Christian Unkelbach

Christian Unkelbach
University of Cologne | UOC · Department of Psychology

Dr.

About

121
Publications
72,722
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4,069
Citations
Citations since 2017
48 Research Items
2556 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230100200300400500

Publications

Publications (121)
Article
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A key challenge for social psychology is to identify unifying principles that account for the complex dynamics of social behaviour. We propose psychological relativity and its core mechanism of comparison as one such unifying principle. To support our proposal, we review recent evidence investigating basic processes underlying and novel application...
Article
Evaluative Conditioning (EC) research shows that people learn their likes and dislikes due to the co-occurrence of stimuli (CS and US) in the environment. Most recent EC research addressed processes underlying this phenomenon: how do people acquire their likes and dislikes? We address the question of when people learn from co-occurrences. To unders...
Article
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Corneille et al. (2020) found that repetition increases judgments that statements have been used as fake news on social media. They also found that repetition increases truth judgments and decreases falsehood judgments (i.e., two instantiations of the truth-by repetition effect). These results supported an ecological explanation of the truth-by rep...
Article
Full-text available
Past research indicates that people judge repeated statements as more true than new ones. An experiential consequence of repetition that may underly this “truth effect” is processing fluency: processing statements feels easier following their repetition. In three preregistered experiments (N=684), we examined the effect of merely instructed repetit...
Article
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Moran et al. (2021) report a multi-lab registered replication of Olson and Fazio’s (2001) surveillance task. The surveillance task is an incidental learning procedure over the course of which participants observe pairings of conditioned stimuli (CSs) and unconditioned stimuli (USs) while engaging in a distracting secondary task. Unaware evaluative...
Preprint
Guiding people’s attempts to sustain current states—from health and personal relationships, to households, jobs, and the biological environment—maintenance goals are a fundamental albeit understudied aspect of human motivation. We tested how comparisons to the self and to others impact the motivation to maintain. We hypothesized that maintenance go...
Article
People believe repeated information more compared to novel information. Classic research on this repetition‐induced truth effect used trivia statements as information and truth ratings as the main DV. We investigate how repeating stereotypes about groups influence the stereotypes' believability and decisions about group members. Participants learne...
Article
Full-text available
People rate and judge repeated information more true than novel information. This truth-by-repetition effect is of relevance for explaining belief in fake news, conspiracy theories, or misinformation effects. To ascertain whether increased motivation could reduce this effect, we tested the influence of monetary incentives on participants’ truth jud...
Preprint
Corneille et al. (2020) found that repetition increases judgments that statements have been used as fake news on social media, a result that is consistent with an ecological theorization. They also found that repetition increases truth judgments and decreases falsehood judgments (i.e., two instantiations of the Truth-by-Repetition effect), which is...
Article
Fluency is the experienced ease of ongoing mental operations, which increases the subjective positivity of stimuli attributes. This may happen because fluency is inherently positive. Alternatively, people may learn the meaning of fluency from contingencies within judgment-contexts. We test pseudocontingencies (PCs) as a mechanism through which flue...
Article
In Dictator Games, dictators decide how much of a given endowment to send to receivers with no further interactions. We explored the social inferences people draw about dictators from the dictators’ money amount sent and vice versa in 11 experiments ( N = 1,425): Participants rated “unfair” dictators, who sent little or no money, as more agentic, b...
Article
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When judging whether someone is trustworthy, people rely on the perceptual typicality of a person’s face. We tested whether a more general typical-is-trustworthy heuristic exists based on the descriptive typicality of a person. In four experiments, we provided participants with descriptive information about the typicality of target persons’ attribu...
Preprint
Full-text available
Past research indicates that people judge repeated statements as more true than new ones. An experiential consequence of repetition that may underly this “truth effect” is processing fluency: processing statements feels easier following their repetition. Here, we examine the effect of merely instructed (i.e., not experienced) repetition on truth ju...
Article
People gather information about others along a few fundamental dimensions; their current goals determine which dimensions they most need to know. As proponents of competing social-evaluation models, we sought to study the dimensions that perceivers spontaneously prioritize when gathering information about unknown social groups. Because priorities d...
Preprint
According to the evaluative information ecology model of social-comparison, people are more similar on their positive traits and tend to differ on their negative traits. This means that comparisons based on differences will naturally produce negative evaluations, whereas those based on similarities will produce positive evaluations. In this researc...
Article
In a recent study, Shin and Niv explain both negativity and positivity biases in social evaluations as a function of the diversity and low frequency of events. We discuss why negative information is indeed more diverse and less frequent, and highlight the implications beyond social evaluations.
Article
Repetition increases people's belief that the repeated information is true. Previous research has investigated this increase with largely unknown trivia information (both factually true and false), and more recently, with a focus on factually false information (i.e., “fake news”). We investigate whether this increase in belief also holds for releva...
Article
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Evaluative conditioning is one of the most widely studied procedures for establishing and changing attitudes. The surveillance task is a highly cited evaluative-conditioning paradigm and one that is claimed to generate attitudes without awareness. The potential for evaluative-conditioning effects to occur without awareness continues to fuel concept...
Article
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When people answer the question "How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?", they usually respond with "two," although Moses does not appear in the biblical story of the Ark. We investigated this "Moses illusion" in a multiple-choice format and tested the influence of monetary incentives on the illusion's strength. Thereby, we addres...
Preprint
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Moran et al. (2020) recently conducted a multi-lab registered replication of Olson and Fazio’s (2001) surveillance task study—an incidental learning procedure designed to establish evaluative conditioning (EC) effects in the absence of awareness. The potential for unaware attitude formation continues to fuel conceptual, theoretical, and applied dev...
Article
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Implicit measures are diagnostic tools to assess attitudes and evaluations that people cannot or may not want to report. Diagnostic inferences from such tools are subject to asymmetries. We argue that (causal) conditional probabilities p(AM+|A+) of implicitly measured attitudes AM+ given the causal influence of existing attitudes A+ is typically hi...
Article
Full-text available
People believe repeated statements more compared to new statements – they show a truth by repetition effect. In three pre-registered experiments, we show that repetition may also increase perceptions that statements are used as fake news on social media, irrespective of the factual truth or falsehood of the statements (Experiment 1 & 2), but that r...
Article
In attribute conditioning (AC), neutral stimuli (CSs) acquire specific attributes through mere pairings with other stimuli possessing that attribute (USs). For example, if a neutral person “Neal” is paired with athletic “Wade,” participants judge Neal as more athletic compared with when Wade would be unathletic. Building on Evaluative Conditioning...
Article
As proponents of two theories of social evaluation, we disagree whether people spontaneously differentiate societal groups' conservative-progressive beliefs (distinct claim of the agency-beliefs-communion or ABC model) or warmth/communion (distinct claim of the stereotype content model or SCM). Our adversarial collaboration provides one way to reso...
Chapter
Distinguishing between “good” and “bad” is a fundamental task for all organisms. However, people seem to process positive and negative information differentially, described in the literature as instances of negativity bias, positivity bias, or valence asymmetries. We provide an overview of these processing differences and their explanations. First,...
Article
Measuring the similarity of stimuli is of great interest to a variety of social scientists. Spatial arrangement by dragging and dropping “more similar” targets closer together on the computer screen is a precise and efficient method to measure stimulus similarity. We present Qualtrics-spatial arrangement method (Q-SpAM), a feature-rich and user-fri...
Preprint
Full-text available
Evaluative conditioning (EC) is one of the most widely-studied procedures for establishing and changing attitudes. The surveillance-task (Olson & Fazio, 2001) is a highly cited EC paradigm, and one that is claimed to generate attitudes without awareness. The potential for EC effects to occur without awareness continues to fuel conceptual, theoretic...
Preprint
People often form attitudes about objects, individuals, or groups by examining and com-paring their attributes. Such attribute-based attitude formation is guided by a differentiation principle: Whether people come to like or dislike an attitude object depends on the object’s attributes that differentiate it from other objects. Attributes that are r...
Article
Full-text available
People often form attitudes about objects, individuals, or groups by examining and comparing their attributes. Such attribute-based attitude formation is guided by a differentiation principle: Whether people come to like or dislike an attitude object depends on the object's attributes that differentiate it from other objects. Attributes that are re...
Article
We propose the Evaluative Information Ecology (EvIE) model as a model of the social environment. It makes two assumptions: Positive “good” information is more frequent compared to negative “bad” information and positive information is more similar and less diverse compared to negative information. We review support for these two properties based on...
Article
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When a celebrity (e.g., George Clooney) endorses a brand (e.g., a coffee type), people’s assessment of this brand typically changes. We suggest that the mere repeated pairing of celebrities with brands imbues brands with the celebrities’ attributes. We call this effect attribute conditioning, which is, more generally, the phenomenon that people ass...
Article
People are more inclined to believe that information is true if they have encountered it before. Little is known about whether this illusory truth effect is influenced by individual differences in cognition. In seven studies (combined N = 2,196), using both trivia statements (Studies 1-6) and partisan news headlines (Study 7), we investigate modera...
Article
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Generalisation in learning means that learning with one particular stimulus influences responding to other novel stimuli. Such generalisation effects have largely been overlooked within research on attitude acquisition via Evaluative Conditioning (i.e. EC effects). In five experiments, we investigated whether and when generalisation of EC effects i...
Preprint
Full-text available
People are more inclined to believe that information is true if they have encountered it before. Little is known about whether this illusory truth effect is influenced by individual differences in cognition. In seven studies (combined N = 2196), using both trivia statements (Studies 1-6) and partisan news headlines (Study 7), we investigate moderat...
Article
People believe repeated information more than novel information; they show a repetition-induced truth effect. In a world of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and strategic information management, understanding this effect is highly important. We first review explanations of the effect based on frequency, recognition, familiarity, and coherent refer...
Article
People judge positive information to be more alike than negative information. This good-bad asymmetry in similarity was argued to constitute a true property of the information ecology (Alves, H., Koch, A., & Unkelbach, C. (2017). Why good is more alike than bad: Processing implications. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21, 69–79). Alternatively, the a...
Article
Processing fluency, the experienced ease of ongoing mental operations, influences judgments such as frequency, monetary value, or truth. Most experiments keep to-be-judged stimuli ambiguous with regards to these judgment dimensions. In real life, however, people usually have declarative information about these stimuli beyond the experiential proces...
Article
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We present a model of attribute conditioning, the phenomenon that people’s assessment of stimuli’s specific attributes (e.g., a person’s characteristics) changes due to pairings with other stimuli possessing these specific attributes (e.g., another "athletic" person). These changes in attribute assessments go beyond evaluation changes due to these...
Article
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People often hold negative attitudes toward out-groups and minority groups. We argue that such intergroup biases may result from an interaction of basic cognitive processes and the structure of the information ecology. This cognitive-ecological model assumes that groups such as minorities and out-groups are often novel to a perceiver. At the level...
Article
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The role of awareness in evaluative learning has been thoroughly investigated with a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. We investigated evaluative conditioning (EC) without awareness with an approach that conceptually provides optimal conditions for unaware learning - the Continuous Flash Suppression paradigm (CFS). In CFS, a sti...
Article
We investigate halo effects from agency behaviors and communion behaviors in different social contexts. According to the salient dimension model, attributes elicit halo effects on the ratings of other, unrelated attributes, when they are relevant in a situation. Given that communion behaviors are more relevant in social and care-related jobs, they...
Article
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People quickly form impressions about moral character; for example, if people learn that someone cheated, they form a negative impression about that person’s character and expect that person to cheat in the future. Four studies show that the formation of such moral character impressions depends on the degree of valence homogeneity in the target’s c...
Article
People are more likely to judge repeated statements as true compared to new statements, a phenomenon known as the illusory truth effect. The currently dominant explanation is an increase in processing fluency caused by prior presentation. We present a new theory to explain this effect. We assume that people judge truth based on coherent references...
Article
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Positive attributes are more prevalent than negative attributes in the social environment. From this basic assumption, 2 implications that have been overlooked thus far: Positive compared with negative attributes are more likely to be shared by individuals, and people's shared attributes (similarities) are more positive than their unshared attribut...
Article
Humans process positive information and negative information differently. These valence asymmetries in processing are often summarized under the observation that ‘bad is stronger than good’, meaning that negative information has stronger psychological impact (e.g., in feedback, learning, or social interactions). This stronger impact is usually attr...
Article
Full-text available
Evaluative conditioning (EC) refers to changes in the evaluation of conditional stimuli (CSs; e.g., neutral faces) due to their repeated pairing with unconditional stimuli of positive or negative valence (USs; e.g., likeable or unlikeable faces). The standard EC finding is an assimilation effect; CS evaluations change in direction of US valence. In...
Article
Full-text available
Previous research argued that stereotypes differ primarily on the 2 dimensions of warmth/communion and competence/agency. We identify an empirical gap in support for this notion. The theoretical model constrains stereotypes a priori to these 2 dimensions; without this constraint, participants might spontaneously employ other relevant dimensions. We...
Article
Attribute Conditioning (AC) refers to people’s changed assessments of stimuli’s (CSs) attributes due to repeated pairing with stimuli (USs) possessing these attributes; for example, when an athletic person (US) is paired with a neutral person (CS), the neutral person is judged to be more athletic after the pairing. We hypothesize that this AC effec...
Article
The density hypothesis (Unkelbach, Fiedler, Bayer, Stegmüller, & Danner, 2008) claims a general higher similarity of positive information to other positive information compared with the similarity of negative information to other negative information. This similarity asymmetry might explain valence asymmetries on all levels of cognitive processing....
Article
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Past research showed that people accumulate more knowledge about other people and objects they like compared to those they dislike. More knowledge is commonly assumed to lead to more differentiated mental representations; therefore, people should perceive others they like as less similar to one another than others they dislike. We predict the oppos...
Article
We propose stronger halo effects in trait assessments from positive information relative to negative information. Due to positive information's higher similarity, positive information should foster both indirect (from a global impression to traits) and direct halo effects (from traits to traits). Negative information's relative distinctiveness shou...
Article
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Alcohol has been implicated in intergroup aggression and hostility. The effect of consuming alcohol relative to a placebo on hostile cognitive biases toward a social category typically stereotyped as threatening and hostile (i.e., Middle Eastern men) was tested. Undergraduates (N = 81) consumed either an intoxicating dose of alcohol (BrAC = .05% by...
Article
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When people rapidly judge the truth of claims presented with or without related but nonprobative photos, the photos tend to inflate the subjective truth of those claims-a "truthiness" effect (Newman et al., 2012). For example, people more often judged the claim "Macadamia nuts are in the same evolutionary family as peaches" to be true when the clai...
Article
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The density hypothesis states that positive information is more similar than negative information, resulting in higher density of positive information in mental representations. The present research applies the density hypothesis to recognition memory to explain apparent valence asymmetries in recognition memory, namely, a recognition advantage for...
Article
Existing findings on the truth effect could be explained by recollection of the statements presented in the exposure phase. In order to examine a pure fluency account of this effect, we tested a unique prediction that could not be derived from recollection of a statement. In one experiment, participants judged the truth of a statement that had the...
Article
People experience “regulatory fit” when they pursue a goal in a manner that suits their chronic regulatory orientation. This regulatory fit impacts performance positively. The present research extends performance gains due to fit from individuals to dyadic team performance. Study 1 manipulated team fit of 32 table football participants (i.e., promo...
Article
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In the context of research on human judgment, regression is commonly treated as an artifact or an unwanted consequence of ill-controlled research designs. We argue that this negative image is undeserved. Regression affords not only an enlightening statistical construct but also a theoretical construct that can inspire novel research. It offers alte...
Article
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Abstract We propose Attribute Conditioning (AC) as a form of learning that refers to changes in people's assessment of stimuli's (CSs) attributes due to repeated pairing with stimuli possessing these attributes (USs). We review the available evidence and based on this review, delineate three open questions and investigate them experimentally: a) th...
Article
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Serial evaluations are the basis of many judgment and decision processes (e.g., in sports, talent shows, or academic examinations). We address the advantages and disadvantages of being in the beginning or the end of such evaluation series. We propose that for serial evaluations, people must calibrate a transformation function that translates observ...
Article
Attribute conditioning (AC) refers to people's changed assessment of stimuli's (conditioned stimuli, CSs) attributes due to pairings with stimuli possessing these attributes (unconditioned stimuli, USs). Up to now, research only showed conditioning of only one attribute within a conditioning session (e.g., athleticism) and measured assessment chang...
Article
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In this editorial, the editor looks back at the positive and negative developments at Social Psychology during the last year. In conclusion, the journal has implemented many changes within the last year (e.g., online submission, accepting replications, more content) but also kept many things constant (e.g., double-blind review, special issues). Soc...
Data
Objectives In the beginning of serial evaluations, raters assess performances without knowledge about following performances. We assume that judges must observe a certain number of performances to calibrate their judgment scale, leading to systematic biases (avoidance of extreme judgments) in the beginning of judgment series. The present experiment...
Article
Five years ago, the editorial board of the German-language based Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie changed to an English-language based publication format and changed the title to Social Psychology, giving the journal its present shape. The success of this change is visible in many indicators, which I will describe below. However, to continue this...
Article
Full-text available
Evaluative conditioning (EC) refers to valence changes in neutral stimuli (CSs) through repeated pairing with liked or disliked stimuli (USs). The present study examined the stability of EC effects in the course of 1 week. We investigated how this stability depends on memory for US valence and US identity. We also investigated whether CSs evaluatio...
Article
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Whether human evaluative conditioning can occur without contingency awareness has been the subject of an intense and ongoing debate for decades, troubled by a wide array of methodological difficulties. Following recent methodological innovations, the available evidence currently points to the conclusion that evaluative conditioning effects do not o...
Article
The article examines advantages of positive information in social information processing. First, it presents a ubiquitous positivity advantage in processing speed. Then it introduces the density hypothesis as an explanation: Positive information is processed faster because it is more similar to other positive information compared to the overall sim...
Article
Full-text available
Evaluative conditioning is the valence transfer from positive or negative stimuli to initially neutral stimuli through repeated co-occurrences of those stimuli. Theoretically, it should also be possible to condition non-evaluative attributes. Three experiments show the transfer of a non-evaluative attribute: By repeatedly presenting neutral people...
Article
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Evaluative conditioning (EC) refers to valence changes of initially neutral stimuli (CSs) through repeated pairings with positive or negative stimuli (USs). The current study is about the moderating role of qualifiers that specify the CS-US relation during these pairings. We show successful EC with pictures of men (CSs) and of liked/disliked animal...
Article
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Evaluative conditioning (EC) is commonly conceived as stimulus-driven associative learning. Here, we show that internally generated encoding activities mediate EC effects: Neutral conditioned stimuli (CS) faces were paired with positive and negative unconditioned stimuli (US) faces. Depending on the encoding task (Is CS a friend vs. enemy of US?),...
Article
Causal impact is maximal when weak causes have strong effects. Do people understand this logic when they assess causal impact? In four experiments, participants judged the causal impact of strong or weak dietary treatments leading to strong or weak health effects in fictitious health studies. Rather than following the ratio of effect strength to tr...
Article
Arginine Vasopressin modulates complex social and sexual behavior by enhancing social recognition, pair bonding, and aggression in non-human mammals. The influence of Arginine Vasopressin in human social and sexual behavior is, however, yet to be fully understood. We evaluated whether Arginine Vasopressin nasal spray facilitated recognition of posi...
Article
The attractiveness of lotteries that vary in p (probability) and o (outcome) depends on the presentation mode of p and o information. Extending previous findings on temporally experienced p, we manipulate the numerically stated versus spatially experienced format of both p (graphical presentation of a distribution of lottery tickets in an urn) and...
Article
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This article combines findings from cognitive psychology on the role of processing fluency in truth judgments with epistemological theory on justification of belief. We first review evidence that repeated exposure to a statement increases the subjective ease with which that statement is processed. This increased processing fluency, in turn, increas...