Enseignants, assistants, collaborateurs scientifiques et administratifs

Staerklé Christian

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Axes de recherche

My research activities are interdisciplinary, multi-method and cross-national. They are located at the intersection between social and political psychology and contribute to a societal approach of social psychology. My research refers to relevant work in related social science disciplines such as sociology, political science, and communication, but remains firmly anchored in social psychological research paradigms and theoretical models.
Most of my research is concerned with asymmetric intergroup relations across different social and political contexts (e.g., between national minorities and majorities, between the “people” and the “elite”, between high- and low status groups). My studies examine socio-cognitive, identity-based and normative processes that emerge from such asymmetric intergroup contexts, and relate them to socially relevant, contemporary issues (e.g., populism, social inequality, vulnerability, multiculturalism, life-course transitions). The analysis of these processes is based on an interdisciplinary social representations perspective that combines theories of intergroup relations, social legitimacy, and ideological beliefs. In terms of methods, I mainly analyse national and cross-national survey data, but I also use experimental approaches, as well as qualitative methods such as focus groups and interviews. My current research is organized around four axes that often intersect with each other:

Populist representations
In this axis, we examine the social and roots and psychological processes underlying populist forms of social order, understood as widespread, yet heterogeneous conceptions of society based in an irreconcilable opposition between a morally superior “people” and an immoral “elite”. Our study programme follows an interdisciplinary, multi-method, and cross-national framework to study the attitudinal structure, antecedents, and outcomes of left- and right-wing populist representations across (mainly) European countries. In our research, we use both secondary survey data (e.g., ESS) and our own cross-national survey data from the Populist Representations Survey (10 countries). We further develop experiments examining the role of uncertainty, emotions, and relative deprivation in the formation of populist attitudes, and we also carry out interviews and focus group discussions with young people to reach a deeper understanding of the individual, group-based and contextual factors underlying populist thinking and behaviour.

Collaborators : Matteo Cavallaro (Postdoc), Anna Cortijos-Bernabeu (PhD), Vanessa Juarez (PhD), Jérôme Voumard (PhD)

Contemporary Youth: Transitions, Well-being, and Political Behaviour
This research has emerged in the framework of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) LIVES: Overcoming vulnerability. It develops a social psychological approach to life course transitions in young adults, and extends it to the study of young people’s well-being, health, and political behaviour. The research analyses how young adults experience and regulate life course transitions, how they cope with subjective and objective forms of vulnerability, and how they construe themselves as members of a political and civic community. We also develop a framework bridging social identity and social network approaches that studies how group membership and personal networks promote or hinder successful coping with life course challenges. Some studies focus on young adults in general, whereas others examine the construction of representations of the political in low status groups (e.g., apprentices, vocational students). In this research, we use a variety of methods, including survey data (e.g, nation-wide survey of army recruits), experiments and qualitative approaches (focus groups).

Collaborators : Eric Widmer (UNIGE), Anahita Mehrpour (PhD), Vanessa Juarez (PhD)

Cultural diversity and multiculturalism
A longstanding research interest concerns various topics related to cultural diversity and multiculturalism. In this research, I focus on the asymmetrical relations between national minorities and majorities and use a social justice approach to examine attitudes towards minorities, majorities, and cultural diversity in general. A basic claim in these studies (with Jessica Gale) is that different types of social justice principles regulate the relations between minorities and majorities: majorities are associated with various forms of individual justice, whereas minorities are associated with forms of collective (group-based) justice. In other studies (with Emanuele Politi), we have looked at the social psychological implications of national citizenship (naturalization) policies that regulate the passage from (immigrant) minority to (national) majority groups.

Collaborators : Jessica Gale (U Leuven, UNIL), Emanuele Politi (U Leuven), Eva Green (UNIL)

Social justice, welfare, and inequality
A fourth axis of research is focused on attitudes towards social justice and inequality. We examine formation of public opinion towards social policies mainly in the context of national welfare state arrangements (“welfare attitudes”). These studies rely on national and international survey data, and seek to understand the psychological, social, and contextual factors that underlie opposition to or support of various (redistributive) social policies. These studies highlight the often conflicting and ambivalent role of subjective evaluations of one’s social position, in terms of perceived material vulnerability and different types of relative deprivation. They also emphasize the importance of social and institutional trust in the development of social justice attitudes.



Projets FNS

Towards a social psychological approach of populism: Testing the Populist Representations Model across four European countries
2020 - 2024
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
Autres collaborateurs-trices:  Xenia Chryssochoou, Nikos Kalampalikis, Inari Sakki
The psychological roots and processes of populism remain poorly understood. The present proposal fills this gap with an ambitious research programme to study the attitudinal structure, antecedents and outcomes of populist representations in a cross-national perspective. Based in social and political psychology, our research offers new insights for an ideational approach to populism that considers populist thinking to define significant and heterogeneous segments of contemporary national populations It features an interdisciplinary framework to study populist representations across four European countries that have witnessed a significant rise of populist movements: Switzerland, Finland, France and Greece.
On the basis of a newly developed Populist representations model, we first examine the structure of populist representations underlying different types of populism. Second, in a "demand-side" approach to populism, we examine the role of psychological "self-appraisal" antecedents (relative deprivation, perceived political inefficacy, and anomy) in explaining populist support. Third, we uncover outcomes of populist representations in terms of attitudes towards social justice and inequality-regulating policies. Fourth, we investigate the temporal development of populist representations over the last two decades in the four countries.
We use longitudinal survey data from the European Social Survey from the four countries covering the period between 2002 and 2018 (N =54'870). We also collect data for our own Populist Representations Survey across the four countries (N = 700 in each country). Complementing the correlational survey data, a series of four experimental studies in Switzerland (N = 900) tests the hypothesis that populism is fuelled by an identity motive to belong to a homogenous and consensual society of like-minded citizens. Our research design on populist representations is thus cross-nationally comparative, correlational, longitudinal and experimental.

Explaining vulnerability by meso-level mechanisms - NCCR LIVES Phase III
2019 - 2023
Requérant·e: Leen Vandcasteele, Jean-Michel Bonvin
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Laura Bernardi, André Berchtold, Felix Bühlmann, Fabrizio Butera, Jean-Luc Heeb, Caroline Roberts, Dario Spini, Christian Staerklé, Jean-Pierre Tabin, Fréderic Varone, Eric Widmer
X.4.1 Research Question: How do meso-level structures such as social groups and personal networks promote or hinder coping with vulnerability?

PhD Anahita Mehrpour (Co-Supervision with Eric Widmer, UNIGE)

Life-course vulnerability within social contexts Developing a dynamic, multidimensional and multilevel approach to vulnerability - NCCR LIVES Phase II
2015 - 2018
Requérant·e: Dario Spini, Felix Bühlmann
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Claudio Bolzman, Olivier Fillieule, Jean-Luc Heeb, George Michel, Christian Staerkle, Leen Vandecasteele
L'IP201 a pour objectif le développement d'un modèle multidimensionnel, dynamique et contextualisé de la vulnérabilité, définie comme un manque de ressources individuelles ou collectives exposant les individus ou les groupes à un risque élevé de connaître (1) des conséquences négatives liées à des sources de stress; (2) une incapacité à faire face de manière efficace à un facteur de stress; et (3) une incapacité à se remettre d'un facteur de stress ou de tirer parti d'occasions dans une période donnée. Cet IP recueille des données conjointement au troisième échantillon du Panel suisse de ménages (PSM-III) géré par FORS: l'enquête relative à la cohorte LIVES et le panel vaudois LIVES-FORS.

Supervision de la doctorante Adar Hoffman

Faire face à des événements critiques à l'âge de jeune adulte: Une approche normative de la vulnérabilité et de la régulation des parcours de vie - NCCR LIVES Phase I (IP9)
2011 - 2015
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Alain Clémence, Eva G.T. Green, Guy Elcheroth & Dario Spini
When confronted with important life events, individuals must adapt and engage in regulation strategies. Depending on the event, they may strive to optimally integrate it into their life course, they may seek to regain control over their lives, or they just want to minimise pain and suffering resulting from the event. Analysing the normative foundations of life courses and their regulation from a social psychological perspective, this project examines the relationships between different forms of vulnerability and different types of regulation strategies in response to normative and non-normative life events. It focuses on both individually and collectively experienced events occurring predominantly during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, in particular in the work and family spheres. The projected research is mainly based on longitudinal (SHP) and cross-sectional (ESS, ISSP, EVS) data analysis.

The dynamic nature of interethnic relations in Bulgaria: a social psychological perspective
2013 - 2016
Requérant·e: Eva Green
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé (UNIL), Yolanda Zografova & Antoaneta Hristova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)
FNS Bulgarian-Swiss Research Programme / Ministry of Education Bulgaria
Subside FNS de 314'754 CHF
Link to project website here

The social psychology of attitudes towards cultural diversity: A multilevel analysis in Switzerland
2009 - 2010
Requérant·e: Eva Green
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé, Alain Clémence
This project investigates the social and contextual foundations of individual attitudes towards cultural diversity and immigration in Switzerland. Based on a social psychological framework, we examine why citizens support or oppose integration of immigrants in a number of social domains, expressed for example in attitudes towards cultural diversity at the workplace, rights of asylum seekers, and laws prohibiting racism and discriminatory treatment. The research is carried out on existing national survey data on diversity and immigration. Our research tests competing predictions based on threat and intergroup contact theories on both the individual and the contextual level. While threat theories emphasize the negative impact of immigrant presence (either perceived as a material or a symbolic threat), contact theories focus on its positive consequences (based on positive experience with immigrants). By studying how well-established psychological processes underlying prejudice and discrimination are moderated by contextual, canton/municipality-level characteristics, this project aims to clarify the conditions under which threat or contact hypotheses are better suited to account for diversity attitudes. The project will evolve in three phases: (1) Databases which contain items on diversity attitudes, threat perceptions and contact are overviewed and an inventory of relevant items is created. In parallel, a context-level indicator database is created. (2) Comparable and reliable indicators across the databases are constructed. The social psychological meaning of cantons/municipalities as units of analysis is evaluated. (3) The predicted multilevel models (regression analyses and structural equations) are tested and cross-validated with different datasets.

Justice pénale internationale vécue par les accusés: Légitimité et responsabilité
2011 - 2012
Requérant·e: Paola Gaeta
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé, Robert Roth
Based on an interdisciplinary approach that combines expertise in international penal law and theory and methodology from social psychology, this research aims to contribute to the evaluation of the international criminal justice case law and its legitimacy with regard to the conventional objectives of criminal law (special deterrence, rehabilitation and retribution). Semi-directed interviews with 20 individuals who where accused and judged (convicted or acquitted) by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will be carried out. In-depth qualitative analysis, using thematic and typological methods, of the
interviewees' discourses concerning their perceptions of procedures and sanctions stemming from the ICTY, as well as of their criminal responsibility will be carried out. We will then evaluate the case law of international criminal jurisdictions by confronting it to the perceptions of convicted individuals. Demonstrating the feasibility of this research, a pilot interview with a person convicted by the ICTY has already been conducted. International criminal justice is currently at crossroads because of the imminent closure of international criminal Tribunals and the onset of trials at the International Criminal Court. The appraisal of the impact of these jurisdictions and their working in light of their objectives is essential, and the impact of this project therefore potentially significant.

Disciplinary attitudes: Punitiveness, social control and perceived legitimacy of authority
2007 - 2010
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
This research investigates differential attitudes towards institutional social control, referred to as disciplinary attitudes. Based on secondary analyses of national (e.g., Vox, Selects, SHP, MosaiCH) and international (e.g., Eurobarometer, ESS, ISSP) survey data, its goal is to examine the social foundations of perceived public legitimacy of disciplinary institutions such as the police and the legal system as well as the factors which shape public attitudes towards punitive and repressive policies. The project addresses public sentiments about the "punitive turn" which has marked the development of Western societies during the last two or three decades. By studying disciplinary attitudes, the project thus speaks to highly mediatised issues such as widespread feelings of urban insecurity, fear of youth violence, and the experience of social exclusion.
Two major processes are predicted to explain perceived legitimacy of authorities and support for disciplinary action: (1) Support for disciplinary action should be a strategy to enhance negative social identities associated with low status and socially excluded groups, because support for disciplinary action allows differentiating one-self positively from subjectively inferior groups. High-status groups, in turn, are more motivated to support the institutions which maintain their superior position in the social hierarchy. (2) Support for disciplinary action should reflect coping with perceived, plural threats to the social order. The project tests the hypothesis that disciplinary action is viewed as a response to groups perceived and constructed as threatening the social order, that is, to "bad" people (e.g., criminals), to free riders (e.g., welfare beneficiaries), to outgroups (e.g., immigrants) and to low-status groups (e.g., the poor).
Advanced statistical techniques, including Structural Equation Modelling and multilevel analyses, will be performed.

Collaborator: Régis Scheidegger (postdoc)

Perceived legitimacy of intergroup agression and collective punishment as a function of group value
2008 - 2012
Requérant·e: Juan-Manuel Falomir-Pichastor
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé, Fabrizio Butera
This project investigates factors which determine whether or not intergroup aggression is perceived as legitimate. Among the different forms of intergroup aggression, we emphasise collective punishment which refers to a process of retaliation against a group whose individual members are perceived as having violated important norms and rules. The main goal of the present project is to examine the hypothesis that the perceived legitimacy of intergroup aggression and collective punishment is based on the assumed moral value of groups. This research question has important implications for perceptions of conflicts occurring in the real world such as international military interventions. Prior research has shown that the political structure of conflicting groups in terms of a democratic-egalitarian or a non-democratic hierarchical organisation moderates the perceived legitimacy of intergroup aggression and collective punishment. For example, aggressions perpetrated by members of an egalitarian group at the expense of members of a hierarchical group were perceived as the most legitimate, compared to other configurations between conflicting groups. Three research directions will be undertaken: (1) examination of the relationship between political group structure (i.e. more or less democratic or egalitarian groups) and shared responsibility by group members. (2) testing of the hypothesis that asymmetrical moral value attributed to democratic and non-democratic groups actually constitutes the explanatory factor of the perceived differential legitimacy of aggressions. (3) study of the relationship between an explanation in terms of group value and an alternative explanation according to which differences in perceived legitimacy of intergroup aggressions are due to a social categorization in terms of ingroups and outgroups.

Rights, Identity and Legitimacy: A social representational approach of public attitudes towards social policies
2002 - 2004
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
Research project for the Advanced Researcher Fellowship (SNF), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Reinventing citizenship in South Caucasus : Exploring the dynamic and contradictions between formal conceptions and informal practices (CHF 40'000)
2000 - 2003
Requérant·e: Willem Doise
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Carine Bachmann, Christian Staerklé
SCOPES project in South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan)

Perception de l'Etat social dans un contexte de diversités et d'inégalités sociales
2000 - 2003
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Patricia Roux (co-requérante), Christophe Delay, Lavinia Gianettoni
Ce projet, effectué dans le cadre du PNR 45 Problèmes de l'Etat social, a examiné les facteurs qui déterminent le soutien ou le rejet de différents régimes de l'État social en Suisse. L'enquête basée sur 769 interviews individuelles a été effectuée en milieu urbain, à Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Berne et St. Gall. La majorité des personnes interrogées plaident en faveur d'un État social fort. Le soutien à l'AVS dans sa forme actuelle et dans son éventuelle extension est réel. La fidélité à la logique universaliste se fonde sur le sentiment d'insécurité économique et la perception d'inégalités entre catégories privilégiées et défavorisées. Les personnes issues de catégories sociales relativement défavorisées (par ex. les romands, les femmes, les personnes peu formées) sont davantage favorables à la logique universaliste de l'AVS que les autres personnes. En ce qui concerne l'assurance maladie, les opinions sont partagées entre le soutien aux politiques de solidarité (adaptation des primes aux revenus et financement fiscal) et le désir de réduire les coûts grâce aux contributions en fonction des comportements à risque ou à l'exclusion complète de certains risques (par ex. obésité). S'agissant de l'aide sociale, l'échantillon veut à la fois augmenter les budgets de l'assistance et cibler les prestations, obliger la réinsertion des bénéficiaires et renforcer les sanctions en cas d'abus. De façon générale, des sentiments diffus de perte de valeurs et de désordre social entraînent une volonté de contrôler et de sanctionner les individus dont le comportement paraît irresponsable ou immoral, par exemple en coupant les prestations sociales aux personnes étrangères. Des résultats supplémentaires concernent l'assurance maternité et le soutien aux droits collectifs attribués aux minorités (personnes avec handicap, homosexuels, etc.).

Programmes Européens

Welfare attitudes as responses to perceived risks and threats
2009 - 2011
Requérant·e: Christian Staerklé
This individual project is carried out within the framework of a European Science Foundation research programme (HumVIB: Human Values, Institutions and Behaviour) on Welfare attitudes in a changing Europe (directed by Stefan Svallfors, Umea University, Sweden)
This project investigates attitudes towards policies of social welfare, redistribution and social control held by citizens of 30 European countries. On the individual level, such "welfare attitudes" are viewed as individual responses deployed to cope with perceived risks (e.g., risk of unemployment, of being victimised) and societal threats (e.g., threat of a dangerous society, of freeriders taking advantage of the system, of a country loosing its national identity). Policy attitudes are thus seen as devices with which citizens aim to shape social order in a democratic society, for example by legitimising privileges granted to dominant groups in society, by punishing non-conformity, by favouring nationals over foreigners, or by correcting illegitimate inequalities. On the contextual level, a multilevel approach studies the impact of contextual and institutional factors of the 30 European countries under investigation (such as welfare regime, crime levels, social inequality or economic performance), on welfare and control attitudes, along with potential cross-level interactive effects. On a theoretical level, the project seeks to develop an empirically grounded model of the complex relationships in lay thinking between models of social justice and models of social control, and their origins in citizens' group membership and everyday life. Results will be based on data from the fourth round of the European Social Survey (to be released in September 2009) and in particular on its new module on welfare attitudes. Multilevel analyses and structural equation modelling will be the main analytical strategies.

Collaborateurs: Régis Scheidegger (postdoc), Tiina Likki (doc)


Contrats et Mandats

Question Design Team ESS4: Welfare Attitudes in a Changing Europe
2007 - 2009
Organisme subventionnaire: European Social Survey  (Grande-Bretagne)
Requérant·e: Stefan Svallfors
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé, Wim van Oorschot, Peter Taylor-Gooby, Jorgen Goul Andersen, John Hills, Steffen Mau
Module thématique de 50 items dans le European Social Survey (ESS Round 4)

Question Design Team ESS8: Welfare Attitudes in a Changing Europe: Solidarities under Pressure
2014 - 2106
Organisme subventionnaire: European Social Survey  (Grande-Bretagne)
Requérant·e: Wim van Oorschot
Autres collaborateurs-trices: Christian Staerklé, Staffan Kumlin, Bart Meuleman
Member of Question Design Team "Welfare Attitudes in a Changing Europe: Solidarities under Pressure" (Repeat thematic module in the ESS 8)


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