue an experimental approach in which a simple pairing procedure (the evaluative conditioning paradigm) is combined with a diverse set of experimental manipulations, measurement procedures (direct and indirect) and data analysis techniques (e.g., multinomial modeling). In our choice of research questions, designs and tools, we seek to integrate ideas from propositional models of (evaluative) learning with the tenets of episodic models of memory formation and retrieval.
Bading, K., Stahl, C., & Rothermund, K. (2020). Why a standard IAT effect cannot provide evidence for association formation: The role of similarity construction. Cognition and Emotion, 34(1), 128-143. doi:10.1080/02699931.2019.1604322
Hütter, M., & Rothermund, K. (2020). Automatic processes in evaluative learning. Cognition and Emotion, 34(1), 1-20. doi:10.1080/02699931.2019.1709315
Lying. Lying is a common phenomenon in everyday interactions, but also in formal settings where people have a strong motive to conceal information about their (illegal or socially sanctioned) actions (e.g., in interrogations). Given the high prevalence and ubiquity of lying, an important question is to understand how people manage to get away with lying. The flip side of this question is to ask how lying might be detected with sophisticated experimental methods. Our take on this topic is to study processes of metamemory for lies one has told, and to use this approach for studying processes that help to conceal previous lies, as well as to detect lies, e.g., in forensic settings.
Koranyi, N., Schreckenbach, F., & Rothermund, K. (2015). The implicit cognition of lying: Knowledge about having lied to a question is retrieved automatically. Social Cognition, 33(1), 67-84.
Schreckenbach, F., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Feature specific retrieval of the knowledge of having lied before: Persons and questions independently retrieve truth-related information Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. doi:10.1177/17470218221085822
Schreckenbach, F., Rothermund, K., & Koranyi, N. (2020). Quantity matters: The frequency of deception influences automatic memory retrieval effects. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(11), 1774-1783. doi:10.1177/1747021820924652
Implicit measures have been developed to investigate sources of behavior that are either inaccessible to individuals themselves, or that they try to conceal from others. Although these measures figure prominently in the literature on the implicit assessment of attitudes and stereotypes, methodological and theoretical caveats are abundant in this type of research. Our approach is to investigate the functioning of these measures, to develop improved variants of these measures that have better psychometric properties, and to develop new measures that can be used to indirectly assess important constructs relating to evaluation, motivation, and personal beliefs.
Meissner, F., Grigutsch, L. A., Koranyi, N., Müller, F., & Rothermund, K. (2019). Predicting behavior with implicit measures: Disillusioning findings, reasonable explanations, and sophisticated solutions. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(2483). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02483
Rothermund, K., Grigutsch, L. A., Jusepeitis, A., Koranyi, N., Meissner, F., Müller, F., . . . Wentura, D. (2020). Research with implicit measures: Suggestions for a new agenda of sub-personal psychology. Social Cognition, 38, S243-S263. doi:10.1521/soco.2020.38.supp.s243
The Implicit Association Test. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is the most prominent implicit measure. No other implicit measure has been the subject to such lively scientific and public debates, especially with regard to its usefulness for practical applications. Despite, or perhaps because of, its popularity, the IAT has been criticized in several ways: a) from a cognitive-process-oriented perspective, b) from a test-theoretical perspective, and c) from a content-conceptual perspective. Our research examines the IAT from these different perspectives and aims at developing solutions to the identified criticisms: ad a) we investigate the underlying processes in the IAT and disentangle as well as estimate the contributions of these processes using, for example, the ReAL model (Meissner & Rothermund, 2013); ad b) we apply psychometric insights from classical test theory to the study of the IAT and, in particular, investigate the concept of test difficulty, e.g. with regard to its usefulness in increasing the measured true score variance and thus the predictive validity of the IAT; ad c) we investigate psychological constructs that have received comparatively little attention in the IAT literature, such as motivational constructs, by developing new IAT measures, e.g. the Wanting IAT (Koranyi et al., 2017).
Koranyi, N., Grigutsch, L. A., Algermissen, J., & Rothermund, K. (2017). Dissociating implicit wanting from implicit liking: Development and validation of the Wanting Implicit Association Test (W-IAT). Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 165–169. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.08.008
Meissner, F., & Rothermund, K. (2013). Estimating the contributions of associations and recoding in the Implicit Association Test: The ReAL model for the IAT. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(1), 45-69.
Rothermund, K., & Wentura, D. (2004). Underlying processes in the Implicit Association Test (IAT): Dissociating salience from associations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(2), 139-165. doi:10.1037/0096-3418.104.22.168
The Propositional Evaluation Paradigm (PEP). We developed the Propositional Evaluation Paradigm (PEP) as a novel priming-based measure to indirectly assess the beliefs held by a respondent. Analogously to other priming paradigms, participants are presented with task-irrelevant primes before having to react to probe stimuli. With the primes being statements and the targets being "TRUE" and "FALSE", the PEP aims at assessing the differential accessibility of "TRUE" and "FALSE", reflecting automatic truth inference processes after reading a statement. In our research we demonstrated that the PEP has good reliability, converges with self-reported beliefs, and most importantly incrementally predicts actual behavior beyond said self-reports.
Müller, F., & Rothermund, K. (2019). The Propositional Evaluation Paradigm (PEP): Indirect assessment of personal beliefs and attitudes. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02385
Life-span Development and Aging
Aging is not a purely biological phenomenon, but should be seen as a social and individual construction. Processes and experiences of aging are shaped by aging-related norms and beliefs that become internalized into personalized expectations and beliefs regarding one’s won aging, and then act as self-fulfilling prophecies for an individual's behavior and development. We are studying the influence of "views on aging" with a combination of methodological approaches (panel studies, experimental studies).
The Ageing as Future (AAF) project. This ongoing longitudinal project investigates how individuals perceive, construe, and prepare for their old age and ageing. We address this topic from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining different methodological approaches that mutually complement and inform each other (questionnaires, online assessments, in-depth interviews, experiments). The project has an international format, with data collection in five different countries (Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Czech Republic, Taiwan), which allows us to study and compare processes of ageing across different societal contexts. The major topics of our project center around the following interrelated themes: Views on ageing, perceived age discrimination, preparation for old age, ageing during the "fourth age", attitudes toward longevity, and time management in old age.
de Paula Couto, M. C. P., Fung, H., Graf, S., Hess, T. M., Liou, S., Nikitin, J., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Predictors and consequences of endorsing prescriptive views of active aging and altruistic disengagement. Frontiers in Psychology, 13:807726. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.807726
Kornadt, A. E., de Paula Couto, M. C. P., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Views on aging – current trends and future directions for cross-cultural research. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 6(2). doi:10.9707/2307-0919.1176
Kornadt, A. E., & Rothermund, K. (2011). Contexts of aging: Assessing evaluative age stereotypes in different life domains. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 66(5), 547-556. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr036
Kornadt, A. E., & Rothermund, K. (2015). Views on aging: Domain-specific approaches and implications for developmental regulation. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 35(1), 121-144. doi:10.1891/0198-8794.35.121
Lang, F. R., Lessenich, S., & Rothermund, K. (2022). Altern als Zukunft - eine Studie der Volkswagenstiftung. Heidelberg: Springer Spektrum.
VolkswagenStiftung (93 272, 86 758), funding program "Key Issues for Academia and Society"
Prof. Dr. David Ekerdt (The University of Kansas)
Prof. Dr. Helene Fung (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Dr. Sylvie Graf (Czech Academy of Sciences)
Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess (NC State University)
Prof. Dr. Anna Kornadt (Université du Luxembourg)
Prof. Dr. Frieder Lang (Institute for Psychogerontology, Nuremberg)
Prof. Dr. Jana Nikitin (Universität Wien)
Age norms: Active ageing and altruistic disengagement. In this project, we investigate normative expectations about the ageing process, life in old age, and older people. We focus on two such normative expectations, namely that older adults should remain active and healthy (active aging) and that older adults should behave altruistically towards the younger generations (altruistic disengagement). The project considers the following interrelated research questions (1) How these norms are cognitively represented (domain-specificity of the norms, relation between active ageing and disengagement), (2) which factors influence personal endorsement of these norms (generating arguments, changing perspectives, social consensus feedback), (3) which attitudes and motivations a person develops in response to ageing-related normative expectations, and (4) how ageing-related normative expectations affect behavioral intentions, and actual behaviors. To address these research questions, the project relies on a powerful mix of research designs: analyzing available longitudinal survey data and conducting a series of experimental studies.
German Research Foundation (DFG; RO 1272/15-1), FSU Jena
Identification and manipulation of the physiological and psychological clocks of lifespan. IMPULS is a project that combines life science, data science, and social science to better understand human aging. One of the project’s aims is to examine the influence of psychological aging on the aging process, and its relation to biological and epigenetic markers of aging (cell age, brain age). The project draws from a large sample of middle-aged and old adults in the age range from 40-90 years who participated in the Ageing-as-Future project to assess different types of aging indicators. With its interdisciplinary approach to aging, IMPULS is a unique project that may lead to a breakthrough in understanding aging mechanisms.