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Unethical Behavior in Hierarchical and Egalitarian Group Environments: How Does Leader Recruitment- and Morality Affect Immoral Conduct?

  • Panagiotis Mitkidis, Dept. of Management
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Christian Truelsen Elbæk, Simon Karg


The study explores the dark-side of collaboration by investigating group and leader behavior in a set of moral experiments aiming to resemble interactions in organizational settings. More precisely, this study investigates cheating behavior in a three-player game, involving three stages: First, all players engage in an individual task, which determines the group leader for the latter stages. Then, the rest of the group engages in a task that incentivizes and allows cheating. Finally, the leader, who knows whether (and how much) the team has cheated, can decide whether to report honestly, or allow the cheating to happen.

By manipulating the way leaders are chosen, this study will examine human interaction in hierarchical group structures, and how unethical behavior might or might not increase under these circumstances. Furthermore it will contribute to our understanding of the effects that leader personality and team-member personality might have on morality in interactive groups. A better understanding of these dynamics will broaden our knowledge on why people engage in unethical behaviour and what could be done to hinder this various organizational settings.    

Moral Leaders, Moral Behavior? – How moral character and group dynamics interact in ethical decision making

  • Simon Karg, Department of Management
  • Seednumber:
  • Collaborators: Arnault Vermillet (IKK), Sarah Gotowiec (Psychology), Panos Mitkidis (Management)


In establishing moral behavior in groups, what’s more important: moral leaders, or moral teams? And, how do interactions between those two factors evolve? To date, two opposing theories have been put forward. The first focuses on virtuous leaders who act as role models by showing characteristics such as will power, moral identity, and a low risk-taking propensity. Others, however, posit that bottom up processes, such as corrupt teams, and ill-formed incentive structures or decision processes in an organization will override any leader’s good intentions. While both explanations are likely to be true to some degree, the dynamics of how these two factors play out are to date poorly understood.

This research project aims to provide a better understanding in how such top down and bottom up processes affect ethical behavior in organizations, by taking a closer look at the role of leaders, group members and incentive structures. To do this, this project will take a multimethod approach, utilizing both computational modelling, and online as well as laboratory experiments. Developing a better understanding of what drives ethical decision making in these contexts will help us to identify best practices that minimize unethical behavior of teams and leaders in organizations of all kinds.    

Mapping the semantics of personality

  • Mikkel Wallentin, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, IKK
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Roberta Rocca,  Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics


Linguistic interaction is a type of collaboration and serves as the underpinning for most other types. Among the most frequent words used to make spoken conversation efficient are personal pronouns (e.g. “I”, “you”, “he/she/it”) and demonstrative pronouns (“this”, “that”) Mapping the extent to which participants use a proximal (“this”) or distal (“that”) demonstrative related to objects from different semantic dimensions is hypothesized to be indicative of the person’s imagined proximity to these dimensions (e.g. a happy person is more likely to use ”this” for “joy” than an unhappy person). An anxious person is more likely to couple a word like “fear” with “my” than a less anxious person. In this experiment we investigate the relation between demonstrative and pronoun choice, personality and mood.

Rot from the top? (Un)moral decisions in hierarchical organizations

  • Nicola F. Maaser, Department of Economics and Business Economics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Thomas Stratmann, Economics Dept. and Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University


Many economic interactions involve unmoral behavior, for example, deceiving consumers about a product’s health risks. Often the decision to act dishonestly is not made by an individual alone, but is a group decision, e.g., by a management board. The aim of the project is to explore how individuals’ inclination to support morally objectionable collective acts depends on the hierarchical organization of the group. The project uses game-theoretic analysis and laboratory experiments to add insights into the relationship between a group’s hierarchy and its ethics. A better understanding is crucial in order to evaluate the pros and cons of different forms of hierarchies and to improve organizational design.

The cultural route to conceptualization of urban space

  • Kristian Tylén, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Zahra Alinam, Urbanism, Tabriz Islamic Art University,
    Cordula Vesper, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics    


Our experiences of the surrounding cultural and physical environment are largely shaped by conceptualizations originating in social interactions. Through social interactions we align and conform our attentional profiles and representational construal of space. This has the implication that aspects of experience of the environment can potentially differ as a function of the cultural group with which we have a history. We hypothesize that we carry with us these histories even in encounters of new spaces which means that two people can have very different experiences of the same space depending on their interactive history.

In this experimental project, we use virtual reality to study the interactive processes shaping these affordances and their implications focusing on the case of urban environments. In the experiment, dyads of individuals perform a collaborative task: one participant searches the urban space for a particular target, returns and explains to the partner where to go and look for the target. Participants take turns in their roles as directors and finders through multiple trials. Half of the participants will do the task in one type of urban space and half in another type. We will study the directions shared by participants with the hypothesis that they will differ systematically as a function of the condition (=”culture”) even when participants are describing the same environment.     

Mars Survival — A generative game to study cooperation and conflict

  • Dan Mønster, Department of Economics and Business Economics / Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Simon DeDeo, Social and Decision Sciences, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University,
    Elizabeth Hobson, Santa Fe Institute 


Human cooperation is traditionally studied in the lab by using a set of simple economic games known as social dilemmas. Studies of social dilemmas have produced valuable knowledge about cooperation, how it can be stimulated, and why it often decays into mutual defection. Real life is very different from these idealized lab experiments, and this project attempts a small step in the direction from sterile games in the lab to the richness of real life. We will develop a new open-ended and generative game — Mars Survival — to study cooperation and conflict in settings ranging from simple to complex. The rules can easily be changed to accommodate a variety of scenarios. Players are embedded in a network structure which can be controlled by the researcher, and they play the game by trading and converting scarce resources in order to survive on Mars. The game is played in continuous time, and players are free to choose when and with whom they trade.

Fieldwork in the Body. Investigations of hospital environments between anthropology and somatic movement

  • Mette Terp Høybye, Dept. of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Marie Hallager Andersen, freelance dance artist and choreographer


Nearly everyone has to relate to hospital environments at some point in their lives. We may be passing through as visitors or patients; or maybe time and again go back as re-admitted or chronic patients. We may be receiving new life into the world or loosing life in the environment of hospitals. To most it’s an uncharted space at first, to others it frames days and years of work, seeking to provide care and treatment. The physical environment of the hospital is now commonly understood to have significant impact on the well-being and healing of patients. This study will build on existing anthropological studies of hospitals as dynamic spaces in order to investigate how engaging directly with the environment through creative movement activity can add to how we understand hospital spaces. How may such investigations at the intersection of somatic movement practice and anthropology add to our knowledge making around hospitals as relational environments? Our work asks if it is possible to increase the potentiality of the hospital as a healing environment by opening users’ senses to ‘being in’ and ‘seeing’ the space differently? These findings will feed back into evidence-based hospital design and inform existing literature in anthropology and other sciences.

Neural signatures underlying olfactory processing

  • Patricia Da Mota, Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Carsten Gleesborg, Henrique M Fernandes, Alexander Fjaeldstad, Morten L Kringelbach Therese Ovesen, Arne Møller, Peter Vuust, Department of Clinical Medicine


In order to survive both as individuals and as a species, we need to eat and procreate. Our sensory systems have developed to allow us to identify, evaluate and predict stimuli in the environment such that we make sensible decisions about them. Though less obvious than other senses such as vision, hearing, or touch, we are strongly affected by the olfactory cues we perceive. With pleasure as a common currency, odours can inflict similar responses in the brain as other fundamental rewards, such as food, sex, and social stimuli, as well as more abstract rewards, such as money and music. It is important to emphasize that the perception and processing of food is affected by all senses, though olfaction has been acknowledged as a key contributor. Olfaction dysfunction is associated with apathy, depression and a lower quality of life. The mapping of the cortical pathways that process olfactory stimuli is of great importance because of the close connection between olfactory impairments and the early stages of some neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Schizophrenia. In this study we aim to examine the underlying mechanisms of olfactory processing by comparing neural response signatures to pleasant, unpleasant, and food related odours, in a population of healthy participants.

Beauty is in the ear of the listener: Using eye-tracking to investigate the role of native vs. non-native verbal skills as credible fitness indicators in sexual mate choice

  • Fabio Trecca, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Trine Bilde, Dept. of Bioscience, Nanna Vittrup, Biology


Sexual reproduction depends on the ability to identify and attract a mate of adequate fitness quality. Thus, initial attraction builds on an assessment of bodily traits that constitute credible indicators of mate quality. Interestingly, verbal proficiency has also been shown to function as a credible indicator of quality and to increase perceived attractiveness. This is because cognitive skills that take effort to acquire are hard to fake, thus becoming credible signals of quality in people that can afford them. But what about individuals with non-native foreign language skills? On the one side, they are generally perceived to be less credible and intelligent than people with native skills in the same language; on the other, foreign language skills correlate with high mother tongue proficiency and generally high cognitive skills. This raises the question of the credibility of non-native verbal skills as fitness indicators: Does non-native fluency increase (because it is a costly skill to acquire) or decrease (because it is associated with lower credibility) the perceived attractiveness of speakers of foreign languages? We will investigate this question experimentally using pictures of faces associated with different speech stimuli in an eye-tracking procedure.    

The lasting effects of sharing information: Longevity of emotion priming in social media

  • Cordula Vesper, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Prahlad Kashyap; MA Cognitive Semiotics    


In the age of social media and technology, we frequently share potentially relevant pieces of information with other people through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Likewise, we are constantly exposed to a wide variety of information from others within very short time spans and in highly condensed form. Most often, this information is presented randomly such that two successive pieces of information are vastly varied in their topic of concern. Facebook, for example, presents all of its information on the ‘Newsfeed’ in an endlessly scrollable list; they can range in variety from posts by friends and family, to ads, to posts by groups and pages that one is subscribed to. Since social media engagement is on the rise and information consumption through it is inevitable, it is important to study the different implications of this mode of information consumption. In particular, one of the consequences of the way information is presented is that individuals may be subjected to negative, positive and neutral online experiences one after another. This begs the question, whether emotional engagement with one post affects engagement with the next post even if its content is entirely unrelated. Building on existing research, that has frequently shown that humans are highly prone to framing/priming effects, this project aims at exploring the impact and longevity of emotion priming in social media.     

Do good fences make good neighbors? Exploring a multi-temporal approach to land use conflicts in pastoral societies

  • Mette Løvschal, Dept. of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, CAS
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Marie Gravesen


With present-day intensifications of large-scale human migration, degrading natural environment, and enhanced political rhetoric fuelled by fear of losing resources, the construction of walls and fences is bound to continue and escalate. However, scholarly methods for undertaking such studies have been biased. For instance, the construction of a fence by one side of the boundary can make a conflict escalate rather than stimulate consentment, which the fence might be perceived to create from the perspective of archaeologists excavating the fence lines centuries later. In order to navigate these intensifications, we need to understand “both sides of the fence”, i.e. the fence itself and the dynamics and power struggles taking place around it, both of which shape boundary perceptions over time. This study treats into new territory by crossing the boundaries between the archaeological expertise on the physical constructions of fences and the anthropological domain of studying the social processes surrounding them. That way, we wish to explore the wider impacts of what seemingly adds structure and clarity in a physical landscape, while potentially enhancing friction and conflict in the social landscape. Combining spatial analyses with qualitative data on the social and historical dynamics of fencing will contribute to new understandings of the complexities creating land tenure boundaries.     

From social cognition to social ecosystems: an experimental and computational approach to network formation in new bachelor classes

  • Riccardo Fusaroli, School og Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber:
  • Collaborators:  Arndis Simonsen (Dept. og Clinical Medicine),  Arnault-Quentin Vermillet (IKK), Dan Mønster (BSS), Andreas Roepstorff (IKS / Clinical Medicine), Christine Parsons (Dept. og Clinical Medicine), Guillaume Dumas (Institute Pasteur), Simon Dedeo (Carnegie Mellon / Santa Fe Institute), Malte Lau Petersen (IKK)     


How do we quantitative assess the ways human function in real world contexts (e.g. social integration in groups or social functioning in clinical populations)? What is the interplay between the ways we process social information (social cognition) and the social structures and institutions that emerge from interpersonal interactions (social ecosystems)? The current proposal will combine theory-driven Bayesian computational models of social cognition, cognitive modeling of economic games and social network analyses to study emerging social structures: classes of 1st semester students at Bss and Arts. We test the hypotheses that  the emerging social network of relations within the class is partially predictable from the socio-cognitive abilities of the individual students and their initial social norms (e.g. levels of trust). Further social norms will also evolve as a function of network development.  

Beyond iconicity: aspects of metonomy and indexicality in sign grounding

  • Kristian Tylén, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Riccardo Fusaroli,  Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics and Jonas Nölle, Centre for Language Evolution, University of Edinburgh


How are communication systems grounded? A recent but recurrent finding is that experimental participants tend to resort to iconicity as a main strategy for bootstrapping communication system from scratch and that languages are less arbitrary than originally thought in that they display systematic sound-meaning mappings. While iconicity undoubtedly plays a central role in symbol grounding, we argue that a more nuanced look at grounding mechanisms is overdue. We hypothesize that experimental findings might be biased by experimental designs where dyads communicate concepts using drawing, touchpad or gesture, without sharing a visual-spatial context. This leaves deictic communication (such as pointing) impossible that otherwise could point to indexicality as another fundamental grounding mechanism.

We investigate whether what is often called iconicity might in fact incorporate central elements of indexicality, metonymy and systematicity. Reanalysing data from a recent study (Nölle et al., 2018, Cognition), we suggest that iconicity interacts with these fundamental cognitive strategies. Participants are less preoccupied with representing the referent as they are with disambiguating it from contextual competitors. Instead of pointing to the referent as a whole by means of resemblance, they rather identify minimally discriminating traits of the referent in the given context. Resulting signs are thus not icons but refer metonymically to their referents. A reinterpretation of this grounding behaviour embeds iconicity in an indexical effort to disambiguate referents (rather than representing them) in a proto-Saussurean fashion, where meanings are defined in opposition to other meanings making indexicality another fundamental cognitive grounding mechanism besides iconicity.      

Emotional appeals and the virality of partisan communication in social networks

  • Lene Aarøe, Department of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Lilliana Mason, Department of Political Science, University of Maryland, Leonie Huddy, Department of Political Science, Stony Brook University (USA)


In modern democracies, a fundamental consequence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter is that people increasingly not only receive political information directly from traditional media and political elites, but also indirectly from fellow partisans via their online social networks. Yet, the types of partisan messages that people are particularly likely to share in these networks remain poorly understood (e.g. Druckman et al. forthcoming) - particularly when it comes to the psychological dynamic between different emotional appeals and partisan identities. Some studies have predicted that messages evoking negative emotions will be more likely to “go viral”, but empirical findings have been highly mixed. Furthermore, past studies on the spread of political communication on social media have generally ignored the interplay between 1) the partisan group context, 2) the different psychological properties of the negative emotions of anger, anxiety and sadness in collective group dynamics, and 3) the implications for political polarization and distrust. In this project we therefore ask: Are partisan messages that evoke negative emotions more likely than positive messages to be shared in social networks, and are partisan messages that appeal to different negative emotions equally likely to “go viral”? What are the implications for political polarization and distrust? We investigate this research question in a well-controlled experimental design fielded to a national sample of American partisan respondents.   

Spread of information in Social Networks

  • Dan Mønster,  Department of Economics and Business Economics 
  • Seednumber:
  • Collaborators: Fatemeh Shahrabi Farahani, Department of Economics and Business Economics   


This project is plan to investigate socio-behavioral patterns of risk-taking, based on social dynamic network perspectives in ambiguity situation. To do so we use a computerized gambling task experiment (Dynamic Color Cards) in social context. To find out the spread of information and behavior in networks we plan to investigate these relations in two groups with and without extra information.

The experiment is a between-subjects design with extra information about the distribution of the cards as an independent variable.

We use dynamic networks and diffusion models to analyze these networks. By taking into consideration the personality factors, we use DOSPERT questionnaire.

Understanding these social structures will be beneficial to manipulate spread of risky behaviors in societies by making suitable social interventions.