Socio-Cultural Psychology

Group leader
Socio-Cultural Psychology
Specific themes and goals
  • Culture and decision-making: We are living in a consumer society where choosing according to one’s preferences is a common and everyday activity. In fact, the proliferation of choice has increased enormously over the last decades. What are the psychological consequences of making frequent consumer choices? We speculated and found that the act of making consumer decisions could temporarily increase narcissism (including self-aggrandising tendencies), because it directs one’s attention to the self (for example, personal preferences or internal standards, etc.). In another set of studies, we asked whether belief in free will facilitates or impedes decision making. From an existentialist perspective one might argue that free will imposes anguish and hesitation and thus might impede decisions by increasing indecisiveness. In contrast, an evolutionary view would argue that free will is a driver of effective social functioning, and this view would predict that free will facilitates decisions by reducing indecisiveness. Our results mainly provide support to the evolutionary hypothesis. Belief in free will is consistently associated with lower indecisiveness. However, one boundary condition of this effect is that it is limited to individuals with high self-concept clarity.
  • How to increase students’ intercultural competence?: Based on many previous findings, we argue that teaching cultural intelligence should focus on the role of self-reflection, mindfulness, and self-efficacy. Based on these theoretical propositions, we designed, conducted, and evaluated a university course aimed at promoting students’ cultural intelligence and self-efficacy. Quantitative and qualitative data provide evidence for its effectiveness. Overall, the data offer insights into how to teach transferable skills at universities to prepare students to become global leaders, able to confidently engage with cultural diversity in a globalized world. This long-standing research also resulted in a cooperation with DIE ZEIT Akademie Hamburg, an important supplier of online seminars in various fields. Together we produced an online seminar on intercultural competence and an accompanying text book.
Highlights and impact
  • Decision-making is much more than choosing one option out of various provided ones. It is a social act with social meaning.
  • Intercultural competence is a key competency in our modern world. Knowing what it comprises allows us to teach and improve it. This was recently done with our international student body, but also in collaboration with an important provider for online seminars, namely DIE ZEIT Akademie, Hamburg.
Group composition & projects/funding

I am involved in the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences as a faculty member and Academic Chair. Between 2019 and 2022, three of my PhD students graduated (funded by the DFG). In September 2021, our DFG Research Training Group Social Dynamics of the Self opened. Through that group, I am involved in the supervision of two PhD students.

Selected publications
  • Binder, N., & Kühnen U. (2021). Teaching Cultural Intelligence for a VUCA World. European Journal of Cross-Cultural Competence and Management, 5, 252-270. 
  • Binder, N. & Kühnen, U. (2020). Interkulturelle Kompetenz - Strategien für eine erfolgreiche 
  • Zusammenarbeit. Die Zeit Verlag, Hamburg. 
  • Baur, C., Soucek, R., Kühnen, U. & Baumeister, R. F. (2020). Unable to resist the temptation to tell the truth or to lie for the organization? Identification makes the difference. Journal of Business Ethics, 167, 643-662. 
  • Kokkoris, M., Sedikides, C. & Kühnen, U. (2019). Do Consumer Choices Augment
  • Narcissism? The Role of Self-Referent Processing. Self & Identity, 18, 550-575 Kokkoris, M. D., 
  • Baumeister, R. F., & Kühnen, U. (2019). Freeing or freezing decisions? Belief in free will and indecisiveness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 154, 49-61.