My work builds on Allport's (1954) famous contact theory, which states that
personal contact between members of different groups will generally improve their attitudes towards each other's
group. Taking a social-psychological perspective, my focus is on the processes underlying the
contact-attitude link. Being a sociologist at
heart, I'm particularly interested in the questions whether, and
if so, how the social network, in
which contact takes place, affects people's attitudes about other
I investigate the processes that take place within ethnically
diverse social networks to
explain interethnic attitudes, the development of ethnic identities, and ethnic segregation. My current work focuses on three related research areas: (1) improving the methodology to measure racial/ethnic attitudes, (2) improving the methodology to measure social networks, (3) understanding how social networks affect the development of intergroup attitudes and ethnic identities.
More details on my research areas
(1) How to measure racial/ethnic attitudes?
In a series of papers together with experts at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago, I study the most effective way to measure negative attitudes toward other racial/ethnic groups. We also try to adjust and improve existing prejudice scales. This work has led to me co-editing the The Cambridge Handbook of Implicit Bias and Racism (2021).
(2) How to improve the measurement of social networks?
In a series of papers together with colleagues from Germany, I have explored how we can advance existing methods to assess social networks. Together with Jon Krosnick, I have also developed interactive software (see link "software") to measure egocentric social networks. All of this work builds on my interest in survey methodology, a closely related field in which I continue to publish papers on other topics (e.g. social desirability bias, response effects).
(3) How do social networks affect attitudes, ethnic identities and vice versa?
Research based on Allport's contact theory has well establish that having more friends from other racial groups lead to less prejudice. This research has largely overlooked that friendships are not independent from each other but are part of social networks. Who your friends are affects your attitudes, but also how you identify yourself. Moreover, your attitudes and your self-identification affects your choices whom to befriend. I study the link between the structure of social networks and people's attitudes and identities.
My collaborators outside of ERCOMER are
- Jon Krosnick (Stanford University)
- Dan McFarland (Stanford University)
- Josh Pasek (University of Michigian)
- Keith Payne (University of North Carolina)
- Trevor Tompson (University of Chicago)
- Andreas Flache (University of Gronignen)
- Michael Mäs (ETH Zurich)
- Lars Leszczensky (University of Mannheim)
- Henning Silber (University of Göttingen)
- Annelies Blom (University of Mannheim)
- Claudia Baez-Camargo (Basel Institute on Governance)
- Ruth Persian (Behavioural Insights Team)