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Areas of Research Focus

Research Interests

The characteristic feature of our department’s research is the link between basic and applied research. We investigate questions of school and classroom research with reference to theories and methods derived from educational psychology, social psychology, and developmental psychology.

In terms of research methodology, our studies predominantly consist of experimental designs, which are complemented by correlational studies and evaluation research. We not only work with self-reports, which can be collected via questionnaire instruments, but also with computer-based, non-reactive measures, which capture implicit, automatic, unconscious associations.

Central questions relate to motivational, identity-related, and attitudinal predictors of school learning as well as to the achievement of equity within the educational system, especially with regard to understanding disparities related to gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. In this context, we developed the Interests as Identity Regulation Model (IIRM) (Kessels & Hanover, 2004; 2006; Kessels, Heyder, Latsch & Hanover, 2014), which is fundamental to our work and maps how adolescents' academic interest and achievement development interacts with their identity development.

Going beyond the academic context, we are also interested in the formation and development of peoples’ social identities in other contexts. In an international network, we are studying questions like: What makes people alienate themselves from broader society by developing a “micro-identity” with its own narratives and network, separated from larger society? And what is the role of digital media use in this development?

Going even beyond our planet earth, in collaboration with researchers from, e.g., the planetary sciences, we are starting to approach the topic of otherness and alien situations in the broadest sense: How does the prospect of detecting alien life shape our identity as humans?

You can find more information about our different research interests below:

Micro-Identities, digitalization and radicalization: Moving from networked to patchworked society?

The research network DigiPatch ("Moving from networked to patchworked society: Motivational underpinnings and societal consequences") investigates, in several European countries, the interaction between the lack of fulfillment of psychological needs and the use of digital media on the possible development and the societal consequences of (radicalized) "micro-identities", which are separated from the majority of society. First, we will investigate how digital media creates conditions for cultural and societal change from a traditionally networked society to a rigidly ‘patchwork’ one. Second, we will find out why this occurs, with a focus on cultural factors and the socio-cognitive processes of individuals. Lastly, we will outline what the potential societal consequences of these processes are.

The project is funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004509.


  • Project Leader: Małgorzata Kossowska, Jagiellonian University, Department of Philosophy, Institute of Psychology, Poland
  • Jesper J. Strömbäck, University of Gothenburg, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, Sweden
  • Ursula Kessels, Freie Universität Berlin, Education Studies and Psychology, Germany
  • Manuel Moyano, University of Cordoba, Department of Psychology, Spain
  • Ana Guinote, University College London, Experimental Psychology, United Kingdom

For further information see



Exploring Otherness on Earth and beyond: Integrating perspectives from natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities

In the Einstein Circle we approach the topic of otherness and alien situations in planetary sciences that are part of the natural sciences, in conjunction with different perspectives on those topics from the social sciences and humanities.

Project leaders: Steffi Pohl & Lena Noack
Members of the project: Mickaël Baqué, Ursula Kessels, Ulrike Klinger, Miriam Kyselo, Lena Noack, Steffi Pohl, Frank Postberg, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Susanne Veit, Michael Waltemathe, Kai Wünnemann
Funding: Einstein Stiftung (EZK-2021-650)
Duration: 2022-2025



Positive Feedback-Bias

Numerous studies have shown a negative bias in the assessment and evaluation of members of ethnic minorities in the USA. In Germany… more

Shifting Standards in the evaluation of negatively stereotyped groups

"Not bad for a girl..."? In experimental studies, we have been able to show that negative stereotypes about the mathematical abilities of girls or the reading skills of Turkish students either become evident or are "masked" depending on situational features. …more

Girls and STEM

A focus of our work is the investigation of the image of science and the particular implications this image has for girls' and women's engagement in STEM. …more

Are Boys Left Behind at School?

In several studies, we investigate whether and to what extent stereotypes about school and learning as a whole show a comparatively poorer fit to boys' self-image or to notions of masculinity. For example, in the German Research Foundation (DFG)-funded research project " Are Boys Left Behind at School?" …more

School burnout

Do girls' typically better school grades have "side effects"?

We investigated whether girls report more school-related burnout than boys and what the reasons for this are. …more

Attitudes and approaches towards inclusive education

One focus of our work in the context of school heterogeneity is the topic of attitudes and approaches towards inclusion. For this purpose, we conducted a study on implicit attitudes of student teachers towards inclusion …more

Language and Gender

Does the qualitative vocabulary of boys and girls differ at primary school age?...more