ERC Grant for Jochen Gebauer

Mannheim psychologist Professor Jochen Gebauer is to receive around EUR 2 million in research funding thanks to a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). His research looks at why people primarily evaluate themselves and others based on the “Big Two” personality dimensions of agency and communion, and what evolutionary advantage they gain from doing so.

We typically evaluate ourselves and others using two primary personality dimensions known in psychology as agency and communion, which are so significant in the discipline that they are often referred to simply as the “Big Two.” “The fact that the ‘Big Two’ are so incredibly important to us humans when we reflect on ourselves and on other people can’t be a coincidence. There must be an evolutionary advantage for us in paying particular attention to these two personality dimensions,” explains Gebauer. But what exactly is this advantage? “Whatever it is, we have to assume it is substantial, otherwise agency and communion would not be so central in human thinking.” 

The European Research Council has awarded Gebauer one of its highly competitive and prestigious Consolidator Grants so that he can explore this topic in depth. Over the next five years, Gebauer intends to develop and test a new theory about the Big Two. He will be working with colleagues from the universities of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Exeter (UK). Among other things, the interdisciplinary team plans to conduct specially developed laboratory experiments and large-scale longitudinal studies, and to consolidate and analyze large volumes of data from official statistical offices and other sources. 

Professor Thomas Puhl, President of the University of Mannheim, congratulated Gebauer on his successful application for the research grant: “We’re very happy that another researcher from our university has been awarded ERC funding. The award is further testament to Mannheim’s excellent international reputation in the social sciences field.”

Text: Nikolaus Hollermeier / October 2022

Jochen Gebauer, born in Heilbronn in 1981, studied psychology at the University of Tübingen. He obtained his doctorate from Cardiff University (Wales, UK) in 2008. Following spells at the University of Southampton (UK) and the University of Potsdam (Germany), he completed his Habilitation at Humboldt University Berlin in 2014, and since 2017 has held a Heisenberg Professorship in Comparative Social and Personality Psychology at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES)