service navigation

EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on EASP Medium Size Meeting on Social Justice: Inequality and Recognition

04.11.2015, by Kai Sassenberg in meeting report

June 25 - 28, 2015 at Castle Oppurg, Thuringia, Germany; Organizers: Thomas Kessler (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena), Nicole Harth (Ernst Abbe University of Applied Science of Jena), and Stefanie Hechler (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena)

The Participants
The Participants

Theoretical background and goal of the meeting

In our EASP Medium Size Meeting on Social Justice, we aimed at connecting theoretical approaches as well as empirical research on social justice and on recognition. Thereby, we aspired to extend the perspective on social justice from distributive and procedural justice approaches to positive social relations characterized by mutual recognition and respect.

Social and economic inequality has a great influence on physical and psychological state of the deprived (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009) as well as for the privileged (Montada & Schneider, 1989). The societal consequences seem to be enormous. They comprise, for example, higher crime rates, growing discontent, detached citizens among others. Yet, the validity of these findings is currently discussed in many different fields of the social sciences. In our meeting, we wanted to highlight the role of psychological processes underlying these phenomena with a particular focus on processes within and between social groups. At present, social psychologists draw on the philosophical approaches towards injustice (Honneth, Sennett, Kant, etc.), which state that recognition and respect lead to treat other with a basic sense of equality. This may lead to the perception of being equal to others, despite various differences observed (and recognized). Hence, recognition and respect may reduce perceptions of societal inequality, at least at a psychological level. This approach also bears potential dangers such as its potentially undermining effect on attempts for social change. The goal of our meeting was to unite the research approaches on justice, inequality, and recognition in order to arrive at a new conceptualization of (in)justice as a psychological phenomenon. We raised the questions such as: How does recognition relate to social inequality? How to explain negative effects of social inequality? How are justice principles expressed in various types of recognition relations? And how does recognition change, maintain, or buffer social inequality?

This year’s Oppurg meeting provided a broad overview of different international research concerned with recognition and social injustice. We are very happy having had Jolanda Jetten from the University of Queensland, Australia, as a key note talk. Jolanda is one of the leading researchers on social inequality in social psychology. She recently focused her research on consequences of social inequality on the privileged societal classes. Her key note talk focused on the ”Wealth Paradox” providing an overview on how being privileged in an unequal society fosters stereotyping and conflict within groups. Unfortunately, our second invited key note Bernd Simon was forced to cancel his attendance on short notice. Instead, one of the organizers, Thomas Kessler from the University of Jena, agreed to give a key note talk on authoritarianism and social justice. Thomas provided an overview on his and his colleagues’ research on a conceptualization of authoritarianism by group processes, the group specific nature of authoritarianism, and some notes on the potential independence of ideology and psychological processes. We invited 30 further guests and presenters who are specialists in a broad variety of theoretical, empirical and applied approaches of social justice.

Selection of topics and attending researchers

We received many valuable and interesting applications for the workshop. The decision of acceptance was very difficult, and the organizers carefully considered strengths and weaknesses of each submitted abstract. Our first selection criteria focused on methodological rigor and theoretical consistency in the abstracts, such as: Is the theoretical argumentation comprehensible; did the studies conducted maintain a high scientific standard; do the studies reported fit the theoretical aim. Further, we selected those presenters whose talk provided the best fit on the meeting’s topic and appeared most interesting to us. Moreover, the novelty of the research accounted as a key factor in abstract selection. We finally decided to invite 16 out of about 40 applications that provided a broad diversity in the approaches and frameworks concerning recognition, inequality and social justice. The invited talks focused their research on antecedents and consequences of recognition respect, justice principles and economic and social inequality in interpersonal and intergroup contexts. These included emotional components of justice, recognition in professional contexts, reconciliation in intergroup relations, justice principles as relational models, social change and protest, prejudice and helping behavior, etc. The final list of presenters contained researchers from a variety of different countries, such as Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, Portugal, Hungary, and Germany. Each presenter was invited to bring one co-author to attend the meeting. The researchers attending the meeting were diverse in position, including 14 PhD students, ten post-doctoral researchers, and six professors. Twenty three of the participants were female. Additionally, one student assistant joined the meeting for helping in organizational issues on site. She also enthusiastically attended the talks in the meeting and was included in all social events.

Location and social activities

The meeting took place in Castle Oppurg that is located in a small village in Thuringia’s idyllic country side about one hour from Jena, Germany. The picturesque old castle was built in the beginning of the 18th century, and its large garden invited to sitting outside and going for small walks in the mostly sunny weather. Participants also enjoyed the country side area for running and other sportive activities during free time. The building provided single and double sleeping rooms for the participants, a conference room, and several common rooms.

The participants met on Thursday afternoon in Jena, and then were transferred to the castle by a rented coach. At the meeting point, participants already involved in casual conversation while having coffee at a local roasting facility. Thursday night we had a get together Barbeque in the castle’s garden. A special social activity was scheduled on Friday night, where the group had a nice walk of 45 minutes to Manor Positz for dinner. The centuries old manor farm provided a historical setting while serving a great buffet of local and international dishes.

Topics and schedules

The scheduled talks started on Friday morning by nine o’clock and continued until Sunday noon. The keynote talks were held on Friday and Saturday morning. Keynote talks were granted 45 minutes with an additional 15 minutes of discussion. The two full days, Friday and Saturday, contained each three sessions of two talks, separated by coffee or lunch breaks. The main theme on Friday focused on alternative approaches to justice, regarding recognition and respect. Saturday’s main topics were consequence of social inequality concerning social change and personal well-being. On Sunday morning, we held two sessions about intergroup processes in stereotyping and helping behavior in unequal situations. Each talk was scheduled for 45 minutes, containing 20 to 25 minutes of discussion in the group. The talks were arranged in the following order:


  • Thomas Kessler (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena): Authoritarianism: three facets providing insides in intra- and intergroup processes
  • Daniela Renger (Christian Albrechts University Kiel): When Less Equal is Less Human: Equality-based Respect and the Experience of Being Human
  • Kyriaki Fousiani (Catholic University Louvain): The Role of Emotion in Distribution of Justice: The Infrahumanization Theory Paradigm
  • Catharina Decker (University of Hamburg): The Effect of Leader Group Prototypicality and Respectful Leadership on Follower Initiative
  • Annalisa Casini (University of Brussels): (Re)Thinking Professional Recognition: Concept, Measurement and Consequences for Workers’ Well -being
  • Larissa Nägler (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena): Fostering positive relations through respectful encounters: The role of respect in reconciliation
  • Sven Waldzus & Nuno Costa (University Institute of Lisbon): Inequality is Not the Problem. What Matters is Relational Trouble


  • Jolanda Jetten (University of Queensland): The Wealth Paradox: Economic Prosperity and the Hardening of Attitudes
  • Maria Chayinska (University of Limerick/ University of Milan): "I act because I believe": How the Perceived Legitimacy of Protest Affects Collective Action Intentions in Ukraine
  • Maja Kutlaca (University of Groningen): The Role of Values and Value Violations in Motivating Social Change
  • Siwar Hasan-Aslih (University of Groningen/ The Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya): The Complexity of Hope: Hope Can Decrease Collective Action Intentions among the Disadvantaged
  • Russell Spears (University of Groningen): Nothing to Lose: Desperate Circumstances Require Desperate Measures
  • Diana Bakalova (Bulgarian Academy of Science): Life Satisfaction among the Largest Ethnic Communities in Bulgaria: the Effects of Ethnic Identification, Economic Inequalities, Social Justice Beliefs and Regional Ethnic Diversity
  • Daan Scheepers (University of Leiden): Inter-group Status Differences as Challenge or Threat: The Role of Legitimacy


  • Anna Kende (Eötvös Loránd University): Modelling Prejudice Expression Based on Prevailing Perceptions of Target Groups
  • Laura Fröhlich (University of Hagen): Competence Stereotypes Predict Student Teachers’ Causal Attributions for Immigrants’Academic Underperformance
  • David Urschler (University of Regensburg): Can Helping Lead to More Inequality?
  • Shira Kremer-Sharon (University of Haifa): Can Our Own Victimization Lead Us to Help the Less Fortunate? The Role of Victim Category Accessibility

Outcomes and Conclusion

The special setting of providing large timeframes for discussion enabled in-depth conversation on each single topic. The discussions were chaired by one of the 10 researchers from the University of Jena, who structured the contributions. Each presenter received very detailed and thoughtful feedback from all attending researchers. Due to the nice atmosphere of the workshop, discussions evolved to be very vivid and fruitful. Then the topics continued to be discussed during breaks and in the evening. Researchers who worked on similar topics bonded over their communalities, whereas others found matches in research themes where they did not expect it. We hope the relations that evolved throughout the meeting consist and lead to cooperative future research. Overall, we think we completed our goal to provide a framework for scientific exchange on justice that includes different psychological perspectives from recognition to inequality. Denied recognition of others, as well as high inequality are perceived unjust and have negative outcomes on well-being and social relations. On the one side this contains being perceived less human, being granted less rights, not recognizing the other’s needs and being treated less respected than expected; on the other side this could involve receiving living in circumstances where some receive less resources or status or voice (etc.) than others. Whereas injustice on those different dimensions leads to engagement in the fostering of social change, just interactions could stabilize relations. However considering that justice is a very ambiguous concept, one carefully has to consider when ”illusory” equality leads to stagnated conflictive relations and when personal concepts of justice do not overlap with the given political and social praxis.
We received a lot of positive feedback from the participants, who enjoyed both, the scientific as well as the social part. The up-to date topic, the diversity of researchers that were invited, and the special setting in Castle Oppurg, the workshop turned out to be a full success. We want to thank all the participants who attended the workshop for their valuable contributions and their great commitment, as well as the wonderful social time we spent together.

Related content: