Tajfel Award lecture: Discovering order in an uncertain world: Anchoring a Tajfel lecture in Henri Tajfel‘s seminal work
Professor of Social Psychology at the Institute of Psychology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Abstract: My lecture not only carries Henri Tajfel’s name. The research I want to present is also grounded in his seminal ideas. Tajfel’s (1957) accentuation theory affords an ideal example of strong theorizing, beyond mere re-labelling of phenomena, explaining discrimination as a consequence of redundancy in an uncertain world. This idea has greatly inspired my own cognitive-ecological approach, a sample of which I will present in this lecture. To understand individual social behavior, it is first of all necessary to understand the structural properties of the environment that impinges on the individual’s mind. While accentuation theory explains the impact of existing (observed or expected) correlations on discrimination, in my own research I have been deeply concerned with the origins of those (stereotypical) correlations that drive accentuation effects. As it turns out, correlations at the individual level can reflect accentuation effects at the ecological level: Individuals’ attributes (x) and group membership (y) appear to be correlated when average levels or base rates of x and y discriminate jointly between ecologies.