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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on EASP Meeting: Cognitive Conflicts: Taking a Cognitive Perspective on Social Phenomena

10.09.2019, by Tina Keil in meeting report

3rd-6th July, 2019 in Tübingen, Germany; Organizers: Daniela Becker¹, Roland Deutsch², Christina Heitmann², Tali Kleiman³, Kevin Winter¹

¹ Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien Tübingen, ² University of Würzburg,
³ The Hebrew University Jerusalem

Cognitive conflicts are ubiquitous in our everyday lives: starting with mundane decisions about what to eat for lunch, via the presence of conflicting goals or attitudes, through the question of whether or not to trust immigrants. Crossing the borders between social and cognitive psychology, 34 researchers from both disciplines (18 women and 16 men; 9 PhD students) covering a large spectrum of research questions came together in Tübingen (Germany). The result was an international and diverse set of participants from 11 countries: Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden, UK, Switzerland, USA, Iran, and Israel. The meeting was set in the scientific surrounding of Tübingen’s Max-Planck campus and accompanied by fantastic summer weather.

The meeting started out with a casual get together in Tübingen’s historic old town on Wednesday evening. Kicking off the scientific part of the meeting on Thursday morning, Roland Deutsch presented an overall theoretical framework of the meeting in which he pointed out the different levels at which conflicts can occur. Cognitive conflicts can occur on the micro level (e.g., response conflicts in a Stroop task), on a meso level (e.g., attitudinal or goal conflicts), or on the macro level (e.g., interpersonal or intergroup conflicts). Those three levels encompassed and structured the breadth of research that was going to be covered during the meeting. Participants were also encouraged to use this framework throughout the meeting to identify commonalities and differences among the different kinds of conflict. This created a focused and constructive atmosphere, in which participants discussed the presented research findings and overarching theoretical perspectives. These discussions continued during the breaks, the various social events including dinner with traditional regional (i.e., Swabian) cuisine and a boat trip on the river Neckar.

The two days were packed with a mix of full length and blitz talks of highest quality. On Thursday, the sessions were covering topics such as how conflict influences attentional processes and executive functions, how they relate to expectancy violations (e.g., surprise, belief change) and social phenomena (e.g., attitude change towards outgroups). Friday started with a session on the relationship between cognitive conflict and (negative) affect and continued with research on the different ways in which conflict influences information processing (e.g., multitasking, perspective taking, creativity). The final two slots were centered around the topics of ambivalence and cognitive dissonance.

At the end of the meeting there was the opportunity to reflect on how the meeting advanced our conceptualization of cognitive conflicts regarding the three suggested levels of conflict. Ideas about future projects (e.g., a special issue, a theory paper) were also discussed, as well as the possibility of having a similar meeting again in the future.

Quotes from participants

Thank you so much for organizing the best conference ever!!! […] At the scientific level, I was just mind blown and never heard so many great ideas at once. So also thank you for inviting all the brilliant people and arranging the program in a way that boosted our insights.
The overall theme of cognitive conflicts created a strong conceptual coherence among the different talks, while allowing a very diverse array of approaches, theoretical background, paradigms, and foci. This created an inspiring atmosphere that gave me new perspectives on my existing work, and sparked ideas for future research projects. The program, including diners and social events, was structured such that it allowed plenty of time to further discuss ideas with different researchers and connect to people that I before this conference did not know at all. Already at the conference I made plans for two collaborative projects.
Thank you for organizing this exceptional small group meeting in Tübingen. […] It was a very inspiring and motivating and fun experience […]. All the interesting single talks from different perspectives to me showed that social and cognitive psychologists really should interact more. So, thanks for making this happen!
I really enjoyed the conference. It was really nice to meet so many colleagues who have (at least somewhat) similar interests and use similar methods. I got the feeling we're getting somewhere. I don't know what that 'somewhere' is -- but I think a new joint consensus about the psychology of conflict may emerge. The city of Tübingen was just very welcoming and the event itself was extremely well organized and pleasant.

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