Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Can you change society by changing your preferences?

A map of New York City, where residential areas are colored with dots according to the race of its inhabitants. In finer resolution, each inhabitant is represented by one dot. Non-residential spaces remain white. Image Copyright: 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator).

Have you ever heard somebody claim to have no negative feelings towards immigrants while living in a neighborhood with hardly any foreigners? What were your initial thoughts? Chances are, they went along the lines of "well, maybe you think you are not racist". Well, maybe you were wrong. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Grades at school: to use or not to use them?

It’s exam period in schools and universities.
For several weeks, grades become the main concern of pupils, students, parents and professors. Most students are worried and impatient to find out whether they succeeded at their exams, but also to see whether their grades are better or worse than those of their peers. Parents and professors do the same: they constantly compare the grades of their children and students with those of others. But is this a good idea?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Take it with a grain of salt! .... or not?

Everybody consumes salt on a daily basis. It is present in most of our food, either naturally (such as in meats or vegetables), as an added substance for flavour, or as a preservative (such as in cheese, bacon, canned foods, and most convenience foods). The main sources of salt in our diet are bread and cereal products, meat products and milk and dairy products (Buss & Robertson, 1973), next to the use of table salt. But what is salt?

     Common salt is a mineral that consists out of 2 elements (and sometimes some trace elements): sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Normally, salt crystals are translucent but appear to be white and are cubic in shape. If table salt contains e.g. impurities or added elements, it may have a different shade of white such as a white with a pink or blue hue.

Source: salt-91539_960_720.jpg

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Théorie de l’engagement : Sommes-nous libres de nos choix ?

Source: Pixabay

Comment amener un individu à faire ce que l’on voudrait qu’il fasse ? Comment identifier et contourner les stratégies de manipulation marketing souvent malhonnêtes utilisées par les vendeurs, les commerçants ou les individus malintentionnés ? Les techniques utilisées sont-elles toujours accessibles à la conscience ?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Are we happier when we protest? Connections between collective action and subjective wellbeing

We have all witnessed how demonstrations and peaceful protests can bring about positive social change. We have seen how mobilization that started from social networks can bring down dictatorships, how LBTQI groups and their supporters have paved the way for legislative changes across the world and gain access to legal marriage and adoption, or how feminist activists can significantly influence politics surrounding reproductive health rights by organizing social protests. And I guess that many people around the world, myself included, feel happy and proud about such efforts (and associated victories) to create more inclusive and respectful societies. Still, what do we know about the effects of social protest on our wellbeing? Are we happier or sadder when we take to the streets with other people asking to be heard and demanding change? What are the consequences that mobilizing for collective action has in our lives?


Friday, October 30, 2015

Simplifying food: what popular culture can teach us about food

In the midst of abundant information about what constitutes a healthy diet, it is sometimes hard to decide what to believe and what to take serious. Nutrition labels are an incomprehensible list of ingredients. Medical experts fight about the healthiness of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). And how do we know when an organic food label can or cannot be trusted?

These kind of food issues have infiltrated our society to such an extent that they also appear in the arts. Many food-related art projects criticize the food industry or the lack of sustainable food practices. However, some merely aim to illustrate human behaviors in relation to food, such us our perceptual biases of food size, or the excuses we use to justify unhealthy food choices. American pop artist Claes Oldenburg, for instance, created supersized soft sculptures of food objects in order to illustrate the increased availability of fast food in the 50s and 60s. Among his works are a sculpture of a giant hamburger, BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato) sandwich, and pretzels.

Floor Burger (1962) by Claus Oldenburg, source: 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Être féministe : qu’est-ce que cela signifie ?

Au milieu du XXème siècle, les femmes n’avaient pas le droit de vote, elles n’avaient pas le droit d’ouvrir un compte en banque sans l’autorisation de leur conjoint, elles n’avaient pas le droit de disposer librement de leur corps… Si aujourd’hui, tous ces droits sont acquis, c’est grâce aux combats des mouvements féministes. Et pourtant, même si la plupart des femmes et des hommes adhèrent aux valeurs égalitaires des mouvements féministes, elles et ils refusent de s’identifier en tant que féministes. Pourquoi ?

Monday, June 1, 2015

The shape of the future

What will your future hold?
            Will you be rich?
            Where will you live?
            What will your house look like?
            Will you have (grand-) children?
            And… Will you be obese?

Figure 1: Gain-Fantasy trade by BrokenCassette (

Friday, May 22, 2015

Food advertisements: do they make you feel hungry, sexy or greedy?

Sex sells, we all know that. Marketing strategists have been using sexually arousing images and messages in advertisements for over decades, most likely having found its roots on tobacco packages in 1885. Food ads often contain sexual elements. Frequently, these ads promote fast foods, such as the ad by Burger King in 2014, but sometimes also healthy products such as the ad for Coca Cola’s new milk Fairlife  (2014). Sexual elements are used in advertisements because they are believed to catch our attention and make us feel positive towards the advertised brand. More importantly, they increase our arousal and thereby motivate us to obtain the advertised product (Reichter, 2002). 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I Don’t Know You, I Don’t Like You: The Rise of Anti-immigrant Movements in Europe

On May 7th 2015, citizens in the United Kingdom will vote for a new (or old) government. In the run-up to the General Election, one party in particular polarizes the public: UKIP.  The UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage, is an anti-European party.  UKIP argues that the UK should leave the European Union as this would result in less external regulation of British policies and in major economic benefits.  Moreover, UKIP proposes that an exit from the EU would enable the UK to tighten its migration laws.  The party advocates a point-based system, similar to the one in Australia and Canada, to ultimately limit the overall number of immigrants.  

The latter argument is very much in line with the requests of Pegida—the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (or, rather, the Occident).  Since October 2014,  thousands joined the movement’s weekly demonstrations; these take place primarily in the East German town Dresden but spread as well to other cities all across Germany and Europe.  Pegida campaigns in particular against an increasing number of Muslim immigrants in Europe.  Banners that were held up during the protests in Germany called for “the preservation of our culture“ and “against religious wars on German ground“.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Objectivation sexuelle: Miroir, mon beau miroir, dis-moi qui est la plus belle?

« Mon Dieu ! Le plus souvent l’apparence déçoit. Il ne faut pas toujours juger sur ce que l’on voit. »
(Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, dit Molière, 1664. Tartuffe ou l’Imposteur).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Conférences "Sommes-nous tous des Monstres?"

Conférence gratuite et ouverte à tous. Il suffit de s'inscrire! Informations ici:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tell me who you pet, I’ll tell you who you are: The Social Psychology of cat, dog (and turtle) persons


Let's start with a small (but arguably, life-changing) quizz: Which one of the descriptions below applies best to you?

(1) You prefer spending time on your own rather than with others
(2) You’re often ready to explore new things or ideas 
(3) People often say you’re easy to get along with 
(4) You absolutely love energy-consuming, outdoor activities. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Information, misinformation and memory formation


“We are our memories” it is often said. Remembering is something each of us does on a daily basis in several ways and for several reasons. We can “remember” things we have to do on a particular day. Or we can remember past events that either involve us or not. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

All about Mardi Gras!

Lundi svelte, mardi gras, mercredi mince, jeudi bouffi, vendredi maigre, samedi arrondi et dimanche dodu.

When you hear someone talk about “Mardi Gras” what are the first things that come to mind? Most people would probably imagine scenes of Mardi Gras celebrations with plastic beads, parades, loud music, and crowded parties. However, Mardi Gras is much more than a simple street party. It stems from a tradition that signaled the start forty-day fast. So where maybe, at first, you thought of beads, parties and lots of food when thinking of Mardi Gras, it is actually all about fasting. The roots of this event and the forty-day fast go back to Europe during the Middle Ages, and the tradition we know as ‘Carnival’.

Image from:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Is it possible to feel on behalf of groups?

We are usually happy and proud of ourselves when we have positive feedback from our boss. Still, we tend to feel ashamed when we fall on the street and people are looking or we usually feel guilty when we misbehave towards a friend.
These are all common emotions that we can feel whenever we succeed or fail important goals or standards we have.

But why would we feel sad when our football team loses a match or feel ashamed and/or guilty for something we did not do? Why would we simply feel “emotions by association”, or in different words, why would we feel certain emotions when confronted with the actions of social groups that we may or may not belong to?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Conflict resolution 2.0: Can Internet-based intergroup contact reduce prejudices?

More than 60 years ago, Gordon W. Allport published his renowned book “The Nature of Prejudice“ (1954)  in which he discussed why individuals hold negative opinions about, for instance, African Americans or Catholics and how contact between social groups (i.e., intergroup contact) may reduce such prejudices.  The latter proposition—also known as the contact hypothesis—inspired an ever-growing literature on intergroup relations.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Greed is good" ("La cupidité est une bonne chose")

Gordon Gekko (Wall Street, O.Stone, 1987)

Le Loup de Wall Street, Martin Scorsese, 2013

A la fin du 19ème siècle, les sciences humaines se sont focalisées sur l’analyse des problèmes sociaux avec pour finalité de les réduire. Or, les recherches sur la délinquance se sont majoritairement focalisées sur l’idée que la criminalité était le fait des classes laborieuses réputées « dangereuses ». La délinquance des élites ou encore, le « White Collar Crime », sont donc largement restés en dehors du radar des sciences humaines.  Cependant, l’actualité, ponctuée par quelques « affaires » et « scandales », ou encore le cinéma avec par exemple, « Le loup de Wall Street » sorti en décembre 2013, semblent nous prouver le contraire en laissant croire que ces élites ne sont au final pas à l’abri de la justice.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Because the world is round and not flat

Because the world is round ...
The Beatles      
                                              ... and not flat          
TV has a large impact on us. The statement may look like a truism to many of you. Nevertheless, we often seem to underestimate or neglect this impact. We generally have a tendency to believe that others are more influenced by the mass media and persuasive messages than ourselves, a phenomenon that in social psychology is known as the third-person-effect (Davison, 1983). Although, as I see it, this is a totally normal assumption one can make about oneself –I myself admit that I believe I am more resistant to this kind of persuasion than others!– it could be claimed that this assumption is partly responsible for our susceptibility to TV, at least as far as our personal share of the responsibility is concerned.