Social Psychology Fields of Research Central Research Projects Research Associations Past Research Projects References

Fields of Research


  • Group Processes
    e.g., social identity, social influence, collective action, conflict and cooperation between groups, and social inequality
  • Motivated Social Cognition
    e.g., basic psychological needs and effects of threat
  • Social Psychology of Environmental Crisis
    e.g., pro-environmental action, acceptance of pro-environmental innovations, and nature protection

Central Research Projects

Version: June 2020 

Perceived collective agency as a driver of populist movements in threatening times? (Project at the Research Institute of Societal Cohesion, FGZ, Federal Ministery for Education and Science; Fritsche & Hoppe)


Collective Spirit or False Consciousness under Conditions of Economic Threat? Testing an Integrated Stage Model of Extended and Secondary Control (DFG; Fritsche & Lauterbach)

People need to feel autonomous and in control over important aspects of their life. Strong economic inequality can threaten control for those at the bottom end of the scale or who fear personal economic descent. This project investigates psychological coping strategies people use to maintain a sense of control in response to appraisals of personal economic threat. Which responses people employ has strong implications for whether existing economic hierarchies are preserved or changed. Specifically, two yet divergent lines of theorizing have proposed very different reactions to threatened control. The compensatory control approach suggests that personal helplessness shakes people’s belief in a structured and predictable world which induces them to support existing systems of order and strong external agents. Marxian thinkers have called this “false consciousness” as the disadvantaged seem to support systems or powerful outgroups that create their disadvantage. On the contrary, the model of group-based control has proposed a mechanism that may turn personal misery into collective affiliation and empowerment: When people lack personal control, they may re-define the self in terms of “We” instead of “I”, to join in collective agency and control, leading to ingroup identification and action (e.g., against illegitimate inequalities).

The project for the first time integrates these divergent perspectives. We propose that when people experience personal helplessness, they first try to restore control on a collective level of the self ("extended primary control"). Only when this seems futile they resort to comepnsatory, or "secondary", control, thus supporting existing socio-economic systems and powerful outgroups (e.g., elites). In this three-years project, we empirically test this model. The project helps to better understand how coping with adverse effects of economic inequality affects people's social responses to, and appraisals of, inequality.

ExpoAware - Environmental volunteered geographic information for personal exposure awareness and healthy mobility behaviour (DFG 424979005; Masson)


Member of the scientific DFG network "Social Identity in Agent-based Models; SIAM" (Fritsche & Masson)

The maturing social simulation community is facing the challenge of developing standards and methods for model development, including how to pick and implement behavioural theories when modelling human behaviour. One particular need and challenge is formalising human behaviour and decision making in its social context – representing how people might decide what to do within a specific context and social-physical situation. Part of the reason for the difficulty here is that this depends upon the complex relationship between the individual’s identity and the social situation they inhabit. The purpose of SIAM is to contribute towards formalising a widely-applicable social-psychological theory incorporating social context – the social identity approach – for the use in agent-based models (ABMs).

SPARCS: Sustainable energy Positive & zero cARbon CommunitieS (Grant agreement ID: 864242; Fritsche & Masson)


Control Restoration and the Moderating Role of Group Membership for Well-Being Effects of Threatening Health Conditions (PhD grant by the University of Leipzig; Relke)

The identification with relevant ingroups benefits subjective well-being (social cure effect) and it also restores a sense of threatened personal control on a collective level (group-based control; Fritsche et al., 2013). As part of a PhD project, we investigate these positive effects of group membership in the context of health and especially highlight the contribution of control compared to other underlying motivational processes.

Research Associations


Past Research Projects

Threat to Control and Social Norms: Conformity, Change, or Formation - TCSN (DFG, FR 2067 8-1 & JU 2902 4-1; Jugert, Fritsche, & Czepluch)

When people experience a threat to personal control, they often seek control on the level of collective identity (i.e., groups; Fritsche et al., 2013; Stollberg, Fritsche & Jonas, 2017). In collaboration with Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland), we investigate unconscious processes of norm vigilance and motivated norm formation that prepare the restoration of control as a group member.  

Motivated History: Representations of Groups' History as a Function of Current Motivations - MoHi (DFG, BA 5572 1-1 & FR 2067 7-1; Barth & Fritsche)

We investigate how current personal motivations, such as the needs for control and moral acceptance, determine how people subjectively construct and accept their nation’s history (e.g., as collective perpetrator, victim or by-stander). In collaboration with the University of Warsaw we study this issue in both the German and the Polish cultural context.

ECHOES: Energy Choices Supporting the Energy Union and the Set-Plan (European Commission, Horizon 2020, # 727470; Fritsche & Masson)
Collective factors determine people's and institutions' sustainable energy behavior and their acceptance of a European energy transition. In collaboration with other European partners (e.g., U Trondheim, U Roma Tre) our project team focuses on how people's social identity (identification with collectives, perceived ingroup norms and collective efficacy; Fritsche, Barth, Jugert, Masson & Reese, 2018) affects people's pro-environmental energy attitudes and behavior.

Constructing Active Citizenship with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions (European Commission, Horizon 2020, #649538; Jugert)
The project aims to identify the factors, located at different levels (psychological, developmental, macro social, and contextual), influencing the different forms of youth active engagement in Europe. Our team concentrates on the analysis of existing datasets to understand the interplay between individual and context in influencing active citizenship; Šerek & Jugert, 2017.

Nature Consciousness in Germany (Federal Agency of Nature Protection; FKZ 351681020A; Fritsche, Hoppe & Chokrai)

Since 2009 the Federal Agency of Nature Protection investigates attitudes toward nature protection in Germany in bi-annual representative national survey studies In in-depth analyses of the Nature Consciousness Study 2017 and the previous studies we investigate the psychological factors (particularly those of social identity; Fritsche, Barth, Jugert, Masson & Reese, in press) that determine people's nature conservation attitudes and behaviors.

Member of the DFG Research Network “Within and Between Group Processes in the Context of Social Inequality” (DFG RO 4826/1; Jugert, Fritsche & Barth)
Economic inequality and economic threat have adverse effects on people's and societies' functioning (e.g., reduced health or social cohesion; Fritsche & Jugert, 2017; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). Within the DFG Network, researchers from ten different universities collaborate in investigating the social psychological processes that determine people's perceptions of and responses to economic inequality.

Promoting Sustainable Consumption Through International Contact (PhD grant by the German Federal Environmental Foundation; Römpke)

To solve global problems, such as climate change, cooperation and prosocial behavior towards humans all over the globe are necessary. International contact leads to reduced prejudice towards out-groups. We argue that beyond improving intergroup attitudes, intergroup contact may create a superordinate human identity that empowers people to act towards mitigating globally relevant problems.




Fritsche, I., Barth, M., Jugert, P., Masson, T., & Reese, G. (2018). A social identity model of pro-environmental action (SIMPEA). Psychological Review, 125, 245-269.

Fritsche, I., Jonas, E., Ablasser, C., Beyer, M., Kuban, J., Manger, A. M., & Schultz, M. (2013). The power of we: Evidence for group-based control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 19-32.

Fritsche, I., & Jugert, P. (2017). The consequences of economic threat for motivated social cognition and action. Current Opinion in Psychology, 18, 31-36.

Stollberg, J., Fritsche, I., & Jonas, E. (2017). The groupy shift: Conformity to liberal ingroup norms as a group-based response to threatened personal control. Social Cognition, 35, 374-394.

last update: 01.04.2021 


Leipzig University
Institute of Psychology


Department of Social Psychology
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Ines Braun
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