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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: 26178
  • 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: 26179
  • 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: 26180
  • 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: 26181
  • 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: 26182
  • 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: 26183
  • 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: 26184
  • 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: 26185
  • 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: 26186
  • 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: 26187
  • 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: 26188
  • 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: 26189
  • 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: 26190
  • 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: 26191
  • 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: 26192
  • 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.

Fall 2019

When Do People Become Economically Self-interested? Examining The Influence of Pride and Shame

  • Jens Peter Frølund, Department of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Kristina Jessen Hansen, Department of Political Science, Aalborg University


A central finding across social science disciplines is that people often form preferences that are inconsistent with their economic self-interest, because they pursue other concerns such as social solidarity or economic fairness. However, it remains a puzzle what causes some people to pursue their economic self-interest rather than social concerns. To solve this puzzle, we examine two specific conditions that may influence the functioning of economic self-interest. Specifically, we argue that the self-conscious emotions of pride and shame shape self-interested economic behavior. Pride arises when the individual perceives the self to have a high social value, which in turn fosters a preference for personal advantages. This is our first hypothesis, claiming that pride facilitates self-interested behavior. In contrast, shame involves perceptions of low social valuation, which motivates pro-social behavior. This is our second hypothesis, claiming that shame constrains self-interested behavior. We test the two hypotheses in a money sharing experiment and in survey experiments fielded in different countries. The project advances our understanding of how emotions enhance or constrain the behavioral outcomes of economic self-interest.

Replication and Extension of Nozaradan et al. (2011) 1. Applicant

  • Jan Stupacher, Center for Music in the Brain, Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Cecilie Møller, Center for Music in the Brain, Department of Clinical Medicine


One of the most pervasive problems in cognitive neuroscience is disentangling the interaction between neural activity reflecting low-level sensory processes and highlevel conscious perception. Music listening, dancing and music making, depend on this interaction, as those activities require the interpretation of a complex sensory input. Using the EEG frequency tagging approach, which measures electrical brain activity at frequencies present in a musical rhythm, Nozaradan and colleagues showed that imagining two different metrical patterns – that is, a march (1,2,1,2…) or a waltz (1,2,3,1,2,3…) – during listening to an unaccented metronome increased brain activity at the march or waltz patterns, respectively (Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 2011). As the metrical patterns were imagined and not physically present in the auditory signal, this brain activity likely reflects higher-level top-down processes. The Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University will participate in a multi-lab study, which brings together researchers from all over the world to answer two questions arising from the influential study of Nozaradan and colleagues: 1) Can the classic finding be replicated in a thoroughly vetted, pre-registered meta-analysis? 2) Which roles do consciousness and musical expertise play in the perception of musical rhythm? Thus, the project will help to disentangle low-level sensory from higher-level perceptual processes in musical activities and will support the innovative concept of replication and pre-registration as a means for scientific progress.

Musical sophistication in the Danish general population

  • Cecilie Møller, Center for Music in the Brain, Dept. of Clinical Medicine
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Niels Christian Hansen, The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour, and Development, Western Sydney University, Naomi Monika Brandt, Psykologisk Institut, AU,


A large body of literature proposes that attending weekly music lessons enhances your basic sensory processes, cognitive skills, and social behaviours, and makes you generally smarter, faster, and even more sexy than your non-musician peers. A majority of studies comparing musicians and non-musicians tend to neglect the diverse informal ways ordinary people engage with music, e.g. in social settings, which arguably is a consequence of the lack of scientific instruments to measure the multifaceted nature of musical sophistication. The main aim of this study is to validate a Danish version of the Gold-MSI, a self-report questionnaire that fills this gap, as it is designed to measure the musicality of non-musicians. The online data collection will include measures of basic auditory, visual and audiovisual reaction times. Exploratory analyses will relate these measures to subscales of the Gold-MSI such as to challenge the notion that RT advantages in musicians are indeed the result of music training. This exploratory part of the study may set the stage for developing new projects designed to characterize neural underpinnings of variations in musical expertise among so-called “non-musicians”.

Are Self-Set Goals Effective Motivators? An Experiment

  • Alexander Koch, Department of Economics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Julia Nafziger, Department of Economics


Many people find it difficult to resist tempting choices - even though they know that they later will regret it. For example, a pupil might be tempted to play with his smartphone - even though he knows that doing the assignment in front of him is in his own long-run interest. People face such or similar self-control problems every day, with potentially severe consequences for the individual and society: self-control problems lead to the underprovision of useful but unpleasant activities such as studying, dieting, or exercising. To overcome such self-control problems, people often set themselves goals. Indeed, psychologists consider goals to be a cornerstone of the human motivational system. Yet, we know surprisingly little about how effective self-set goals are. Our proposal aims to advance the existing literature by cleanly testing in a real-effort experiment whether self-set goals are used as self-regulation tools and whether goals stay effective even if people can easily revise them. 

When recreational fear is not so fun: An empirical study of reluctant haunted house visitors

  • Mathias Clasen, Department of English
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Marc Andersen, Interacting Minds Centre, Uffe Schjoedt, Department of the Study of Religion


The peculiar phenomenon of recreational fear, where large sections of the population voluntarily seek out fear-inducing forms of entertainment, merits serious investigation. This study focuses on those visitors in the haunted house attraction Dystopia Haunted House, Vejle, who voluntarily abort their visit midway, in some cases year after year. We propose to investigate the differences between haunted house patrons who complete the entire attraction and those who do not, and to analyze the differences in terms of prior expectations, physiological states, and overall experience. We will attempt to recruit those visitors who match our inclusion criteria and equip them with heart rate monitors to be worn throughout the attraction. The study of intense fear is usually challenged by ethical considerations. Our approach, in which participants voluntarily seek out fear experiences independent of our research, provides an attractive platform for fear research. Expected outcomes include a better understanding of why some participants fail to complete haunted house attractions as opposed to others with similar profiles. If we successfully identify physiological and behavioral predictors of “drop-outs,” we can begin to understand the physiology of succumbing to fear. This knowledge will be of considerable interest to a host of disciplines, including clinical psychology, cultural studies, horror studies, and experience economy. 

The Picture Guessing Game: Developing a New Experimental Paradigm for the Study of Active Statistical Learning of Language

  • Fabbio Trecca, School of Communication and Culture
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Prof. Morten H. Christiansen, Dept. of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY & Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University; Prof. Rick Dale, Department of Communication, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Felicity Frinsel, PhD student, Dept. of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 


Research in statistical learning — picking up on probabilistic regularities in the input — has shown that children and adults implicitly learn complex grammatical regularities through passive exposure to novel language stimuli. However, these studies usually rely on stimuli and settings that poorly reflect the complexity of real-world learning. Aim of this project is to develop and test a new experimental paradigm for the study of statistical learning that better approximates real-world learning situations. The proposed paradigm combines artificial-grammar learning with sentence-picture matching in order to: (1) allow for the investigation of the complex interaction between multiple constituent levels of language (e.g., syntax, semantics, and pragmatics) in one unified statistical learning framework; (2) allow us to test learning as it happens in real time, instead of through post hoc testing; (3) allow us to test active statistical learning, which captures the interactional nature of real-life language learning situations better than traditional passive statistical learning paradigms.

Group membership and decision making

  • Dimitrios Batolas, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Panagiotis Mitkidis, Department of Management


Incidents of organizational wrongdoing have featured heavily in headlines in recent years. High-profile revelations pertain to organizational fraud (Enron, WorldCom) have raised concerns about the emergence of unethical behavior in public and private organizations. Such scandals came in the spotlight because of individuals who decided to blow the whistle. The aim of the current research is to investigate how group identities and related group processes are implicated in the motivation to engage in whistleblowing. Applying social identity ideas, we aim to investigate how the relationship between the deviant member and the observer of the wrongdoing influences the reporting behavior of the latter. 

Causal explanations of current events within online anti-vaccine communities

  • Rebekah Baglini, School of Communication and Culture, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegel, The Language, Logic and Cognition Center (LLCC), Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Byurakn Ishkhanyan, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics; Alexandra Regina Kratschmer, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics; Ana Paulla Braga Matos, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics.



The spread of vaccine-related disinformation online poses an increasingly urgent threat to public health, as evidenced by the outbreak of preventable illnesses like measles and pertussis in parts of the United States and Europe. Despite increasingly sophisticated algorithms for the automatic detection and removal of online disinformation, censorship does not solve the root problem of why people are susceptible to misinformation campaigns online, and risks fanning the flames of conspiracy thinking. (“If they’re silencing us, we must be right!”).

To address the root problem, my study aims to shed light on anti-vaccine discourse online using the tools of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning. In particular, we aim to improve today’s state-of-the-art algorithms for online discourse by encoding a greater degree of linguistic sophistication. We hypothesize that improved sensitivity to one feature in particular--- causal explanations—will yield important insights into the logic of vaccine conspiracies.

Is science more believable when presented as conspiracy? The effect of linguistic style on vaccination intentions

  • Byurakn Ishkhanyan, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 26170
  • Collaborators: Rebekah Baglini, Alexandra Kratschmer and Ana Paulla Matos, Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics 


Recently there has been an outbreak of preventable infectious diseases, such as measles and pertussis, in the United States of America. The outbreak has been associated with vaccine hesitancy, which may have been a result of the spread of antivaccination conspiracy theories. Thus, belief in anti-conspiracy theories can be a threat. Therefore, it is a priority for science and medical communicators to find means of explaining the scientific relevance of vaccination. However, debunking attempts have been shown to be either non-effective or counterproductive. This may be because people who believe in anti-vaccination conspiracy theories tend to generally distrust scientists. Moreover, it has been shown across cultures that education, gender or age are not related to anti-vaccination conspiracy beliefs but a tendency in generally believing in conspiracy theories is. Additionally, there is also evidence that online conspiracy theories have certain linguistic characteristics. Therefore, it is possible that it is not the content but rather the language of scientific information that seems less trustworthy to vaccine skeptics. In this study we attempt to understand what makes anti-vaccination conspiracy theories more believable than scientific information among vaccine skeptics. Thus, we address the question whether the linguistic characteristics of scientific content has an effect on vaccination intentions. Additionally, given the mistrust towards medical professionals among vaccine skeptics, we investigate whether the status of the scientific information presenter affects vaccination intentions.

Developing a New Speech Processing Tool for Danish Dialogue Data

  • Byurakn Ishkanyan, School of Communication and Culture, Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Christina Dideriksen and Fabio Trecca, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Semiotics,


Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools are essential for carrying out cutting-edge research in social sciences and humanities that involve large scale spoken language analysis. Speech processing (SP) tools are especially useful when working with dialogue data, as they can for instance be used for diarization and to generate transcriptions of spoken language data in an unsupervised manner. SP tools have successfully been developed and implemented for a number of languages, such as English, which have significantly improved the possibility to do efficient research in spoken English and have reduced the transcription costs for many research projects.

However, the existing SP tools for Danish are often inefficient and need improvement: for instance, tools like DanFA (Young & McGarrah, 2017), which is able to align speech to orthographic transcription at the level of individual sounds, do not work well with unclear pronunciations and in noisy situations. In general, the existing tools, while efficient in processing multi-word utterances in monologues recorded in high quality, are inefficient when processing natural language in real-world dialogue situations. The latter has been shown to be especially challenging to process because of overlapping speech and noisy data, often recorded in natural settings, that do not allow high quality sound. This has left a gap in the research field and hampered research in understanding the mechanisms that are at play during interactions between human beings.

Developing SP tools for Danish is particularly problematic due to the unusually opaque sound structure of the language (Trecca et al., in prep.), which includes a large number of vocalic sounds, the weakening of consonants, the pervasive assimilation of schwa vowels, and the reduction of word endings. As a result, interaction research in Danish is often more expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, it is necessary to improve the existing SP tools for Danish to further research in the acquisition and use of Danish, with significant reductions in the time and money that are currently spent on manual transcription.

Expanding the exploration exploitation dilemma to team dynamics

  • Oana Vuculescu, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Carsten Bergenholtz, Department of Management


Should I stay or should I go, is an often used trope to describe the exploitation/exploration dilemma. Despite the problem’s popularity and intuitive appeal, we know surprisingly little about how individuals balance exploration exploitation in different types of environments and we are only now beginning to learn how these complicated dynamics play out in collective settings. How do teams coordinate the tasks of exploring a complex landscape? Are they as likely as individuals to under or over-explore? Can we find cognitive mechanisms that explain some of these processes?

Now You’re Like Me: Biosocial Synchronicity PILOT

  • Daina Crafa, IMC, School of Culture and Society
  • Seednumber: 
  • Collaborators: Riccardo Fusaroli and Christina Rejkjær Dideriksen, Center for Semiotics


When you cooperate with another person, you start to behave similarly. Your vocabulary mirrors theirs, your heart rate and body language synchronize. The consequences of this synchrony is not well understood, but it may reflect or facilitate social learning. Through a series of social interactions, emergent synchrony between paired participants will be examined to determine whether the degree and persistence of social change is related to emergent synchrony between the pairs.