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Corruption Corrupts: the vicious cycle of dishonesty

  • Panagiotis Mitkidis, Dept. of Management & Center for Advanced Hindsight, SSRI, Duke University
  • Seednumber: 26151
  • Collaborators:


Would an otherwise moral individual become corrupt if she would live in a corruptive environment? And if this is the case, what is the mechanism under which a good person turns bad in its “core values?” A recent cross-cultural study showed that the dominance of rule violations in a society is detrimental to individual’s honest behavior (Gächter & Schulz, 2016; Shalvi, 2016). In another study, Mann and colleagues (2016) found no apparent differences in moral behavior between different cultures. Those mixed results were not necessarily explained by a recent study that found that a corrupt society predicts higher acceptance of bribes (Muthukrisna et al. 2017). Finally, Rada-Garcia and colleagues found that a potential mechanism, moral contagion operationalized as exposure to bribes, is detrimental to human moral behavior (Rada-Garcia et. al., in rev.). Here, we propose a series of experimental studies that aim to find how an environment that could potentially allow for less honest behavior (ambiguity) could lead to degradation of morality, both in terms of dishonesty and trust.

Collection of a large sample of recorded prayers to begin project on the acoustic markers of the felt presence of God

  • Uffe Schjødt, School of Culture and Society
  • Seednumber: 26152
  • Collaborators: Oliver Niebuhr, Mads Clausen Institute (SDU Electrical Engineering)


The content, the intonation, the breaks, the phrasing, and the entire expression of the speaker seem to indicate that devout practitioners expect God to be listening during prayer. However, no one has ever tried to support this impression by objective and detailed acoustic measurements. This seed project aims to collect a large sample of recorded prayers, which will be used to identify the acoustic markers of theistic beliefs and the felt presence of God in prayers.

After collection, we intend to examine the recorded prayers using semi-automatic phonetic analysis algorithms developed for signal processing. We expect that Christians with strong theistic beliefs will differ from other speakers by showing markers indicative of real dialogues and emotional states in prayer.

Cooperation and Defection in an Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma: Do Liberals and Conservatives Display Differences in Social Cognition?

  • Michael Bang Petersen, Dept. of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 26153
  • Collaborators: Dr. Jordan Mansell, University of Oxford

Project description:

Recent research into ideological differences has linked expression of liberal and conservative ideological positions, such as social attitudes and values, to variation in physiological, psychological, and genetic factors, including heredity. These studies find that liberal and conservative orientated individuals show significant differences in cognition and decision-making in response to environmental stimuli including risk taking behaviour, and negative or threatening imagery. Unfortunately, political science has given only minimal attention to studying whether these different traits produce tangible effects on individuals’ in the day-to-day social interactions. By failing to explore the relationship between trait and behavior political scientists have neglected a potentially significant mechanism with which to understand the causes of ideological differences. In light of the biological influences to ideological orientation we apply an evolutionary framework and investigate whether the differences in cognition and decision-making observed in liberals and conservatives reflect alternative adaptive strategies for social interactions?

To explore the relationship between traits and behavior, we recruit a sample of (N=600) liberals and conservatives to participate in an economic game, an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The objective of this study is to measure whether liberals and conservatives show significant differences in behavior during a real-life social interaction. In particular, we are interested in whether they display differences in their willingness to cooperate with an anonymous partner, and whether they differ in their willingness to forgive a social defection. Drawing from research on the cognitive differences in liberals and conservative we hypothesize that both ideological groups will converge towards cooperation however, cooperation in conservative participants will be more sensitive to social defections delaying the onset of cooperative outcomes. As the first study evaluate the social utility of liberal and conservative traits for repeated social encounters our research has the potential to make a significant contribution to the causal understanding of ideological differences.

Ideology; Cooperation; Experimental; Behavior; Adaptation; Evolutionary Psychology; Political Psychology

Upper-body Strength and Conflict Resolution in Human Males

  • Alexander Koch, Department of Economics and Business Economics
  • Seednumber: 26154
  • Collaborators: Julia Nafziger, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Dan Nguyen, EY Aarhus, Michael Bang Petersen, Department of Political Science


Conflict is universal across all living species. Among non-human animals, a key strategy is to resolve conflicts without fighting by merely assessing relative fighting ability. We demonstrate the existence of the same system for conflict resolution in humans by providing experimental evidence that human male contestants spontaneously coordinate conflict behavior on the basis of differences in upper-body strength. We do so by applying a non-physical, anonymous, economic game - the war-of-attrition - in which contestants compete by means of perseverance to win a monetary prize. Though strength differences are not relevant for payoffs in this game, contestants respond to physical cues to avoid conflict escalation and do so quicker if strength differences are larger. The results show that the complex conflict-resolution strategies of humans are founded on more rudimentary strategies, present throughout the animal world.

The creative process in dyadic collaboration

  • Kristian Tylén, School of Communication and Culture - Center for Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 26155
  • Collaborators: Alonso Domínguez Cabañes and Lior Noy (Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel)


Creativity is a fundamental yet ill understood cognitive phenomenon. It is critical for how we derive novel solutions for issues ranging from everyday tasks to the greatest scientific discoveries on shorter and longer time scales. While creativity is typically thought of as an individual process, it often unfolds in social settings and, thus, is likely to be influenced by it. Inspired by Hills et al. (2008) we characterize the creative process as a search through a possibility space, relying on mechanisms similar to those used in foraging behavior. These can be characterized as balancing exploitation of local solutions and exploration of more distal solutions. In a simple experimental environment, we compare individual and social creative behavior testing the hypothesis that social collaboration in dyads follows a more optimal screening of the possibility space, approximating the distribution of the Lévy flight found in animal foraging (Buchanan, 2008). We rely on a modified version of Hart et al.’s (2017) paradigm: In a simple creative task, participants move around ten square tiles to create beautiful pictures and select the shapes they consider more creative to a “gallery”. The paradigm allows us to quantify central aspects of the creative process. We hypothesize differences between individual and collective creative search with dyads approximating the distribution of the Lévy flight found in animal foraging.

Cognitive flexibility, diversity and social interaction

  • Kristian Tylén, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 26156
  • Collaborators: Cordula Vesper (School of Communication and Culture) and Tatiana Goregliad Fjaellingsdal, (Department of Psychology, University of Oldenburg, Germany)


Cognitive flexibility concerns our ability to readily update our beliefs based on experience and flexibly adapt our cognitive strategies for engagement with a changing or unstable world. As such, it can be contrasted to cognitive fixation: the inability to escape habitual thinking and change the representation of a problem or task. In this experimental project, we test the hypothesis that social interaction stimulates cognitive flexibility. When interacting with another individual, we are less likely to experience cognitive fixation, as slight differences in perspectives, cognitive styles and strategy help interlocutors break fixation and explore a broader space of solutions (Tylén et al., 2014). If so, interlocutors with more diverse beliefs and perspectives might have an advantage over interlocutors that largely share beliefs and perspectives (Hong & Page, 2004; Page, 2008). Inspired by the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (Berg, 1948), we will use a complex categorization task where aliens have to be categorized in four groups based on combinations of their features. Participants are either individually trained on a session of the same categorization rule or they are trained on different rules before they enter the collaborative categorization task. Here they solve the same task in pairs however with a new categorization rule. As they reach ceiling the rule changes again. We predict that pair members that are initially trained on different rules and thus enter the collaboration with different expectations and intuitions will have an advantage and behave more flexibly and adaptive than pair members trained on the same rule and thus enter the task with similar expectations.

Effects of vasopressin on sensorimotor synchronization

  • Michael Winterdahl, Dept. of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 26157
  • Collaborators: Alessandro Miani, (Dept. of Clinical Medicine); Panagiotis Mitkidis (Dept. of Management); Simone Dalla Bella (University of Montpellier) and Andrea Ravignani 


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects 6 million people worldwide. Individuals with PD display movement disorders, reduced mobility, postural instability, and increased risk of fall. Rhythmic stimulation has been found to enhance walking performance in PD patients. Music, due to a hormonal regulation, promotes neuroanatomical and cognitive changes, and has been widely used as a cost-free therapy without side effects. Two neuropeptides have recently been found to have a role in rhythmic synchronization, namely oxytocin and vasopressin (AVP). Similar in their structure, these neuropeptides are involved in a wide array of physiological and social functions acting both peripherally and centrally in the brain. In regard to their effect on improved synchronization, while oxytocin administration selectively affects social tasks, AVP fluctuations seem to work even in the absence of social interaction. Animal studies show that the basal ganglia contain AVP receptors. By connecting the auditory to motor areas, the basal ganglia are crucial in rhythmic entrainment for regular beats in human and nonhuman species. In humans, intranasal administration of AVP increases the basal ganglia activity. PD is characterized by progressive dopaminergic cell death in the basal ganglia. Because cerebrospinal fluid levels of AVP are lowered in PD patients, the proposed study aims to investigate a possible effect of AVP on rhythmic synchronization in PD patients. Before doing this, a pilot is necessary in order to estimate the sample size needed for subject recruitment. Besides therapeutic intervention, rhythm synchronization and interpersonal coordination foster prosociality. Thus, framed in social cognition, knowing neurohormonal mechanisms of sensorimotor synchronization might shed light on its functions, ranging from group cohesion, affiliation, trust, and cooperation. 

Culturally situated scaffolding of language acquisition: a computational approach

  • Christina Dideriksen, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 26158
  • Collaborators: Riccardo Fusaroli (School of Communication and Culture), Morten Christiansen (Cornell University and IKK/IKS), Blair Armstrong (University of Toronto Scarborough)


Child Directed Speech (CDS) is a way of emphasizing key information about a language to better enable children to pay attention, share an interaction and acquire new linguistic forms. CDS is currently seen as largely invariant across human population, however, different languages present widely different phonetics, syntax and pragmatic structures, thus arguably requiring different foci and scaffolding strategies. Danish presents an ideal window into this issue: amongst other peculiarities, it presents an extremely wide variety of vocalic sounds (ca. 60, compared to ca 20 in US English, Basbøll 2005). However, while English CDS hyper-articulates vowels (making them easier to distinguish), preliminary analyses suggest that Danish CDS hypo-articulates them. Is this hypo-articulation an intentional social scaffold designed to temporarily simplify the language that the child is learning so that he or she can carve out its basic structure, thereby facilitating the later learning of its detailed structure? To advance our understanding of this issue, our proposed project combines corpus and computational approaches to assess: i) the exact frequency and acoustic distribution of vocalic sounds in Danish CDS and Adult Directed Speech (ADS); ii) the impact of such distributions on a computational model attempting to learn Danish vowel sounds; iii) whether child engagement in the interaction has an impact on the degree to which Danish CDS articulates vowels.

Gender Bias Study

  • Lea Skewes, School for Culture and Society, IMC
  • Seednumber: 26159
  • Collaborators: Joshua Charles Skewes, (School of Communication and Culture) and MA student Julie Zederkof (Semiotics at AU)


Seed Funding has already funded this study which applies Bayesian statistics to explore how fundamental gender biases are. The participants have been exposed to a biasing text prior to a gendered face sorting task. The design assumes that priming has a biasing effect, but the control questions which was intended to check whether the prime in fact was perceived as gender stereotypical male or female by the participants did not register in our first data collection. Therefore, reviewers have requested that we run an additional check for sematic priming to show that our primes are perceived as gender stereotypical texts.

We expose the participants to the priming texts we used in the prior study and then we check for sematic priming with a word completion task. If the texts are associated with stereotypical gender traits then the word completion task should reveal an significant focus on gendered terms.

Decoding the phonotopic map in auditory cortex

  • Mikkel Wallentin, School of Communication and Culture (CFIN)
  • Seednumber: 26160
  • Collaborators: Roberta Rocca, School of Communication and Culture


We will use fMRI to investigate tonotopic and phonological mapping in the human auditory cortices. We will scan 30 participants while they listen to a) tone sweeps, b) sweeps of vowels and to c) a combination, where we modulate the fundamental frequency of the vowel space. The data will subsequently be analyzed using decoding techniques to map the differences in tonotopic and phonotopic organization of the auditory cortices. This will give important basic insights into the organization of the auditory cortices. Our future aim is to apply the methods to the study of dyslexia, where deficits in phonological processing is known to play a key role. The protocol can also potentially be used to investigate language processing across speakers of different languages, but Piloting of the protocol is ongoing. Scanning is planned to take place in June 2018.

Who Roots for the Villain?

  • Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 26161
  • Collaborators: Anne Fiskaali (Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, AU), Mathias Clasen (associate professor, Department of English, AU) and Henrik Høgh-Olesen (professor, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, AU)


Why do some people like and identify with the villains of fiction—characters meant to morally repel their audience? Researchers in psychology and the humanities have variously attempted to explain, or explain away, our fascination with the villains of fiction by appealing to traditional explanatory frameworks either from psychology (e.g., Freudianism, Jungianism) or the “critical” humanities (e.g., Foucauldian cultural critique, Lacanian psychoanalysis) (e.g., Keen & Dunaway, 2012; Simpson, 2000). We aim instead to explain the phenomenon at the level of personality differences, which allows for a methodologically stringent, quantitative approach. Our hypothesis is that those people who like and identify with villains do so because they possess or idealize the same individualistic traits that villains tend to possess. 

We propose to test this hypothesis with a large-scale survey that employs personality psychological inventories that measure relevant trait-level differences (Dark Triad and Agency/Communion), as well as inventories that measure villain liking/identification.

Studying the human ability for cultural transmission

  • Karsten Olsen, School of Communication and Culture, IMC
  • Seednumber: 26162
  • Collaborators: Vanessa Ferdinand, Santa Fe Institute and Cordula Vesper, School of Communication and Culture


In this IMC Seed project, we will build on a novel paradigm to investigate the cognitive basis of cultural transmission and the mechanisms that underlie cumulative behaviour in human societies. The paradigm involves chains of participants solving a task, the Rubik’s Cube, after one another, with the purpose of understanding how different learning situations may affect the transmission of knowledge across the transmission chains. In particular, we will build 3D-printed cubes and integrate them with movement sensors, in order to record and model the transmission of knowledge across participants. 

Using a new focus on metacognitive social learning strategies in the experimental conditions, we will address the specific question: What are the cognitive mechanisms that contribute to the success and failure of cultural transmission? And we are also interested in follow-up questions, such as whether there are inter-individual differences in the ability to accumulate knowledge through cultural transmission, which may help us indentify the underlying cognitive mechanisms – and develop models of cultural transmission that give us concrete predictions i.e. about the learning processes and quantitative limits of transmission behaviour and cumulative improvements. With a novel task, and new experimental conditions and data opportunities for analysis and modelling, we submit a potential for discovering and understanding new aspects of the human ability for cultural transmission.

Nudging and Self-Efficacy Intervention for Long-Term Unemployed

  • Jonas Fluchtmann, Department of Economics and Business Economics
  • Seednumber: 26163
  • Collaborators:  Alexander Koch and Michael Rosholm ,Department of Economics and Business Economics  


The intervention is a randomized control trial (RCT) that aims to enhance the perceived self-efficacy of individuals on the edge of the labor market to help them find small jobs, even if it is only a few hours per week. Prior evidence has shown that a lack of perceived self-efficacy, or more specific job-search self-efficacy, is a good predictor of job-search intentions, behavior and the future employment status. The aim is thus to boost the individuals self-efficacy to increase their beliefs in the possibility to work for a few hours per week. This is combined with motivational efforts on how beneficial the take-up of a small job can be in terms of current income and long-term prospects on the labor market. The intervention uses an easy to scale design (“nudge”) by sending out SMS text messages in combination with audio-visual job-search guidance and videos displaying positive testimonials of successful citizens that have found small-jobs, despite comparable challenges, on an informational mobile web page. The testimonials are designed to relate to the concept of vicarious learning, known in psychological literature as a strong way to enhance perceived self-efficacy through indirect learning about others successes in comparable situations. The exact barrier to job search is identified through survey methods and then linked to the most relatable testimonial video.    

Investigating the effectiveness of Virtual Reality (VR) training scenarios: A comparison between real and virtual assembly task training

  • Konstantinos Koumaditis, Department of Business Development and Technology
  • Seednumber: 26164
  • Collaborators: Francesco Chinello


Consumer Virtual Reality technologies and applications are becoming more popular in industrial settings as companies realise their cost-effectiveness to supplement or replace traditional physical training. Yet we have identify a gap in literature in comparison studies on the effectiveness of such training scenarios, especially comparing the two alternatives. In this experiment, we propose a study that compares the effectiveness of VR and physical training for teaching a bimanual assembly task. We propose a 2:2 study condition between VR (oral and text guidance) and non-VR (oral and text guidance). To do so a physical and virtual training environment will be created (Lego 3D burr puzzles), after which we will conducted immediate tests to measure the task performance (success rates, assembly completion testing times, and subjective ratings). Our results from other preliminary studies contacted in the The Extended Reality and Robotics Lab showed that the performance of virtually trained participantswas promising yet our sample minimal, thus we expect more conclusive findings with this extended experiment.


  • Darius Frank, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26165
  • Collaborators:


Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are about to revolutionize public and private transportation with the benefit of saving many lives. Yet, overcoming people’s concerns about the adoption and use of AVs imposes a serious challenge. This research aims to produce new and unique insights into consumers’ minds and ultimately facilitate the adoption of AVs. In a field experiment, volunteers will be placed inside of an AV and experience a number of real-world driving scenarios first hand. Subjects will wear mobile eye-trackers that allow to monitor and analyze their interaction, attention and behavior with/in this environment. Questionnaires before and after trial further identify changes in self-reported levels of trust, familiarity and attitudes towards AVs. As such, this project is going to be the first project in Denmark, Europe and the rest of the world to study human behavior in a controlled field study using mobile eye-tracking. Its results and implications are expected to contribute to the public, policy makers, vehicle manufacturers as well as the field of consumer research.    

Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Pain Language Processing in Healthy and Chronic Pain Populations

  • Nikola Vukovic, Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 2616
  • Collaborators: Francesca Fardo (Danish Pain Research Center; IMC)


Language processing has been shown to influence perception by recruiting the same brain areas associated with real-world sensorimotor experience. New research indicates that such activity might be highly dependent on individual differences and experience. For example, we have recently shown that different experiences – such as those in chronic pain patients – lead to individual variability in the extent to which linguistic semantic information can shape perception of real pain. What is unknown, however, is which neural mechanisms regulate this interaction – for example, whether it is rooted in general attentive mechanisms, or in the recruitment of semantic networks which may incorporate the brain’s pain centers. The aim of our study is to use MEG to investigate the neural basis of pain word comprehension. Our hypothesis, derived from prior research in related domains, is that the meaning of pain words is partly represented in brain areas used to actually experience bodily pain. Moreover, we hypothesise that the neural basis of these words differs between people who suffer chronic pain, and healthy individuals. To test the online interactions between linguistic and nociceptive processing in these two groups, we will employ a semantic priming paradigm combined with electrical and heat stimulation. The results of our investigation hold promise in terms of elucidating individual differences of pain neuro-semantics, as well as the development of linguistic-based therapies, and the improvement of patient-doctor communication. 

Voter Knowledge and the Complexity of Political Messages

  • Roman Senninger, Department of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 26167
  • Collaborators: Daniel Bischof, PhD (University of Zurich) and Céline Colombo, PhD (University of Zurich)


What happens when political language fails? Across the globe, citizens struggle with understanding what their politicians say and intend. The reason is that political elites make use of complex and intricate language when they present and explain policies. Audience members often need to have a college degree to be able to understand political messages. As a result, citizens turned their back on politics. However, recently, many who were disenchanted with politics returned. Over the last years, more and more populist politicians entered the political scene and surprised citizens with their different way and style of addressing political issues. Most significantly, these politicians simplify their language. Political observers and experts suggest that they do so quite successfully because citizens are better able to understand them and more likely to vote for them. Yet, empirical evidence about the potential effects of simplified political language on citizens knowledge and behavior is scarce. This project fills this important gap. Developing and testing new measures of political complexity, that consider both structure and content, our cross-national experimental study will provide evidence about the effects of simplified political language on voters. In sum, we shed light on an unresolved but topical issue in the discipline of political science.  

Coordination among Pool Swimmers (CAPS)

  • Cordula Vesper, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 26168
  • Collaborators:  Vassilis Sevdalis (AU, Section for Sport Science ); Ivana Konvalinka (DTU); Laura Schmitz (LMU Munich)    


This project aims at investigating social interaction of swimmers in a public swimming pool. Our specific question is how sharing lanes affects swimmers’ performance (e.g., speed, variability, synchronization with other swimmers, well-being). Research on swimming typically focuses on individual swimmers’ performance under optimal conditions, and the investigation of biomechanical parameters; however, most swimming is done in public swimming pools where such optimal conditions are not met. This offers a particularly interesting case for studying interpersonal coordination: People share a limited resource (space in the lane), need to coordinate repeatedly (because they usually swim in different tempi and will have to overtake each other), typically do not know each other, take high risks if not coordinating (injuries), and have limited opportunities for direct communication. To investigate how sharing a lane with others affects performance, individual swimmers’ movements will be tracked during swimming in a lane that is shared with one or three other swimmers, i.e. under varying interpersonal coordination requirements. We will also vary whether swimmers are experienced (semi-professionals) or inexperienced (novice). The outcomes of this project will increase our understanding of coordination mechanisms underlying joint actions outside of constrained lab settings, i.e. in the natural environments where coordination typically takes place.    

Dynamical modelling of behaviour and brain activities in risky decision-making under competition

  • Dan Mønster, Department of Economics and Business Economics
  • Seednumber: 26169
  • Collaborators: Fatemeh Shahrabi Farahani, Reza Khosrowabadi, Gholamreza Jafari (Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran)



Decision making is a dynamic process taking place over time. This process includes continuous accumulation of evidence, the selection of a preferred option and (in our task) a motor response. Context can have a powerful influence on a decision-makers choice. In particular, people may shift their economic preferences depending on the broader social context, such as the presence of potential competitors or mating partners. Winning/losing in a competition carries an intrinsic social reward/punishment and could control risky behaviours in decision making.

The dynamics of this cognitive process and differences between risk-averse and risk-seeking decision makers in different social contexts have not previously been examined in any detail. The current study investigates adult decision-makers’ strategies in response to a competitor with multiple rounds of win/lose outcomes as a priming effect in the dynamical game of dice task. We seek to investigate if this priming effect controls risky behaviour or not. In this study, the eye movements of healthy individuals are tracked as an indicator of attention and information gathering; EEG signals of brain activities and mouse movements are measured as indicators of option selection. Subsequently, the dynamics of this association is examined using fractal, wavelet and other time series analysis approaches. We expected to see differences between the risk-averse and risk-seeking individuals not only in their behaviour but also in the pattern of the eye, hand, and brain activities. We hope these interesting findings can shed a light on what drives the dynamics of the decision-making process. 

Are Vegetarians Better People?

  • Christine Parsons, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26170
  • Collaborators: Michael Bang Petersen and Panos Mitkidis, Dept. of Management


Consumer choices reflect not only economic and quality preferences, but can also signal moral values (Mazar & Zhong, 2010). Making ethical choices in one domain can increase the likelihood subsequent unethical behavior, the ‘moral licensing effect” (argued to be modest, but reliable, Effron & Conway, 2015). We will use a series of experimental paradigms to manipulate participants’ food choices (to induce vegetarian choices) and examine subsequent moral task performance. We will also examine the effects of different frames (vegetarian choices as ‘good for the environment’ or ‘good for your health’) on choice behaviours and whether framing can exacerbate or mitigate potential moral licensing effects. The aim is to examine understand the broader effects, both positive and negative, of inducing (or “nudging”) people to make certain dietary or behaviour choices. This work will have potential implications for how policy-makers frame campaigns to encourage vegetarianism, as well as furthering our understanding of moral licensing effects in new domains.  

Training to be playful in the on-going refugee crisis

  • Noa Vaisman, School of Culture and Society
  • Seednumber: 26171
  • Collaborators: Ofer Ravid and Dream Doctors, Nimrod Eisenberg


Our exploratory project examines the institutional dimension of play training in the context of the current refugee crisis. Following the work of Dream Doctors: Medical Clowns in Action we hope to gain some insight into how play is taught and how it can be used to aid in developing both individual and communal resilience. Dream Doctors, an Israeli group of professional clowns and trained medical clowns, has for the past 15 years been working in various disaster zones with their tools and expertise. Living in closer quarters with communities who were devastated by disasters (e.g., tsunami, earthquake) the group offers their tools and skills to the people, creating the conditions for both the alleviation of pain and suffering and the context for open expression of emotions and thoughts. Recently they began developing a training program for professionals and laypersons working with refugees in Europe. The aim of the program is not only to provide these professionals with some of the tools of the medical clown but also to develop a form of communication that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries allowing the refugees to integrate into local communities. This form of social clowning—as the group calls it—is being practiced in various refugee centers in central-southern Germany and training of a new group will soon begin in Switzerland. Our project follows some of the training and the ongoing work with clowns with the aim of better understanding how play can be taught and what role it might play in making the life of refugees in camps across Europe better.    

Recurrent depression, interactions in intimate relationships and the effect of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

  • Anne Maj van der Velden, Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 26172
  • Collaborators: Else-Marie Elmholt PhD (Scientific assistant); Ann Ostenfeld-Rosenthal PhD or Ingelise Berg PhD (Antropologist)
  • Supervisors: Prof. Andreas Roepstorff, IMC, AU; Prof. Willem Kuyken, Oxford Mindfulness Centre; University of Oxford; Ass. Prof. Lone Fjorback, Dansk Center for Mindfulness, AU.


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent and debilitating affective disorders and a leading cause of disability worldwide. For every episode of depression, the risk of recurrence and chronic residual symptoms increases, causing persistent psychosocial stress for people suffering from recurrent MDD and their close relatives. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an effective treatment for prevention of relapse risk amongst individuals with a history of recurrent MDD recommended by national and international clinical guidelines. While we know that MBCT can reduce depressive vulnerability, we know little about the effect of MBCT in a broader social context beyond the intrapersonal perspective. A number of studies have indicated that individuals exhibiting depressogenic vulnerabilities tend to behave in ways that increases interpersonal stress, as interpersonal situations are often perceived in a negative biased way and due to excessive negative self-focus. Currently, little is known about how MBCT treatment may affect interpersonal communication and engagement.

Objective: We shall by means of semi-structured qualitative interviews explore 1) how recurrent major depressive disorder impact communication in intimate relationships and 2) whether and by what means MBCT treatment may improve communication, negative biases, and relational engagement. In addition, we want to compare the qualitative accounts of relational communication and engagement and negative bias and self-focus with collected data of emotional processing bias (behavioural data) and self-focussed ruminative tendencies (self-report and imaging data).

Method: We shall conduct 2 x 12 semi-structured qualitative interviews with couples, where the one party have recurrent MDD and participated in the applicants PhD study (N=75). Participants will be offered to participate in the interviews with their partner and compensated with 2 cinema tickets. We shall interview each party separately to ensure confidentially and reduce bias. Relevance: This proposed seed-study will provide novel knowledge on how recurrent MDD and MBCT treatment impact social interactions, self-focus and negative bias in close relationships, and enable us to build a unique interdisciplinary bridge between collected behavioural, self-report and imaging data with qualitative accounts from both the depressed party and their partner.    

Inter-group cooperation: from ants to humans

  • Jessica Liva Barker, AIAS
  • Seednumber: 26173
  • Collaborators: Elva Robinson, University of York, UK


To understand interacting minds, we need to understand not only interactions within small groups but also interactions among multiple groups. An important class of interactions is cooperation, and while within-group cooperation has received a great deal of research attention, inter-group cooperation has been largely overlooked. The factors that promote inter-group cooperation have not been explicitly investigated, nor have the possible parallels between inter-group cooperation in humans and in other animals such as insects. In a recent review paper, my collaborator and I put forward suggestions for future studies in this area (Robinson and Barker 2017), and are applying for an IMC seed grant for a first study to initiate a new research programme on inter-group cooperation. A major untested hypothesis from Robinson and Barker (2017) is that variation in resource quantity among groups will promote inter-group cooperation. This is the focus of our proposed study. We will use ants as a model system, as they offer both experimental tractability and synergistic opportunities to explore which features of human interactions are evolutionarily universal versus unique.

Augmented feedback in music education

  • Suzanne Ross, Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 26174
  • Collaborators: Elvira Brattico and Peter Vuust (PhD supervisors), Martin Snebjerg Jensen (engineer)


In motor learning, augmented feedback is task-extrinsic feedback supplied to the learner about their posture or movement in order to facilitate learning. Augmented feedback essentially augments a learners senses, providing an external source of information about their performance. It is especially effective at an early stage of motor learning when error detection mechanisms are not yet fully formed. Various types of augmented feedback have been shown to be effective in sports such as shooting, swimming and gymnastics. For example, when learning to aim in shooting, augmented feedback can provide the learner with information about the correctness of the rifle position by displaying an auditory or visual signal that their aiming position is correct.

In this study, we will explore the efficacy of augmented feedback applied in music education. Specifically, we will investigate the effect of auditory concurrent feedback on learning of the correct left hand position in classical guitar novices. N = 40 adult, right-handed musical novices will receive a guitar lesson and then practice unsupervised for 5 days. During practice, they will either receive augmented feedback or no feedback about the correctness of their left hand position. We hypothesise that augmented feedback will enhance learning of correct left hand position relative to traditional training.    

Trained to select the extreme exemplar? The effect of journalistic socialization on the development of the mental news criteria of the mind

  • Lene Aarøe, Department of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 26175
  • Collaborators: Assistant professor Kim Andersen and Professor MSO Morten Skovsgaard, Centre for Journalism (CfJ), SDU, and Associate professor Flemming Tait Svith, Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX)


Exemplars - i.e. case stories that put a specific face on the issue – are a fundamental part of news reporting, but have also been much criticized for providing the public with a biased, sensational and fragmented understanding of societal problems. However, little is known about why journalists focus on exemplars and report extreme and “outlier” exemplars. Does the selection and use of exemplars in news reporting reflect a journalistic training to focus on this type of information? Or does it reflect fundamental psychological biases of the human mind? To answer this question, we will conduct a unique 3-wave population panel study with embedded experiments among BA students in Journalism in Denmark to assess the development of the strength of their cognitive biases for (extreme and outlier) exemplars in political news communication. To provide a baseline of comparison we will equally field the first wave of the survey to a nationally representative sample of Danish citizens to assess whether journalism students’ use and selection of exemplars are already different from the average citizen when they enter their education or whether these biases develop as a product of socialization and training in the journalism programs.

Balanced, objective and truth-seeking news reporting is a fundamental aspect of well- functioning democracies. This project advances our understanding of the fundamental sociological and psychological sources of biased information in news reporting. The insights will strengthen the scientific foundation for developing effective strategies for countering extreme and unrepresentative exemplars in news reporting and for strengthening the training of journalists in Denmark. 

How well do cloze tests really test reading comprehension in Danish higher-education students?

  • Ethan Weed, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 26176
  • Collaborators: Rauno Parrila (Macquarie University)



Many adults and teenagers suffer from problems with reading, which hinder their ability to gain access to the education of their choice. In Denmark today, a diagnosis of dyslexia is only given on the basis of performance on a test of phonologic awareness, and this test, while important for diagnosing reading disability in many children and adults, is inadequate for diagnosing reading disability which is not directly related to phonological awareness. Because of this, many high-school and higher-education students are not able to receive support that would help them compensate for their disability.

One of the reasons that reading comprehension is not currently included when students are assessed for reading disability, is that reading comprehension is still poorly understood, and time-consuming to test. In order to address this second problem, the current study aims to test the degree to results from a quick computerized test correlate with results from the traditional, written task.

Confabulation and first-person reports – using microphenomenology to investigate the experiential distinctions between false and veridical memories

  • Katrin Heimann, School of Culture and Society
  • Seednumber: 26177
  • Collaborators:  Emily Hammond (Exeter University, UK), Fergus Anderson (Alanaus Hochschule, DE), Christopher Allen (Cardiff University, UK), Terje Sparby (Universität Witten/Hardecke, DE), Claire Petitmengin ( Télécom Ecole de Management, FR)    



Confabulation, also referred to as false memory, can be defined as “making a false claim without the intent to deceive” (Hirstein, 2009). Previous research suggests that the features of false and veridical memories can sometimes be indistinguishable, not least to the individual reporting them, which presents a major challenge to the credibility of first-person methods as scientific tools. Therefore, an issue of central importance for first-person research is to develop a clearer understanding of the nature of confabulation in order to detect and mitigate against it methodologically. The purpose of the proposed study is to open up this line of inquiry by using Micro-Phenomenology to investigate the process of confabulation in a non-clinical context and comparing it to that of veridical remembering in order to elucidate where phenomenological commonalities and contrasts between these processes may lie.