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Dr Ulrich Von Hecker Diploma Hamburg, PhD Habilitation Berlin

Dr Ulrich Von Hecker

Diploma Hamburg, PhD Habilitation Berlin

Reader

School of Psychology

Email:
vonheckeru@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 6639
Location:
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Research summary

I am interested in how we represent  the social world around us. How do we create a comprehensive picture of our  social group, our social networks, how do we perceive ourselves in the context  of other people? How do we use analog dimensions, such as the up vs. down  dimension, or spatial distance, to represent differences in social status, or  friendship and affiliation relationships? I am also interested in attentional  processes, and in the distinction between controlled and automatic processes in  thinking and reasoning. I also study how different kinds of mood affect  reasoning and memory. Other research helps to understand how social values get translated into    action. This research is being undertaken in collaboration with colleagues in the Values in Action (ViA) Centre, at Cardiff University.

Teaching summary

I am currently teaching undergraduate modules in research methods, statistics and computing, and decision making, alongside supervising postgraduate projects. I have taught undergraduate statistics, social psychological theory, emotion, and social cognition.

Undergraduate education

1986: Diploma in Psychology, University of Hamburg

Postgraduate education

1992: Ph.D., Psychology, Free University Berlin
1999: Habilitation, Free   University Berlin

Employment

2010-present: Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2000 (September) to 2009: Lecturer at the School of Psychology, Cardiff   University.

1996 (August) – 2000 (August): Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology,   University of Potsdam, Department of Social Psychology

1994 (February) - 1996 (July): Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, Free   University Berlin

1993 (August) -1994 (January): Scholarship at the University of Kansas,   USA

1988 - 1993: Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, Free University Berlin,   Department of Social Psychology

1986 - 1988: Lecturership, funded by Research Project Attitudes and Behavior,   Department of Social Psychology, University of Hamburg

Honours and awards

Awards/external committees

2010-2012: Nomination and empanelment for ESRC Peer Review   College.
2009-2011: Empanelment as Research Guide in the Centre for Research   of Christ University, Bangalore, India.

2019

2017

2016

2015

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

  • Klauer, K. C. and Von Hecker, U. 2009. Gedächtnis und emotion [Memory and emotion]. In: Brandstätter, V. and Otto, J. H. eds. Handbuch der Allgemeinen Psychologie: Motivation und Emotion.. Handbuch der Psychologie Vol. 11. Göttingen: Hogrefe, pp. 661-667.

2008

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1995

Research topics and related papers

Constructive mental processes: Social mental models.When  we move into a new environment, start a new job, join a leisure group, or, in  general, meet new people in new social contexts, we must try to get oriented  within the new context. This involves forming an impression about what kind of  group it might be, how homogeneous it seems to be, e.g., whether there are any  subgroups or hierarchies in it. It is of equal importance, of course, to find  an appropriate position in that group for ourselves. This is the basic  psychological situation studied in this project. The general idea is that, in  the process of doing all of the above, one  attempts to construct a  so-called mental model of the new social environment. Such a model represents  the group as a whole and, at the same time, contains information about pairwise  relationships between members in an integrated, highly connected fashion. We  are interested in finding out how the constructive process unfolds, and,  specifically, to what extent it is based on logical inference rules. Assuming  that such rules work on the basis of specified antecedent knowledge, we ask  what specific information is selected and seen as diagnostic when a rule is  applied to establish a common, global representation of  subgroups and  factions. Are there perception biases which lead to overemphasize or to neglect  observed boundaries or polarizations within a group? Under  what  conditions does one assume reciprocity for sympathy relations, i.e., assume to  be liked by  someone whom one finds likeable? What is the role of   the context, e.g., social background information, or stereotypes, in which the  group is placed? In this project, these and similar questions are examined  experimentally.

Research on topics within this area has been funded by the German Research   Foundation (DFG), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Polish   Committee for Scientific Research (KBN), and the Russell Sage Foundation, USA   (Sectarian Conflict and Cross-Community Trust in Northern Ireland).

See  von Hecker (1997), von Hecker & Sedek (1999), Hewstone et al.   (2008), Dutke et al. (in press), Dutke & von Hecker (in press).

Cognitive symptoms in depression.Besides their   well-known affective disturbances, depressed persons show a number of cognitive   symptoms as well. Depressed individuals are often very diligent and accurate in   their attempts to work on intellectual tasks. They are meticulous in processing   information at the detail level and perform very well in simple tasks requiring   effort or vigilance. On the other hand, depressed mood is associated with   impairments in generating a clear picture of an overall situation, in gaining an   overview about a problem at a large scale, or in constructing a clear   representation of a decision or a social situation. Depressed individuals   sometimes "don't see the  wood for the trees". The basic assumption in this   research is that one of the main cognitive deficits in reactive depression can   be seen as a specific impairment in generating mental models. In order to   examine this idea, we are developing experimental settings that permit (1) to   trace different cognitive operations that occur during the learning and   memorizing of different sorts of materials, social and non-social; (2) to   distinguish between genuinely cognitive and genuinely motivational/emotional   components of the observable deficits. The aim is to better understand how   processes of thought and memory might be altered in depression. Recently,   processes of active deployment and control of attention tend to be in the focus   of interest. Scientific knowledge of this kind is of central importance for   successful approaches to treatment as well as therapeutic intervention.

Research on topics within this area has been funded by the German Research   Foundation (DFG), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the   Polish Committee for Scientific Research (KBN).

See von Hecker & Sedek (1999), Sedek & von Hecker (2004), von Hecker   & Meiser (2005)

Mental control and inhibition.Highly overlearned, deeply   entrenched knowledge may exert an automatic influence on responses, and such   influence is hard to overcome. Research on thought suppression has identified   attentional processes that help to concentrate on desired contents while keeping   unintended contents out of concern. This research project examines the ability   of experimental participants to give random “yes” / “no” – answers to trivia   questions. According to earlier findings, this is a very difficult task to do,   since automatized knowledge drives a tendency to respond in the correct   direction. We are interested in developing an experimental setting to study this   type of task, and we explore potential ways how to improve participants’ ability   to inhibit unwanted associations in their thought, and to direct their responses   towards the generation of “true randomness”. Research on mental control and   inhibition is relevant to a number of applications, including commitment in   social relationships and the treatment of reactive depression.  In this context,   we are also interested in phenomena of “negative priming”, that is, situations   in which a previously presented stimulus can lead to a delay (instead of   acceleration) in response when this stimulus is shown again soon afterwards.

Research on topics within this area has been funded by the Economic and   Social Research Council (ESRC). See von Hecker & Conway (2010).

The plasticity of emotions.The question is how one might   best explain some effects found in earlier research, according to which sad   mood, as manipulated in laboratory experiments, leads to more detail-oriented   and elaborative processing. This was found, for example, for the processing of   counterattitudinal messages. We consider the argument that mood episodes may be   malleable and have plasticity to evolve in various ways. Thus, induced sadness   may become frustration, and it may indeed be the frustration, and not sadness   that is fuelling the cognitive processing observed with sad mood induction. The   rationale is that, as previous studies have shown, a sad mood induction is   likely to lead to other emotions as well, such as fear, anxiety, frustration,   and anger. Second, the exposure to the counterattitudinal appeal may lead sad   people to feel frustrated via 2 mechanisms, (a) reactance: people who feel sad   may be more prone to reactance effects; (b) mood transformation: mood that is   predominantly of sadness, but that includes frustration, may become primarily   sadness, with some sadness, as a consequence of a change in the environment of   the individual.

We are interested in identifying individual differences variables that could   be potential moderators of these processes, such as gender or masculinity, and   to carry the argument further in order to study the plasticity of emotional   episodes in general. See Conway & von Hecker (submitted).

Research group

Natalia Zarzeczna (PhD Student)
Jin Zixi (PhD Student)

Research collaborators

Geoffrey   Haddock (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Simon Dymond (Psychology, Swansea   University)
Ana   Guinote
(Psychology, University College London)
Elanor   Hinton (Psychology, University of Bristol)
Michael   Conway (Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)
Stephan Dutke (Psychology, University   of Muenster, Germany)
Karl   Christoph Klauer (Psychology, University of Freiburg, Germany)
Marcin Bukowski (Psychology, Jagiellonian   University, Krakow, Poland)
Izabela   Kreijtz (Psychology, Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities,   Poland)
Grzegorz   Sedek (Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Cognitive Studies,   ICACS, Warsaw, Poland)
Caterina Suitner (University of Padova, Italy)
Piotr Winkielman (University of California at San Diego, USA)
Paul Hanel (University of Bath, UK)
Sindhuja Sankaran (University of Krakow, Poland)
Malgosia Kossowska (University of Krakow, Poland)
André Aßfalg (University of Freiburg, Germany)
Caterina Suitner (University of Padova, Italy)
Piotr Winkielman (University of California at San Diego,  USA)
Paul Hanel (University of Bath, UK)
Sindhuja Sankaran (University of Krakow, Poland)
Malgosia Kossowska (University of Krakow, Poland)
André Aβfalg (University of Freiburg, Germany)

Postgraduate research interests

My current interests are in social  psychology, in particular social cognition and the link between cognition and  emotion. I study how social schemata shape the way we perceive groups and  social relations around us and involving us, and how social perception is  affected by states of dysphoria and depression. For example, I have found that  sad mood influences cognition in highly specific ways, impairing us in  situations when we have to process and integrate novel stimuli into mental  models and global representations. My recent research focuses on attentional  control and embodiment, that is, to what extent physical dimensions and bodily  experiences shape the formation of abstract ideas and concepts.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information  regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Current students

Lukas Wolf (2nd year), Embodiment of social values.

Past projects

Previous students

Masoud Fazilat Pour (2009). Defocused Attention in Depressed   Mood.
Sindhuja   Sankaran (PhD Student, Psychology, Cardiff University). Cognitive   determinants of athletic performance.