Thematic areas

Mann vor Pinnwand

The Faculty is undergoing a period of personnel changes. The thematic areas and key research areas below will therefore need to be reviewed in 2020. However, to further specify the aforementioned general objectives of the Faculty, the next few years will be characterized by basic and application-oriented research endeavours with the goal of obtaining scientific insights into the following broad thematic areas (specifically their psychological aspects):

1) Cognitive, emotional and motivational processes and their biological foundations


The focus of this topic lies in basic research exploring cognition, emotion and motivation. This involves predominantly laboratory-based experimental approaches, making use of a wide spectrum and an excellent infrastructure for carrying out research in Cognitive Psychology, Psychophysiology (Eye tracking, facial EMG), and Cognitive Neuroscience (fMRI, EEG, fNIRS, tDCS, TMS, Psychopharmacology). In recent years we have furthermore increasingly implemented efforts for validating the findings from the lab and extending and experimentally confirming them in the field. Key areas of research are visual cognition and attention (Cognitive Psychology), empirical visual aesthetics (General Psychology and empirical aesthetics), social cognition and behavior (Biological Psychology and Social Neuroscience), as well as clinical cognitive neuroscience (clinical social neuroscience). Processes of visual attention, aesthetic perception and art-viewing in the public space are investigated, as well as the neurophysiological underpinnings of empathy and prosocial behavior (and impairments thereof). The conducted research is largely interdisciplinary and entails cooperations with experts in the fields of Psycholinguistic, Art History, Comparative Cognition and Cognitive Biology, as well as Biological Psychiatry.

2) Work, society and the economy


One of the biggest challenges people face today is the need to accommodate constantly changing working, societal, and economic environments. On the one hand, employees need to adapt to new and flexible working conditions. Consumers are more and more active agents in the value creation process and, at the same time, have the challenge to make decisions based on an immense amount of information and between a great variety of offers. Moreover, citizens are confronted with complex structures of incentives and obligations (e.g., tax laws) and need to precisely assess their lawful duties, and acknowledge the way their decision processes operate. On the other hand, companies, marketing managers, and governing authorities focus on changing people’s behavior that can serve their local (e.g., profits of companies) or global benefits (e.g., reducing climate change). In the department of “work, society, and economy”, researchers study these important challenges with a great variety of methodological expertise applying theories from work, organizational, economic, and social psychology.

3) Development, education and learning over the life course


The topic area „Development, Education and Learning over the Life-course“ ranges from examining the psychological foundations of learning to evidence-based transfer of research findings from Developmental and Educational Psychology to overcome societal challenges according to the principles of universities’ Third Mission. The research focus of the Developmental Psychology working group lies on the social development of infants and children, the functional relevance of neuronal rhythms for learning, and on topics of family psychology like parenthood, divorce, parent-child-relations, and the transition into adulthood. The working groups Educational Psychology & Evaluation and Psychological Research on Education and Transfer explore the promotion of life-long learning in educational institutions revolving around the development and fostering of motivation as well as the emergence and perpetuation of gender stereotypes in learning environments. Due to the conception of prevention, training, and intervention measures and their subsequent evaluation and implementation, the topic area has effects well into the changing society.

4) Health, strain, coping and social inclusion


This research field addresses questions of health and impairment with a focus on further development of the understanding of experiences and behavior relevant for Clinical Psychology and Health Psychology. In this research, individual human characteristics and characteristics of the social context of a person are equally taken into consideration. Research perspectives in this field deal with mental resilience as well as vulnerability of human beings in all aspects of life and all age groups. Research topics include social-cognitive and affective competencies from the perspective of self and stress theories, where also social diversity and psychological regulation processes in people with disabilities are taken into account.

Specific research questions in this field are about factors and conditions of genesis, development and preservation of mental health and illness, and are implemented in selected areas such as depression in children and adolescents, stress-related diseases, posttraumatic stress reactions or mental abnormalities in people with developmental intellectual disabilities. Behavioral methods used for this research are complemented by methods of Biopsychology and Neuroscience. With this approach, we contribute to the basic understanding of mental processes, risks and resources requiring prevention, enhancement and intervention, thereby gaining important knowledge for psychological counselling as well as clinical and health psychological treatment and psychotherapy.