We are very happy to share that our paper “Negativity-bias in forming beliefs about own abilities” has finally been published. In this team effort, led by Dr. Laura Müller-Pinzler, we introduce a novel social learning paradigm, the LOOP (“learning of own performance” task), that mimics everyday life performance situations. Inferring prediction error (PE) learning rates by fitting computational learning models we assessed the modulatory influence of self-relatedness, prior beliefs, and the social context on belief updating.

We find a specific negativity bias for learning about own performances. Social anxiety affected self-related negativity biases only when individuals were exposed to a judging audience. This finding might explain the persistence of negative self-images in socially anxious individuals which commonly surfaces in social settings.

The manuscript is Open Access and can be downloaded under the following link:

Negativity-bias in forming beliefs about own abilities. Müller-Pinzler L, Czekalla N, Mayer AV, Stolz DS, Gazzola V, Keysers C, Paulus FM & Krach S. Sci Rep. 2019; Oct 8;  9:14416. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-50821-w


Alkoholabhängigkeit –  Was macht das Immunsystem?

Trotz der großen gesellschaftlichen Bedeutung sind die Ursachen für die Entstehung der Alkoholabhängigkeit bisher nur unzureichend verstanden. Ein neuer Forschungsansatz untersucht die Rolle des Immunsystems. Entzündungen im Körper können, wie bei der Depression gezeigt, auch bei Alkoholabhängigkeit bestehen und bei einer Untergruppe von Patienten eine neue Therapiemöglichkeit darstellen. Um Entzündungsparameter bei Alkoholabhängigkeit und ihren Zusammenhang mit der Psyche genauer zu untersuchen, führt die AG Soziale Neurowissenschaft aktuell eine klinische Studie durch welche die Referentin, Frau Johanna Voges am Abend vorstellen wird.



Why do we feel vicarious embarrassment? Frieder Paulus explores embarrassment on behalf of others at the University of Lübeck, Germany. He says that the main reason for feeling embarrassed is the violation of rules and conventions. Although the feeling of embarrassment itself is not particularly pleasant, it is generally something positive and constructive for the individual.

Check out the new podcast (only in German):

Eine junge Frau liegt auf dem Bett und hält ihre Hände vors Gesicht


From June 7th – June 14th several lab members presented their newest data at the Annual Meeting of the Organization of Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) in Rome.

  • “Self-attribution shifts affective, neural, and motivational markers of outcome valuation” was presented by David Stolz.
  • “Egocentricity and allocentricity modulate neural and emotional processing of embarrassment in the face of others’ mishaps” was presented by Annalina Mayer.
  • “Belief updating about the self and others in a social performance context” was presented by Nora Czekalla.

In a joint publication with Michigan State University, Goethe-University Frankfurt and Lübeck University, published at Frontiers in Communication – Political Communication, we show that there has been a 45-percent increase in people tweeting about embarrassment since Donald Trump took office. An analysis of Twitter traffic between June 2015 and June 2017 revealed how platform’s users responded to Trump’s actions at high-profile events. We argue that two factors might have motivated the nationwide increase in embarrassment mentions on Twitter: First, compared to former representatives, Trump seems to violate norms and etiquettes on purpose. Second, Trump’s role as president means he represents all Americans – even those who don’t agree with his politics. So, his norm violations threaten U.S citizens’ social integrity and causes people to cringe and feel vicarious embarrassment for Trump and his actions.

Link to the article at Frontiers in Communication – Political Communicationhttps://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01487/full

Coverage of the topic by:
The Atlantic
Americans Are Getting Secondhand Embarrassment From Trump.

Newsweek: Americans have tweeted more about embarrassment since President Donald Trump took office, according to researchers who analyzed millions of Twitter posts.

The Guardian: Spike in tweets about ’embarrassment’ under Trump, study finds. 

Mother Jones Magazine: Researchers Just Found a Way to Map Trump’s 10 Most Embarrassing Moments Using Twitter


For a long time, Gilles-de-la-Tourette Syndrome (GTS) has been considered a motor disorder characterized by its dominant features of vocal and motor tics. Neuroscientific research on GTS has accordingly focused on dysfunctional motor and motor control brain networks, most prominently the frontostriatal circuitry. Some of the most prominent features of GTS are, however, inherently social by nature, most notably echophenomena, coprolalia or non-obscene socially inappropriate behaviors. Echophenomena refer to automatic imitative behavior and include both echopraxia, repetition of actions; and echolalia, repetition of sounds and language. (further reading)

Topic editors: Ulrike Krämer, Sören Krach, Clare Eddy & Alexander Münchau

Dr. Lena Rademacher received funding by the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Foundation to study the interaction of cortisol, oxytocin and the dopaminergic reward system in alcohol addiction. We are looking forward to start this very ambitious collaboration together with Prof. Dr. Schmid (Department of Internal Medicine I) and Prof. Dr. Junghanns (Department of Psychiatry)!


Dr. Laura Müller-Pinzler was granted an “Eigene Stelle” by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for three years to study how people form beliefs about themselves and how this relates to social anxiety. We are highly excited to see this and other projects on the neural mechanisms of social learning about the self to continue!


Scientists receive grants, bonuses, and tenure depending on the perceived impact of the journals in which they publish their research. Using the journal impact factor (JIF) for such purposes results in reasoning and argumentation fallacies. In our new publication we describe several “impact factor fallacies” by applying ideas from reasoning and argumentation research. We argue that using the JIF in policy and decision making in academia is based on false beliefs and unwarranted inferences and outline why we think that the world of scientific publishing is more complex than can be expressed with a two-digit number.

Link to the article at Frontiers in Psychology: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01487/full

Coverage of the topic by The Scientist: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/opinion-on-the-impact-factor-fallacy-31809

We are happy to announce that Johanna Voges (physician) received a 2-year stipend by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes)!

In her PhD, Johanna will focus on social reward processing in alcoholism and examine the interactions with the immune and stress system.



shutterstock_577444870Frontiers in Psychiatry welcomes Professor Sören Krach from Lübeck University, Germany, as Specialty Chief Editor of the new Social Cognition section

Professor Sören Krach heads the Social Neuroscience in Psychiatry group at Lübeck University’s Social Neuroscience Lab. His clinical research focuses primarily on Autism Spectrum Disorder and social anxiety.

As the Specialty Chief Editor of the new Frontiers in Psychiatry section, he aims “to encourage scientists in the field of psychiatry to dare new avenues in the study of social cognition.” He also hopes to create a space for researchers to embrace the full methodological breadths of the field.

“Humans constantly represent themselves in the context of their surrounding social world and social interactions eminently shape how humans perceive, feel, and behave,” he says. “Perturbations in the capability to properly engage in social interactions have a severe impact on personal wellbeing. Accordingly, most psychiatric conditions reveal perturbations in social cognition.” (…)

9780735211636New York magazine’s “Science of Us” editor explains the compelling psychology of awkwardness, and why learning to accept your cringeworthy moments can be a social advantage.

Have you ever said goodbye to someone, only to discover that you’re both walking in the same direction? Or had your next thought fly out of your brain in the middle of a presentation? Or accidentally liked an old photo on someone’s Instagram or Facebook, thus revealing yourself to be a creepy social media stalker?

Melissa Dahl, editor of New York magazine’s “Science of Us” website, has experienced all of those awkward situations, and many more. Now she offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward. She invites you to follow her into all sorts of mortifying moments, such as reading her middle school diary on stage in front of hundreds of strangers, striking up conversations with busy New Yorkers on the subway, and even taking improv comedy lessons. [more at Penguin Random House]

David Stolz and other members of the SNL have been featured in a national TV show on social behavior. Please find the video and a teaser for the show below (in German).


Warum klatschen wir, wenn alle klatschen? Warum kaufen wir dort, wo alle kaufen? Menschen imitieren das Verhalten der Gruppe, zu der sie sich zugehörig fühlen oder zu der sie gehören möchten – egal ob Nachbarn, Freunde oder Arbeitskollegen. Die Journalistin und Tagesschau-Sprecherin Linda Zervakis beleuchtet menschliches Sozialverhalten im Alltag.” [to the Video]


We are very happy to announce that Lena Rademacher’s most recent PET work on the recovery of dopamine function in former smokers has been featured on Reuters by Lisa Rappaport. The Biological Psychiatry paper contains all the details and can be found here.

The brain makes less dopamine, a chemical involved in both pleasure and addiction, when people smoke but this temporary deficit may be reversed when smokers kick the habit, a small experiment suggests. “It is assumed that the brain adapts to the repeated nicotine-induced release of dopamine by producing less dopamine,” said lead study author Dr. Lena Rademacher of Lubeck University in Germany.” [link to the article]

We have just come across this wonderful article by Julia Layton on HowStuffWorks. The article begins with a cringeworthy video of Ted Cruz and then nicely explains our take on why we experience such odd emotions as vicarious embarrassment for another’s predicaments.

In this video from a January campaign event in Iowa, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz leans in to give his young daughter a kiss on the cheek. What happens next is pretty brutal: Cameras rolling, the 7-year-old flicks repeatedly at his face and then protests “Ow, ow, ow” as she tries to physically escape him.” [link to the full article]

This is a very intersting read on the pain the media corps feels when confronted with awkward acting and decisions of politicians by Haddas Gold in POLITICO. Somewhere in the middle of the piece on Jeb Bush’s excursions in the field you can also find reference to the famous “Fremdscham”.

“At a recent campaign Jeb Bush event in South Carolina, three voters in a row who were supposed to be asking him questions instead started giving the gentle-spirited candidate, who once pledged to run a “joyful” campaign, advice on how to be sharper.

It felt more like an intervention than a town hall. Reporters sitting at a table reserved for the press recalled making rueful eye contact with each other, with the unsaid sentiment, “Poor Jeb.”” [link to the full article]

It seems that Jeb Bush’s campaign offers a lot of examples illustrating the motivation for  our research. In this article by Lucy Tiven on attn: she draws attention on a recent incident in New Hampshire.

“Jeb Bush is no stranger to embarrassment. A new report explains why despite his flubs and missteps, we’re prone to feel for the younger Bush brother.

A prime example of Jeb Bush’s embarrassing moments.

On Tuesday, the Former Florida Gov. pled for the audience of a New Hampshire town hall to “Please clap,” according to an MSNBC report.” [the link to the full article]