Dr. Mehu Secures Prestigious Research Grant

Webster Vienna is proud to announce that Dr. Marc Mehu of the Psychology Department has secured a prestigious research grant. Jointly funded by both the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) for a period of 4 years, the overall value of the project is circa € 640,000, of which Marc’s share will be almost €340,000. Marc will run the project in Vienna, together with Dr. Martin Aranguren, a researcher at CNRS, affiliated to the center for studies in migration and interethnic relations URMIS in Paris. The project looks at nonverbal indicators of implicit prejudice and discrimination in inter-group relations, it involves both field and laboratory experiments.
The winning of such a grant from the FWF is an affirmation of the outstanding research work and enduring efforts of our faculty and staff and marks a major milestone in achieving the external financing goals laid out in our strategic plan.

Exploring and explaining misrecognitive discrimination: field and laboratory experiments (SEDICE)
Face-to-face interactions between people of different cultures are the theater of complex emotional processes that influence how individuals behave towards each other. Understanding these processes is crucial if we want to address the problems that typically arise from inter-cultural interactions. This research project proposes to study the emotional communication observed during interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims. Past research on this topic is mostly based on questionnaires (i.e. people report how they would think or act in particular situations), hence it does not really address the communication styles people actually adopt in their relationships with other cultural groups. The objectives of our project are therefore: 1) To describe observable communicative behavior (e.g. facial expression, body posture) associated with misrecognitive discrimination against Muslims, 2) to study the social and emotional bases of these interpersonal behaviors, as well as the social and emotional impact of interpersonal discrimination on the Muslim minority. We do not expect everyone to react to these situations in the same way and predict that the observed emotional reactions will be moderated by individual variables such as social dominance orientation, authoritarianism, and implicit attitudes towards the out-group. Emotion regulation strategies are also expected to attenuate the subtle emotional reactions.
The methodology utilizes naturalistic observations of nonverbal behavior in public places in Paris and Vienna, in a research paradigm involving help requests between members of different cultural communities. In addition, we plan a series of psychological experiments, in which we combine questionnaires, face-to-face social interactions, and measurements of physiological activity (e.g. heart rate and respiration). The experiments are designed to study the different components of emotional reactivity under tightly controlled conditions, in relation to the behaviors observed in public places. The combination of field and laboratory experiments in a single project is innovative and is aimed at gaining valid scientific knowledge that can be applied to everyday interactions between people of different cultures. This project is important because it will allow us to discover psychological processes we are not always aware of when interacting with people of different cultures. These unconscious processes can sometimes prevent the positive unfolding of inter-cultural relationships and therefore undermine attempts at social integration. In addition, this project has the potential to make a scientific breakthrough in the study of inter-cultural relationships because it integrates different measurement techniques (questionnaires, behavioral observations, and physiological measurements), a rare feature in psychological research.