July 2024

New Paper in Political Psychology

In five studies we explore why people engage in political censorship and test a potential route to decreasing censorship. While Americans report being generally supportive of free speech and against censorship (Study 1), we find that people censor material that seems harmful and false (Study 2), which are often ideas from political opponents (Study 3). Building on work demonstrating the perceived truth of harmful experiences (i.e., experiences of victimization), we test an experience-sharing intervention to reduce censorship. Among college students, the intervention indirectly decreased students' willingness to censor controversial campus speakers' ideas, through reducing beliefs that these speakers were sharing harmful and false ideas related to gun policy (Study 4). We also find benefits of sharing harmful experiences related to the abortion debate. Americans were less willing to censor and report the social media posts of opponents who base their views on experiences of victimization rather than scientific findings (Study 5).


Access the paper (open access) here



July 2024

Paper published in Human Communication Research (HCR)


Emily and Christian's paper "The polarizing content warning: how the media can reduce affective polarization" was recently published in Human Communication Research (HCR); open accesses, you can read the paper here 


The paper examines how journalists can report on the realities of growing political polarization in the United States without dividing people further.


Emily and Christian conducted 5 pre-registered experimental studies (N = 3,414) and develop the polarizing content warning which, based on inoculation theory, warns readers that scientific research suggests reading news content about political polarization may drive further affective polarization.


The results indicate that the polarizing content warning can be used both with online news articles and on social media sites, and is able to indirectly reduce affective polarization of readers. Additionally, the polarizing content warning is beneficial both when presented alongside news content and beforehand, and reduces readers’ perceptions of societal polarization, in turn reducing affective polarization.


This warning allows journalists to report on societal polarization without further dividing people.   



February 2024

Is there a Taylor Swift Effect on Bidens re-election?

... Christian gave the Miami Herald his take on this. In a nutshell: Yes, there could be a Taylor Swift effect, but there are also possible unintended effects. The full news article is available here: Link


February 2024

Emily's NEW paper on Victimhood & Politics now available

Gray, K. & Kubin, E. (accepted). Victimhood: The Most Powerful Force in Morality and Politics. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology.

A Preprint is available at:



September 2023

Estel Huh gives invited talk at Ewha University, Seoul, South Korea

At her invited talk, Estel Huh spoke about the changes journalism is undergoing due to artificial intelligence (AI). She presented our studies on AI journalism and explored how people in modern media environments react to news written by AI. The talk joins the work Estel is conducting in our Lab as part of her PhD research. Well done Estel!



august 2023

christian and emily edit special issue on media and polarization

Access Special Issue here

IJoC Publishes a Special Section on The
Adobe Acrobat Dokument 165.3 KB

JunE/July 2023

SCOPE: New Research Project starts in 2024

Christian will be Co-PI of the research project "SCOPE" (Societal COmmunication in times of PErmacris") that will be funded by the State Ministry of Science and Health. Christian will conduct research on the topic of political polarization in times of crisis collaborating with colleagues from RPTU. The project starts in 2024 and runs until 2028 (total amount: € 1.050.000).


new research project: Reduction of political polarization

Christian was recently awarded a new research grant as single PI to study ways to reduce political polarization and the role of (social) media. The project is funded by the Schlieper foundation (2023-2024; total amount: € 25.000).


May 2023

ICA TOP paper award for Pascal and Christian

Foto: (Silje Kristiansen, Head of ICA's Environmental Communication division, Pascal, Christian).

Pascal and Christian received the Environmental Communication division's TOP PAPER AWARD at the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in Toronto, Canada. The paper "Act now! How Social Media Influencers' Climate Change Communication Affects Collective Environmental Action Intentions" was awarded as the best faculty paper. Congratulations! 


May 2023

PPC LAB at ICA conference in Toronto


Our Lab will be present with papers at the ICA conference in Toronto, Canada again this year. We will present 5 papers, and in addition, another paper by Pascal Merz on Social Media Influencers has been accepted at the Environmental Communication Division PhD event. 


The following papers will be presented in Toronto:


Merz, P., & von Sikorski, C. (2023). Act now! How social media Influencers' climate change communication affects collective environmental action intentions. Paper presentation (Environmental Communication division) at the annual conference of the International Communication Association Conference (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.

von Sikorski, C. (2023). The Greta Thunberg effect revisited: News about Greta Thunberg’s climate activism increases collective efficacy beliefs and predicts collective action intentions. Paper presentation (Environmental Communication division) at the annual conference of the International Communication Association Conference (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.

Christner, C., Merz, P., Barkela, B., Jungkunst, H., & von Sikorski, C. (2023). Combatting climate disinformation: Comparing the effectiveness of correction placement and type. Paper presentation (Environmental Communication division) at the annual conference of the International Communication Association Conference (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.

Kubin, E., & von Sikorski, C. (2023). The polarizing content warning: How the media can reduce affective polarization. Paper presentation (Journalism Studies division) at the annual conference of the International Communication Association Conference (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.

Kubin, E., & von Sikorski, C. (2023). Reducing political dehumanization by pairing facts with personal experiences. Paper presentation (Mass Communication division) at the annual conference of the International Communication Association Conference (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.



April 2023

Emily Kubin successfully defended her dissertation


Emily Kubin recently defended her dissertation "Understanding the Role of Media in Political Divisions and Re-Imagining How We Can Bridge Divides" with great success.
The PPC Lab sincerely congratulates her on this great success! Very well done Emily!


The committee included Dr. Christian von Sikorski as first reviewer, Dr. Stephan Winter the second reviewer, and Dr. Michaela Maier as chair of the committee. 


OCtober 2022

Special Issue on Social Media Influencers


We are excited to announce that we will guest edit a special issue at American Behavioral Scientist on "Social Media Influencers: Content and Effects on Citizens’ Attitudes and Behavior". The guest editorial team consists of Raffael Heiss (MCI Innsbruck), Kathrin Karsay, and Desirée Schmuck (KU Leuven) as well as Pascal and Christian.


We are looking forward to receive abstracts by December 15, 2022 (see full call for papers for more information and timeline see here)




NEW Editorial Board Membership


Christian was recently invited to join the editorial board of the academic journal Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research.


May 2022

Emily wins publication award

Emily’s first-author paper “Personal experiences bridge moral and political divides better than facts” was awarded the Behavioral Science and Policy Association Publication Award for Innovation in Behavioral Policy. This award is given to research that advances the rigorous application and development of behavioral and social science to policy and practice in public, private, and non-profit sections. The goal of this award is to encourage work that has the potential to improve the quality of life of individuals and/or organizations. 


Congrats Emily!



March 2022

Papers accepted at ISPP 2022 in Athens

Good news! Two papers were accepted for the upcoming ISPP conference in Athens, Greece. Congrats everybody!


Kubin, E., von Sikorski, C., & Gray, K. (2022). Understanding and reducing the censorship of political opponents. Paper presentation at the 45nd annual scientific meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), July 14-17, 2022, Athens, Greece.  


von Sikorski, C. (2022). The Greta Thunberg effect revisited: News about Greta Thunberg’s climate activism increase collective efficacy beliefs and predict collective action intentions. Paper presentation at the 45nd annual scientific meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), July 14-17, 2022, Athens, Greece.



(Social)Media & POlarization: New open Access Paper

The Journal Annals of the International Communication Association recently published Emily's and Christian's review paper (open access) on "The role of (social) media in political polarization".


In the paper they systematically examine 94 articles (121 studies) that assess the role of (social) media in shaping political polarization. Using quantitative and qualitative approaches, they find an increase in research over the past 10 years and consistently find that pro-attitudinal media exacerbates polarization. They find a hyperfocus on analyses of Twitter and American samples and a lack of research exploring ways (social) media can depolarize. Additionally, they find ideological and affective polarization are not clearly defined, nor consistently measured. Recommendations for future research are provided.



Also, our research was discussed at Tech Policy podcast (w/Justin Hendrix). Emily spoke to Justin, the podcast is called "A Whistleblower, Facebook, Social Media & Polarization" and can accessed here.


May 2021

New paper: How do journalists cover terrorism?

The journal Journalism recently published our paper in which we examined how Muslims are depicted in connection with Islamist terrorism and to what extent journalists use undifferentiated coverage – that actively links Muslims to terrorism – and differentiated coverage that actively differentiates Muslims from terrorism. We conducted a quantitative content analysis (12 quality/tabloid newspapers from three countries, N = 1071 articles). Results reveal that undifferentiated coverage occurs in almost every other article. Differentiation occurs much less. Tabloids use undifferentiated and differentiated coverage in fact-oriented and opinion-oriented articles. Quality news only do so in opinion-oriented articles. Proximity of a terror event resulted in more undifferentiated and less differentiated coverage. Results have important implications for journalism practice, terrorism research and intergroup relations. Check out the paper (open access) here.



Feburary 2021

ISPP: Successful Submissions

Two submissions accepted at the annual conference for the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP)

Emily’s project (co-authors: Curtis Puryear and Kurt Gray, University of North Carolina) entitled “The Power of Personal Experience (not Facts) in Reducing Political Polarization: Implications for Scientists” was accepted for a data blitz presentation.


Christian’s paper entitled “Protection or Disappointment? How the Interplay of Scandal Severity and Party Identification Affects Emotional Reactions and the Evaluation of Scandalous Politicians” was accepted for paper presentation.


September 2020

TOP10 in Germany

We are pleased to announce that the Institute for Communication Psychology at University Koblenz-Landau (at Landau)  – and thus the Political Psychology & Communication Lab – has been included in the Shanghai University Ranking in the field of “Media and Communication” for the first time and was ranked in the German TOP10 (between position 6 and 8, depending on the criterion). Worldwide, our institute is among the best 150 universities in the field of media and communication. 


Congrats everyone!


March 2020


I was recently interviewed by Süddeutsche Zeitung’s news portal for young readers ( on the political implications of the Corona epidemic. The interview can be accessed here (German language)

November 2019

Fresh from the press... new open access article in political psychology

I am happy to announce that our panel study (together with Raffael Heiss from Innsbruck and Jörg Matthes from Vienna) on the eroding and spillover effects of political scandals recently appeared in Political Psychology. The article is Open Access and available online for free (link).


We tested the effects of a political scandal in the context of the 2017 Austrian Parliamentary Elections using panel data. The data set is unique. We were able to collect data before and just after a major scandal broke in the final election phase. Our results show a scandal-eroding effect particularly damaging a candidate's own base of supporters leaving followers in disappointment. We also find a scandal spillover effect for candidate supporters high in scandal knowledge decreasing trust toward other politicians.

Check out the article here.


2019 Gene Burd Top paper award

I am very happy to announce that we (Desi Schmuck, University of Vienna and I) received this years Gene Burd Top Paper Award at AEJMC's annual conference (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) in Toronto, Canada. We received the award for our paper "Social Bots as a Threat for Digital Democracy? How News Coverage Can Empower Media Users". 

JULY 2019

New open access article in political communication

The journal Political Communication recently published our article "A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Cross-Cutting Exposure on Political Participation". The meta-analysis examined potential negative or positive effects between individuals' cross-cutting exposure and their political participation. First, we find that there is no such relationship. Second, the null relationship cannot be explained by variations in the characteristics of cross-cutting environments, participation outcomes, or methods employed. Taken together, these results should alleviate concerns about negative effects of cross-cutting exposure. See the full article here (no paywall).

JUNE 2019


Great news! At this years International Communication Association's (ICA) conference (Washington D.C.), I received the TOP Faculty Paper Award of the Journalism Studies division (as lead author, together with Desirée Schmuck, Jörg Matthes, Claudia Klobasa, Helena Kupfer, & Melli Saumer, all: U of Vienna, Austria). We received the award for our paper "Do journalists differentiate between Muslims and Islamist terrorists? A content analysis of terrorism news coverage". Time to celebrate!

JUNE 2019

DEP of Communication, U of Vienna ranked 13 in the world

My former department at University of Vienna was recently ranked top 13 in the world. This is really impressive and a massive increase after rank 41 in 2017 and rank 26 in 2018. I am proud to have spent four years of my academic life at this research institution. More infos here. 

May 2019

New Paper (Open Access) in Media Psychology

The journal Media Psychology recently published our new paper "Not Practicing What They Preached!". In the paper, we tested how ex-politicians' hypocritical behavior affects their former party as well as spillover effects on the political elite more generally. In two experiments we tested what happens when a political actor leaves the political arena and then acts in fundamental opposition to standpoints he originally campaigned for while still in office. We find that an ex-politician's hypocritical behavior (i.e., working for a controversial company after leaving politics) severely damages his former party as well as citizens' political trust toward the political elite more generally. Importantly, these spillover effects can be explained by both an attitudinal as well as an emotional process. The article appeared open access and can be accessed for free here.

APRIL 2019


A new chapter (together with Jürgen Maier and Carolin Jansen) on the media framing of the plagiarism scandal of former German Secretary of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg appeared in the The Routledge Companion to Media and Scandal edited by Howard Tumber and Silvio Waisbord. In the study, we compare the framing of five German newspapers (FR, SZ, FAZ, Die Welt, BILD). Results show that Guttenberg's coverage in the German tabloid BILD was much more positive compared to all other newspapers.

April 2019

invited Talk on "Threatening News" & Effects of Terrorism CoveraGe

On Friday and Saturday (April 5/6), I joined a very exciting workshop funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) at University of Stuttgart, Germany. The workshop "Perceived threats and their consequences for political attitudes and behaviour" was organized by Eva-Maria Trüdinger (University of Stuttgart, Germany). Scholars from different areas examining threat and threat perceptions presented their work. I gave an invited talk ("Threatening news: Examining the effects of terror news on anti-Muslim attitudes, policy preferences, and political attitudes") on the role of terrorism news for citizens' threat perceptions.

APRIL 2019

new job: assistant professor of political psychology

I am very happy to announce that I started my new position as Assistant Professor of Political Psychology (tenure track) at the Institute for Communication Psychology and Media Education  University Koblenz-Landau (at Landau), Germany. I am really looking forward to working with my new colleagues in Landau! My research and teaching will focus on political psychology and political communication. 

February 2019

Paper published in political psychology

The journal Political Psychology recently published our paper entitled "Terror, Terror Everywhere? How Terrorism News Shape Support for Anti‐Muslim Policies as a Function of Perceived Threat Severity and Controllability".

We used a quota‐based online experiment (N = 501) revealing that news articles featuring a high number of offenders increase individuals' fear of terror irrespective of whether the threat was portrayed as controllable or not. News articles featuring a low number of offenders only evoked fear of terror if the threat was portrayed as diffuse. Additionally, news articles emphasizing a high number of offenders combined with a controllable terrorism threat elicited anger on the government. Both anger and fear of terror subsequently increased anti‐Muslim policy support.

The paper is open access and available here.

january 2019

new papaer on multimodal framing effects

International Journal of Communication recently published our paper (together with Johannes Knoll): "Framing Political Scandals: Exploring the Multimodal Effects of Isolation Cues in Scandal News Coverage on Candidate Evaluations and Voting Intentions". It is available open access here.


Article Published Online First in Communication research

The journal Communication Research recently published our article "The Islamic State in the News: Journalistic Differentiation of Islamist Terrorism From Islam, Terror News Proximity, and Islamophobic Attitudes". The paper (open access) is available here.


research paper covered in US-Based Science Magazine

INVERSE covered our study recently published in Media Psychology.

The article "Psychology Explains How Taylor Swift Caused a Surge in US Vote Registration" can be accessed here.


Research mentioned in "the Conversation"

An article in the international media outlet "The Conversation" reports about one of our studies on the effects of news differentiation between Islam and terrorism on Islamophobic attitudes. The article describes the importance of explicitly differentiating between Islam/Muslims and Terrorism in news reports. See the article here:



AEJMC conference Washington D.c.

Top Article Award for the best paper (von Sikorski, C., Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Binder, A., 2017. “Muslims are not Terrorists”: Islamic State Coverage, Journalistic Differentiation between Terrorism and Islam, Fear Reactions, and Attitudes toward Muslims. Mass Communication and Society, 20(6), 825-848) published in the Journal Mass Communication & Society in 2017. Jörg (middle) and I (right) with Matthew Barnidge who also received an AEJMC award this year.


Interview on political scandals in "DER FALTER"



GUEST EDITORS: Sigurd allern & Christian von Sikorski