Research

My main aim in research is to understand how people form opinions and make decisions, focusing particularly on the role of emotion. I use a multi-method approach (data-visualization techniques, controlled lab experiments, ecologically valid field experiments).

One strand of research focuses on the persuasive effects of emotional cues (humor, music, drama) on consumer decisions. My main interest is on humor, an recently my particular focus is on the impact of stage comedy (cabaret) on agenda-setting and attitudes. I developed a model that explains and predicts the influence of humor on brand attitudes and choice (Strick et al., 2013), which is covered in consumer psychology courses in and outside the Netherlands (e.g., in Nijmegen, Leiden, Salzburg) and in books in advertising (e.g., Fennis & Stroebe, 2016). In recent studies (e.g., Strick et al., 2015), I applied this model to other domains of persuasion (music, drama).

Another strand of research focuses on when and why following one’s feelings in complex personal decisions increases decision quality and well-being. This line of work also focused on dissociations between short-term and long-term opinion formation. My work on Unconscious Thought Theory resulted in several papers, including a meta-analysis (Strick et al., 2011). Recently, we wrote a comprehensive review on our work on Unconscious Thought Theory, which is currently in press at Perspectives on Psychological Science.

One aspect of decision-making I currently focus on is the role of implicit motives. Implicit motives are unconscious motivational needs that affect people’s physiological and behavioral responses to social situations. Research on implicit motives typically focuses on three fundamental social motives: the need for affiliation, the need for power, and the need for achievement. People with a strong need for affiliation enjoy having close, harmonious relations with others, people with a strong need for power enjoy influencing or dominating others, while people with a strong need for achievement enjoy doing something well or improve on a task.

For example, we are looking at whether people’s implicit motives unconsciously shape their responses to persuasive messages (e.g., as a function of whether the are framed in “affiliation” or “achievement” terms) and whether they guide peoples’ behavioral choices and well-being (e.g., whether a high implicit need for achievement increases peoples’ choice for challenging tasks, and whether they enjoy those tasks more).

In these research endeavors, I collaborate with professor Henk Aarts (cognitive and neural understanding of social behavior), professor Kees van den Bos (social influence, emotion, morality), professor Hans Hoeken (media influence, persuasive communication), and professor Peter van der Heijden (methods & statistics) at Utrecht University. On a national level, I collaborate with professor Giseline Kuipers (Sociology, University of Amsterdam), an expert on humor and taste cultures, and with Dr. Hanneke Hendriks (Communication Science, ASCoR, University of Amsterdam), an expert on content analyses of on-line and off-line social conversation. Internationally, I collaborate with professor Michaela Wänke (Consumer Psychology, University of Mannheim, Germany), expert in the field of experimental research on persuasion, professor Eddie Harmon-Jones (Social Emotive Neuroscience Lab, University of New South Wales, Australia), expert on emotion, and professor Joshua Greene (Experimental Psychology, Harvard University, US), expert on the psychology of morality.

Furthermore, I collaborate with various non-scientific organizations (e.g., STER Hilversum, Tabula Rasa, Radboud Hospital Nijmegen) to investigate potential applications of psychological theory to understand societal issues. For my research on the societal impact of cabaret, I collaborate with comedian Guido Weijers.