Societal Conflict and Cohesion

Western liberal societies are under pressure. Recent years came along with an increasing approval of anti-democratic and nationalist ideas among the population (e.g., the rise of the AfD in Germany, the Fidesz in Hungary, and Trumpism in the United States), with societal conflicts sparked by discussions about immigration, climate change, or COVID-19, and with a higher prevalence of threat towards ethnic-religious minorities, conspiracy beliefs, perceptions of marginalization, and distrust in democratic institutions. These developments might be indicators of a more fundamental societal cleavage that evolved during globalization and modernization: Societal camps who are open to and embrace economic, political, social, and cultural changes versus societal camps who are opposed to these changes and want to defend a narrower and stable status quo. This societal cleavage and an increasing lack of cross-talk between the involved camps poses a major threat to social peace and liberal democracies around the world. It is, thus, crucial to understand the nature of current social discontent, the social groups who perceive it, and its societal consequences.
In a number of connected projects, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of the involved psychological factors and processes. This includes research projects on identity-based societal cleavages, on the association between religiosity and threat towards ethnic-religious minorities, on the determinants and consequences of conspiracy beliefs across countries, on psychological aspects of refugee integration, and on first impressions of refugees.