How? Open Science
Our lab is committed to the values of open and transparent science. We feel that recent developments in psychology can go a long way to improve the reproducibility and replicability of psychological research. In particular, we pre-register almost all of our current research. In addition, we provide the materials, analysis code, and data of our empirical studies. In our teaching, we strive to convey the values of open and transparent science to our students. Students pre-register their Bachelor and Master theses with the supervisor. Although adopting an open and transparent work flow is an ongoing process, we feel that our research has already profited greatly by implementing these.
What? Research Topics
The social psychology lab conducts research in several different areas of social psychology. Most of our current work is situated in the domains of self-control and self-regulation, close relationships and sexuality, and negotiations. Other lines of research are concerned with meta-scientific perspectives on psychological research Earlier work was concerned with implicit cognition. On the following pages, we provide brief glances on some of these lines of research.
Self-control is considered a trait that is fairly stable across time. Good self-control is associated with a host of positive outcomes including good mental and physical health, stable personal relationships, and wealth. Despite being a prominent research topic in several subfields of psychology, there is no clear consensus about how self-control should be defined. Some researchers stress the control of dominant responses such as thoughts, emotions, and impulses as defining elements of self-control. Other definitions are much broader. One line of current work seeks to develop a theory-guided, encompassing conceptualization of self-control. This project seeks to closely consider overlap with and distinctiveness from related constructs in the personality space, and elucidate implications for the measurement of self-control.
Social comparison and self-regulation
People often strive towards self-improvement and their current motivation can hinge on their social environment, namely the people around them. We combine social comparison with motivational principles form self-regulation research and demonstrate how discrepancy assessments between the self and a social comparison standard influence motivation and associated emotions: A negative discrepancy (upward comparison) is associated with increased effort investment (pushing), but with decreased effort investment if the discrepancy between the self and the social comparison standard becomes too large (disengagement). Positive discrepancies, on the other hand, are related to positive affect and less effort investment (coasting) as the standard has been surpassed (Diel, Grelle, & Hofmann, 2021; Diel, Broeker, Raab, & Hofmann, 2021). In a second line of research, we investigate how people use social comparison information in order to fulfil certain motives and needs, and whether people strategically select certain social comparison standards to justify their behavior, which is driven by motivational states (e.g. self-interest; Diel, Ockenfels, & Hofmann, unpublished manuscript).
If self-control is apparently so helpful in living a healthy, happy, and prosperous life, a self-suggesting question is how it can be improved. Some researchers examined if regular practice of self-control can lead to changes not only in the practiced domain, but more broadly in domains that require self-control. A recent meta-analysis of this literature from our lab provided mixed support for this idea and concluded that more theoretical and empirical work is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn (Friese, Frankenbach, Job, & Loschelder, 2017).
A prominent idea suggests that the exertion of self-control impairs performance in subsequent attempts at self-control (ego depletion effect). After a prolific period in which this phenomenon has received abundant attention in research and the public media, the field as been confronted with severe doubts about the robustness and replicability of much of the reported research. A review from our lab about the state of the field concluded that there is no conclusive evidence for the phenomenon beyond reasonable doubt, but neither is there conclusive evidence that the phenomenon does not exist. Both better theoretical and empirical work is needed to gain a deeper understanding of ego depletion effects (Friese, Loschelder, Gieseler, Frankenbach, & Inzlicht, 2019). Ongoing work examines the role of mental effort as indicated by psychophysiological measures in the emergence of ego depletion effects.
The dynamics of self-control
Many self-control situations are characterized by conflicts between individuals’ long-term goals and their short-term impulses. Based on contemporary dual-process and dual-system models of human behavior, we examined the interplay of three components that jointly shape self-regulatory behavior: (1) reflective precursors of behavior such as explicit attitudes and personal standards, (2) impulsive precursors of behavior such as spontaneous affective reactions toward a temptation, and (3) boundary factors that shift the weight of reflective and impulsive processes on behavior such as the willingness and the ability of the individual to exert control over behavior. A series of studies supported the assumptions that reflective precursors correspond to observed self-regulatory behavior better under conditions of high ability to control and the reverse was true for impulsive precursors of behavior (for an overview, see Hofmann, Friese, & Strack, 2009).
Sex Drive: Conceptualization and meta-analysis of gender differences
Few spheres in life are as universally relevant to (almost) all individuals past puberty as sexuality. People vary in their intrinsic motivation to seek out sexual activity and satisfaction, typically referred to as sex drive. Several recent projects revolved around this concept. Past research varied in how it conceptualized sex drive. In one project, we offered a theory-driven conceptualization of sex drive as the density distribution of state sex drive, where state sex drive is defined as momentary sexual motivation that manifests in sexual cognition, affect, and behavior (Frankenbach, Weber, Loschelder, Kilger, & Friese, 2022). Based on this conceptualization, we conducted a meta-analysis of gender differences in sex drive. Past research typically reported stronger sex drive in men compared to women (Baumeister et al., 2001), but some authors argued that the respective reports may have questionable validity due to biased responding by both genders (Conley et al., 2011). In our meta-analysis, we found a medium-to-large gender difference in sex drive indicating a stronger sex drive in men compared to women. When trying to control for biased responding by taking into account response bias on items that logically cannot reveal appreciable gender differences, the meta-analytic effect was medium in size.
Sex Drive Measurement
Based on the theory-driven conceptualization of sex drive, we developed a brief scale to validly and efficiently assess the construct, the Trait Sexual Motivation Scale (TSMS, Weber, Reis, & Friese, 2023). In four preregistered studies, the TSMS was found to be an economical, reliable, and valid measure of sexual motivation independent of gender and relationship status.
Sex Drive in Everyday Life
Although research on sex drive has become more and more popular, its characteristics and importance in the daily life of young and healthy people is still poorly understood. Aiming to address this gap, we conducted an experience-sampling study to examine (a) characteristics (“How frequently do sexual events occur?”), (b) antecedents (e.g., self-control, presence of the partner) and (c) consequences (e.g., distraction, relationship quality) of sex drive in everyday life. Results suggest that sexual events are prevalent and frequent (e.g., several fantasies a day on average), that momentary sex drive is higher when partners are present, and that higher levels of sex drive are associated with higher relationship quality (Weber, Frankenbach, Hofmann, & Friese, unpublished manuscript).
Extradyadic Sexual Fantasies
Past research suggests that for those who are in a (sexually exclusive) relationship, having fantasies about a person other than the partner (i.e., extradyadic sexual fantasies) can cause moral emotions like shame and guilt (Yarab & Allgeier, 1998). Ongoing projects started to extend this line of research in two ways by asking: 1) Do extradyadic sexual fantasies have a negative effect on participants’ relationship? 2) Do fantasy-induced feelings of shame and guilt have different implications for the relationship (i.e., approach/avoidance motivation and behavior)? Preliminary results suggest that fantasy-induced feelings of guilt and shame are highly correlated (r > .7). Consequently, it is not surprising that we found no clear evidence for differential effects of guilt and shame.
Some of our projects are concerned with Meta-Science - research about research. In one project, we investigated the efficacy of post-experimental debriefings to remedy the negative effects of ego threatening manipulations in research studies on participants' well-being (Miketta & Friese, 2019). Two projects examined the theoretical basis (i.e., the strength model of self-control) and the empirical research on ego depletion effects (Friese, Loschelder, Gieseler, Frankenbach, & Inzlicht, 2019; Gieseler, Loschelder, & Friese, 2019). A recent book chapter covers the concept of p-hacking, the consequences of p-hacking for scientific progress, the prevalence and detection of p-hacking, and ways to prevent it (Reis & Friese, in press). Finally, in another project we employed a large-scale simulation study to examine the influence of p-hacking and publication bias on the distortion of meta-analytic effect size estimates (Friese & Frankenbach, 2020).
Research on negotiations examined effects of the magnitude and precision level of first offers in negotiations. Increasing precision leads to a stronger anchoring pull for negotiation amateurs. For experts, precision backfires unless a convincing rationale is given (Loschelder, Friese, Schaerer, & Galinsky, 2016). A second line of work showed that making the first offer in a negotiation is often helpful, but may be exploited by the opponent if the first offer reveals priority information (Loschelder, Trötschel, Swaab, Friese, & Galinsky, 2016). Other work demonstrated that self-regulation techniques such as goal setting and forming if-then plans can help negotiators overcome the detriments of being in disadvantageous positions such as having low power (for an overview, see Jäger, Loschelder, & Friese, 2015). Current lines of research further examine effects of price precision and effects of stereotypes in negotiations.
In the last 25 years, implicit measures of attitudes and stereotypes have sparked immense research interest. Some of our research investigated influences of stimulus selection in Implicit Association Tests (Bluemke & Friese, 2006, 2012) and the psychometric properties of the Single Category Implicit Association Test (SC-IAT; Bluemke & Friese, 2008). A review of the literature on the predictive validity of implicit measures built on a two-dimensional classification system of moderators based on contemporary dual-process models. The review concluded that predictive validity is particularly strong under conditions that make reflective processing less likely (Friese, Hofmann, & Schmitt, 2008).
Another focus of our work was the application of implicit measures to the prediction of political voting behavior (for an overview, see Friese, Smith, Koever, & Bluemke, 2016).