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The embodied social cognition and processes of prejudice: Malodours, disgust and prejudice


The objectives of the planned activities are (1) to conduct cutting-edge research on physical and psychological conditions that stimulate and maintain good intergroup relations; (2) to develop a trans-national collaborations with experts working in that area; and (3) to provide the experienced researcher (Polish, based in UK) with new knowledge (embodiment, social neuroscience), experience (research management, new research methodologies) and complementary training (research design, dissemination, advanced statistics) that will help her achieve a leading independent position and professional maturity. The project studies why social groups perceived on a symbolic level as ‘impure’ are often avoided and excluded. It adopts the ground-breaking embodiment perspective in social psychology, which proposes that abstract concepts (e.g. moral impurity) are build upon concrete bodily experiences (e.g. physical impurity). The main hypothesis is that prejudice can result from negative moral emotions that involve an automatic (basic and unconscious) food rejection system cued by odours. This system prevents contamination of the body by avoidance or expulsion of unhealthy substances. This perspective addresses those aspects of prejudice (the persistent obstacle to intergroup harmony) that are outside of people’s conscious awareness and control. Three experimental psychological studies will be conducted under a supervision of the scientist in charge and a team of 3 experts at an international research centre (Cis-ISCTE) in Portugal. They will use priming procedures (subtle activation of related concepts) and methods of indirect attitude assessment to examine the effects of malodour (vs pleasant scent) on prejudice. Results are likely to have theoretical implications and applied value in providing useful information for policy making aiming at remediating prejudice and improving intergroup relations in a cost-effective and subtle way.

Call for proposal

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Avenida Das Forcas Armada
1649 026 Lisboa

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Sven Waldzus (Dr.)
EU contribution
€ 211 185