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The Relational Grammar of Social Life

How do we know how, when and where to relate to others?

About the project

Humans are an ultra-social species. All children must learn and everybody must track which people are friends or foes, peers, leaders or subordinates; and what kinds of likely and normative actions this signifies: When to share (or not), take turns (or no t), take directions and follow orders (or not). These social rules are rarely discussed explicitly in, and before, everyday social interactions. Yet we usually apply them seamlessly, even when generating new social relationships. How do we know how, when and where to relate to others?

Objectives

The present research program investigates whether we co-ordinate social life using a relational grammar that consists of

1) universal, core kinds of relations (communion, hierarchy, and equality, represented image-schema tically as overlap, pyramidal, and level structures);

2) innate or very early-developing attention to / understanding of these kinds of relations and their cues;

3) a proto-syntax for interpreting their (recursive) combinatorics (e.g. the difference between communal hierarchy and hierarchical communion).

The research program will also investigate

4) the neural implementation in the brain of these relational core concepts and motives.

Finally,

5) a 3-wave, fully-funded panel (N=2000) will test how basic relational motives and perceptions relate to social and political attitudes across 4 years, including democratic challenges such as xenophobia and support for terror, as well as how psychological and physiological health relates to elementary relat ional perceptions and motives, matching this data to very high-quality, Danish registry records.

Financing

The Research Council of Norway (FRIHUMSAM - Research project) 2014 - 2020.

Publications

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  • Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Innate Building-blocks of Political Psychology.
  • Eidjar, Oda; Kjos Fonn, Erik; Haugane Zahl, Joakim & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Seeking out the majority: Preverbal expectations whether third parties will join the larger group.
  • Kjos Fonn, Erik; Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Eidjar, Oda & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Early-developing Coalitional Preferences: Most male, but not female, pre-verbal infants and pre-schoolers prefer members of larger groups.
  • Thomsen, Lotte; Kjos Fonn, Erik; Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Eidjar, Oda & Carey, Susan (2019). The structure of dominance: Preverbal infants map pyramidal position to social dominance.
  • Eftedal, Nikolai Haahjem; Kleppestø, Thomas Haarklau; Røysamb, Espen; Vassend, Olav; Ystrøm, Eivind & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Moral opportunism: A unique genetic grounding associates lesser guilt from perpetrating injustice with greater sensitivity to being the victim of it.
  • Kjos Fonn, Erik; Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Eidjar, Oda & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Early-developing Coalitional Preferences: Most male, but not female, pre-verbal infants and pre-schoolers prefer members of larger groups.
  • Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Kjos Fonn, Erik; Eidjar, Oda & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Return the Favor: Preverbal Infants Represent Direct Reciprocity under Resource Scarcity.
  • Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Kjos Fonn, Erik; Eidjar, Oda & Thomsen, Lotte (2019). Return the Favor: Preverbal Infants Represent Direct Reciprocity under Resource Scarcity,
  • Kleppestø, Thomas Haarklau; Czajkowski, Nikolai Olavi; Vassend, Olav; Røysamb, Espen; Eftedal, Nikolai Haahjem & Kunst, Jonas R. [Show all 8 contributors for this article] (2019). Social dominance orientation has both genetic and unique environmental influences, but only genetic pleiotropy accounts for its correlation with political attitudes.
  • Thomsen, Lotte (2018). Innate Relational Representations and Motives.
  • Thomsen, Lotte; Haugane Zahl, Joakim; Kjos Fonn, Erik & de Born, Victoria (2018). Preschoolers use gratitude as a cue for future altruism.
  • Prendergast, Claire Nicole & Thomsen, Lotte (2017). ‘Selvations’ in Social Motivation . Social justice research. ISSN 0885-7466. 30(3), p. 1–8. doi: 10.1007/s11211-017-0289-y.
  • H. Kleppestø, Thomas; Czajkowski, Nikolai Olavi; Vassend, Olav; Røysamb, Espen; R. Kunst, Jonas & Thomsen, Lotte (2017). Preferring domination or egalitarianism: Genetic and environmental structure of Social Dominance Orientation.
  • Thomsen, Lotte (2017). Core Relational Cognition.
  • Thomas, Ashley J.; Abramyan, Meline; Lukowski, Angela & Thomsen, Lotte (2016). Preferring the Mighty to the Meek: Toddlers Prefer Novel Dominant Agents.
  • Thomsen, Lotte; Obaidi, Milan; Sheehy-Skeffington, Jennifer; Kteily, Nour & Sidanius, Jim (2014). Individual differences in relational motives interact with the political context to produce terrorism and terrorism-support. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. ISSN 0140-525X. 37(4), p. 377–378. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X13003579.

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Published Oct. 21, 2016 2:17 PM - Last modified Oct. 16, 2017 7:41 PM

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Participants

Detailed list of participants