Dr. Felicitas Flade

Principal Investigator (associated project) | Mobility and Sorting Processes

I am a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology, and my main research is on social categorization. Social categorization is, essentially, the social psychological facet of human differentiation. In my project, I explore how a common enemy can reduce the perception of people as category members. This project is associated with the Collaborative Research Center 1482 “Studies in Human Differentiation”

In social psychology, social categorization is understood as a subform of object categorization, a very basic principle of human thought. It is only by distinguishing between things that we can attempt to interpret those differences—and only through this interpretation can we understand our environment.

This also applies to our social environment: Only when we distinguish between people and recognize affiliations can we make sense of our social environment. When we meet strangers, we can still use our categorical knowledge to get an idea of what to expect from them. On the other hand, categorizing people can be much more problematic than object categorization. A stone does not care if it is categorized and consequently stereotyped, prejudged, and discriminated against—humans, understandably, do.

Thus, on the one hand, (cognitive) human differentiation enables us to think in the first place. On the other hand, it is the precursor of many harmful social phenomena. This tension makes the research area appealing to me. How stable is thinking in categories, and how can we reduce categorization along problematic dimensions? These are the questions I address in my research.

Foto: Stephanie Füssenich