Portrait of Dr Pascal Burgmer

Dr Pascal Burgmer

Lecturer in Social and Organisational Psychology
MSc Programme Director and Dissertation Coordinator for Social and Applied Psychology

About

Dr Pascal Burgmer is a Lecturer at the University of Kent focussing on topics such as social trust, moral judgment, theory of mind, and lay beliefs, particularly in mind-body dualism. In doing so, he bridges social-cognitive and personality psychology with experimental philosophy. 

Pascal completed his PhD in social psychology at the University of Cologne in Germany, with a research stay at the University of Iowa, USA. He is currently a member of the scientific network Understanding Others (funded by the German Research Foundation).  

Research interests

Pascal studies how people think about a variety of phenomena, including social trust, distrust, creativity, effort, and philosophical issues such as the relationship between mind and body. In doing so, he mostly employs methods from social-cognitive science, and he is interested in implications of this research for applied settings such as health behaviour or organisational contexts.

Among others, Pascal pursues the following questions:    

  • Creativity, Effort, and Labour: What do people value most about a creation: the idea behind it or the labour needed to execute the idea? What are common-sense beliefs about creativity, and what role do perceptions of effort play in the appreciation of ideas versus labour?
  • Trust and distrust: What determines whether or not we trust or distrust others? What are the consequences of trust and distrust (e.g., moral hypocrisy)? How can we promote cooperative behaviour among individuals? How do lay people think about what it means to trust and distrust?
  • Mind-body dualism: What are the psychological consequences of thinking of minds and bodies as two distinct entities? How do such dualistic beliefs shape health-related attitudes and behaviours? How does dualism affect how we think about the minds of others?
  • Morality: Do lay people believe in expertise in the moral domain? What constitutes a moral expert? How do people judge others with immoral thoughts? What determines our propensity to entertain divergent moral standards for ourselves compared to others?
  • Theory of Mind: What undermines our motivation to take other people’s perspectives or to feel empathy towards them? When do people engage in hypermentalising such as anthropomorphism, that is, perceiving minds where there actually are none?
  • Power: What are the psychological consequences of having power over others? Is having power always beneficial for oneself? Or can having power also make us prone to biases when processing information?

Pascal welcomes applications from prospective PhD students interested in these and related topics.

Teaching

Convenor and Lecturer

  • SP844: Groups, Teams, and Organisations

Lecturer

  • SP311: Business Psychology: An Introduction
  • SP636: Evaluating Evidence: Becoming a Smart Research Consumer
  • SP612: Attitudes and Social Cognition    

Supervision

Professional

Key publications

  • Burgmer, P., Forstmann, M., & Stavrova, O. (2019). Ideas are cheap: When and why adults value labor over ideas. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(5), 824-844. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000473
  • Burgmer*, P., & Forstmann*, M. (2018). Mind-body dualism and health revisited: How belief in dualism shapes health behavior. Social Psychology, 49(4), 219-230. https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000344 
    *shared first authorship
  • Burgmer, P., & Englich, B. (2013). Bullseye! How power improves motor performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(2), 224–232. http://doi.org/10.1177/1948550612452014
  • Forstmann*, M., & Burgmer*, P. (2015). Adults are intuitive mind-body dualists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(1), 222–235. http://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000045 
    *shared first authorship
  • Todd, A. R., & Burgmer, P. (2013). Perspective taking and automatic intergroup evaluation change: Testing an associative self-anchoring account. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(5), 786–802. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0031999
  • Weiss*, A., Burgmer*, P., & Mussweiler, T. (2018). Two-faced morality: Distrust promotes divergent moral standards for the self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(12), 1712–1724. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167218775693 
    *shared first authorship

Publications

Article

  • Fleischmann, A., & Burgmer, P. (2020). Abstract thinking increases support for affirmative action. Sex Roles, 82, 493-511. doi:10.1007/s11199-019-01068-2
    Affirmative action is the proactive process of using resources to ensure that people are not discriminated against based on their group membership, such as gender or ethnicity. It is an effective way to reduce discrimination, but attitudes toward affirmative action are often negative, especially in groups implementing affirmative action. Previous research identified different influences on attitudes toward affirmative action, but mainly unchangeable ones. We focus on the influence of abstract thinking on support for affirmative action because abstract thinking is a changeable characteristic that can direct attention to the purpose of affirmative action policies. Across five studies with U.S. MTurk workers—focusing on women as the target group, but including other target groups as well—we show that thinking abstractly improves attitudes toward affirmative action. We observe this effect using correlational (Study 1, n = 251) and experimental (Studies 2–5, ns = 201–515) designs. Additionally, we test whether perceived discrimination increases the impact of abstract thinking on attitudes toward affirmation action (Studies 2–5). We report a meta-analysis across our studies. Overall, thinking abstractly about affirmative action clearly leads to more favorable attitudes toward it, and this effect is somewhat stronger when discrimination is perceived to be high. Consequently, companies and policymakers that would like to increase support for affirmative action policies could use abstract thinking to do so, for example by encouraging employees to think about and discuss why (vs. how) affirmative action policies are implemented.
  • Schmittat, S., & Burgmer, P. (2020). Lay beliefs in moral expertise. Philosophical Psychology, 33, 283-308. doi:10.1080/09515089.2020.1719053
    Compared to expertise in other domains, moral expertise remains a controversial topic. The current research employed a folk-psychological approach to explore which characteristics laypeople consider to be essential for moral expertise. Study 1 indicates that laypeople associate moral experts with a virtuous character and other-oriented behavior. Formal qualifications such as education and training are seen as less important for moral experts compared to other kinds of experts (Study 2a). However, professional judges – suggested by laypeople as moral experts - neither attributed the suggested characteristics of a moral expert to themselves, nor do they strongly believe in the existence of moral expertise (Study 2b). Finally, Study 3 adopted a more confirmatory approach and substantiated the key finding that laypeople expect moral experts to be rather virtuous than formally qualified, whereas for medical experts––as a comparison group––the reversed pattern emerged. Additionally, the difference between both characteristics was smaller for a moral than for medical experts. Taken together, laypeople seem to expect a more complex and balanced set of skills from a moral expert than from experts in other domains: moral experts need not only know about what is moral, but they also need to be moral.
  • Burgmer, P., Weiss, A., & Ohmann, K. (2019). I don’t feel ya: How narcissism shapes empathy. Self and Identity. doi:10.1080/15298868.2019.1645730
    Those who tend towards a self-absorbed personality are less likely to “feel others.” Indeed, subclinical narcissism has been linked to decreased empathy: Individuals high in narcissism seem to neglect what other people are thinking and feeling and are less likely to emotionally share others’ mental states. Three studies (N = 1,008) extend the literature on narcissism and empathy in some important ways. We suggest that the empathy deficit among narcissists does not make an exception for close friends, that it manifests not only in less, but also in discordant affect, and that it is mainly driven by the antagonistic dimension of narcissism (Studies 1 and 2). Moreover, employing an experimental manipulation, the present findings offer a novel way of attenuating this empathy deficit among narcissists: the experience of trust (Study 2). Finally, a pre-registered laboratory study documents a “bright” consequence of narcissists’ empathy deficit with respect to parochial altruism (Study 3). Hence, as unfortunate as narcissists’ empathy deficit might be, it is not set in stone. Additionally, a narcissistic spotlight that shines exclusively on the self can reduce some of the parochialism that empathy for specific, often close others entails.
  • Lammers, J., & Burgmer, P. (2019). Power increases the self-serving bias in the attribution of collective successes and failures. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 1087-1095. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2556
    Three studies test the effect of power on the self?serving bias in attributing collective outcomes. The first two studies measure (Experiment 1) and manipulate (Experiment 2) power and then measure the internal (vs. external) attribution of past successes and failures. Consistently, those who feel powerful show a stronger self?serving tendency to selectively attribute successes internally and failures externally than those who feel powerless. Experiment 3 compares the effects of power (control over others) and personal control (over oneself). We find that power increases the self?serving bias, but a lack of control can limit this effect by reducing the external attribution of failures. Presumably, people who lack control are disinclined to attribute outcomes—including failures—externally because doing so would further aggravate their lack of control. Together, these results suggest that power increases a bias in the attribution of success and failure and thus presents a fundamental challenge to good leadership.
  • Burgmer, P., Forstmann, M., & Stavrova, O. (2019). Ideas are cheap: When and why adults value labor over ideas. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148, 824-844. doi:10.1037/xge0000473
    What do people value about a creation: the idea behind it or the labor needed for its implementation? Recent developmental research suggests that children by the age of 6 begin to value ideas over labor. Yet, much less is known about whether adults similarly attribute a higher value to ideas and idea givers than to labor and idea executors. In seven studies (N = 1,463), we explored the relative valuation of ideas versus labor in adults, its mechanisms and boundary conditions. Participants learned about an idea giver and a laborer who collaborated to create a product and indicated who deserves ownership and monetary compensation for the product. Contrary to what has been reported for children, Studies 1a–1c found that participants valued the contribution of the laborer more than the contribution of the idea giver. This labor-valuation effect emerged even when participants themselves were idea givers (Study 1b), and it was replicated across different populations (including legal professionals, Study 1c) and contexts (e.g., art works and businesses, Study 2). Studies 3a and 3b established perceived effort as a central psychological process behind the labor-valuation effect. Finally, Study 4 extended the effect to the realm of praise and blame judgments, showing that laborers receive more praise for positive outcomes, but less blame for negative outcomes, relative to idea givers. The current findings may provide a useful framework for understanding the role of effort in lay people’s valuation of ideas and labor, thereby bridging research on creativity, effort, and valuation judgments.
  • Todd, A., Forstmann, M., Burgmer, P., Brooks, A., & Galinsky, A. (2019). Anxious and egocentric: How specific emotions influence perspective taking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 374-391. doi:10.1037/xge0000048
    People frequently feel anxious. Although prior research has extensively studied how feeling anxious shapes intrapsychic aspects of cognition, much less is known about how anxiety affects interpersonal aspects of cognition. Here, we examine the influence of incidental experiences of anxiety on perceptual and conceptual forms of perspective taking. Compared with participants experiencing other negative, high-arousal emotions (i.e., anger or disgust) or neutral feelings, anxious participants displayed greater egocentrism in their mental-state reasoning: They were more likely to describe an object using their own spatial perspective, had more difficulty resisting egocentric interference when identifying an object from others’ spatial perspectives, and relied more heavily on privileged knowledge when inferring others’ beliefs. Using both experimental-causal-chain and measurement-of-mediation approaches, we found that these effects were explained, in part, by uncertainty appraisal tendencies. Further supporting the role of uncertainty, a positive emotion associated with uncertainty (i.e., surprise) produced increases in egocentrism that were similar to anxiety. Collectively, the results suggest that incidentally experiencing emotions associated with uncertainty increase reliance on one’s own egocentric perspective when reasoning about the mental states of others.
  • Forstmann, M., & Burgmer, P. (2018). The mind of the market: Lay beliefs about the economy as a willful, goal-oriented agent. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41. doi:10.1017/S0140525X18000353
    We propose an extension to Boyer & Petersen's (B&P's) framework for folk-economic beliefs, suggesting that certain evolutionarily acquired cognitive inference systems can cause modern humans to perceive abstract systems such as the economy as willful, goal-oriented agents. Such an anthropomorphized view, we argue, can have meaningful effects on people's moral evaluations of these agents, as well as on their political and economic behavior.
  • Burgmer, P., & Forstmann, M. (2018). Mind-body dualism and health revisited: How belief in dualism shapes health behavior. Social Psychology, 49, 219-230. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000344
    Does a sound mind require a sound body? Whether or not lay people subscribe to this notion depends on their belief in mind-body dualism and critically shapes their health-related behaviors. Six studies (N = 1,710) revisit the relation between dualism and health. We replicate the negative correlation between belief in dualism and health behavior (Study 1) and extend it to behavior in the field (Study 2). Studies 3a and 3b investigate how belief in dualism shapes intuitions about the material origin of psychological well-being, while Studies 4a and 4b examine how these intuitions determine health-related outcomes. In sum, construing minds as different from bodies entails the intuition that mental well-being has little material substrate which in turn attenuates health-sustaining behaviors.
  • Forstmann, M., & Burgmer, P. (2018). A free will needs a free mind: Belief in substance dualism and reductive physicalism differentially predict belief in free will and determinism. Consciousness and Cognition, 63, 280-293. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2018.07.003
    In this article, we show that lay people's beliefs about how minds relate to bodies are more complex than past research suggests, and that treating them as a multidimensional construct helps explain inconclusive findings from the literature regarding their relation to beliefs about whether humans possess a free will. In two studies, we found that items previously used to assess a unidimensional belief in how minds relate to bodies indeed capture two distinguishable constructs (belief in substance dualism and reductive physicalism) that differently predict belief in free will and two types of determinism (Studies 1 and 2). Additionally, we found that two fundamental personality traits pertaining to people’s preference for experiential versus rational information processing predict those metaphysical beliefs that were theorized to be based on subjective phenomenological experience and rational deliberation, respectively (Study 2). In sum, beliefs about mind-body relations are a multidimensional construct with unique predictive abilities.
  • Conway, P., Weiss, A., Burgmer, P., & Mussweiler, T. (2018). Distrusting your moral compass: The impact of distrust mindsets on moral dilemma processing and judgments. Social Cognition, 36, 345-380. doi:10.1521/soco.2018.36.3.345
    A growing literature suggests that generalized distrust mindsets encourage carefully considering alternatives—yet it remains unclear whether this pertains to moral decision making. We propose that distrust simultaneously increases opposing moral response inclinations when moral decisions pit two moral responses against one another, such as classic moral dilemmas where causing harm maximizes outcomes. Such a pattern may be invisible to conventional analytic techniques that treat dilemma response inclinations as diametric opposites. Therefore, we employed process dissociation to independently assess response inclinations underlying moral dilemma responses. Three studies demonstrated that activating generalized distrust (vs. trust and control) mindsets increased both harm avoidance and outcome-maximization response tendencies. These effects canceled out for conventional relative dilemma judgments. Moreover, perceptions of feeling torn between available response options mediated the impact of distrust on both response inclinations. These findings clarify how distrust impacts decision-making processes in the moral domain.
  • Weiss, A., Burgmer, P., & Mussweiler, T. (2018). Two-faced morality: Distrust promotes divergent moral standards for the self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44, 1712-1724. doi:10.1177/0146167218775693
    People do not trust hypocrites, because they preach water, but drink wine. The current research shows that, ironically, when we distrust, we become moral hypocrites ourselves. We argue that experiencing distrust alerts us to the possibility that others may intent to exploit us, and that such looming exploitation differentially affects moral standards for the self versus others. Four studies (N = 1,225) examined this possibility and its underlying motivational dynamic. Study 1 established a relationship between dispositional distrust and flexible, self-serving moral cognition. In Studies 2 and 3, participants experiencing distrust (vs. trust) endorsed more lenient moral standards for themselves than for others. Study 4 explored the role of the motivation to avoid exploitation in these effects. Specifically, participants’ dispositional victim sensitivity moderated the effect of distrust on hypocrisy. Together, these findings suggest that individuals who distrust and fear to be exploited show self-serving, and hence untrustworthy, moral cognition themselves.
  • Lammers, J., & Burgmer, P. (2017). Power increases anchoring effects on judgment. Social Cognition, 35, 40-53. doi:10.1521/soco.2017.35.1.40
    Four experiments test the impact of power (versus powerlessness) on anchoring effects. Anchoring refers to the tendency to assimilate one’s judgment to a previously considered numeric standard. Based on the notion that power facilitates the activation of and reliance on accessible information, we hypothesized that power increases numeric anchoring effects on judgment, compared to powerlessness. Across studies, we found consistent support for this idea, when testing estimations of factual values (Experiments 1 and 2), subjective evaluations (Experiment 3), and negotiation behavior (Experiment 4). The findings of Studies 2 to 4 qualify the dominant idea in power literature that power reduces conformity to others’ opinion. Power increases conformity to others’ opinion, if such opinion is presented as an anchor and therefore processed more automatically. These findings also have important methodological implications for power research. They show that differences in stimulus presentation can steer observed effects of power in opposite directions.
  • Ohmann, K., & Burgmer, P. (2016). Nothing compares to me: How narcissism shapes comparative thinking. Personality and Individual Differences, 98, 162-170. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.03.069
    Feeling special feels good. This may be particularly true for individuals with narcissistic tendencies who put great emphasis on distinctiveness and uniqueness in relation to others. But how do people arrive at the conclusion that they are special? Psychological research has identified social comparisons as a powerful means to inform such judgments about the self. The present research investigates whether narcissism may be related to a particular strategy of comparative thinking. Specifically, we expected that narcissistic individuals—presumably to meet an elevated need for uniqueness—would predominantly focus on differences (as opposed to similarities) when engaging in comparisons. To test this prediction, four studies investigated how narcissism shapes comparative thinking in social and nonsocial judgment domains. The first two studies revealed that narcissistic personality tendencies were positively related to an informational focus on differences during habitual comparisons in both social and nonsocial contexts (Studies 1a and 1b). Two additional studies extended this relation between narcissism and difference focus to the domain of spontaneous social and nonsocial comparisons (Studies 2a and 2b). Such a content-free processing style during comparative thinking may assist narcissists to increase their feelings of distinctiveness, and may ultimately contribute to the rise and maintenance of narcissistic tendencies.
  • Forstmann, M., & Burgmer, P. (2015). Adults are intuitive mind-body dualists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 222-235. doi:10.1037/xge0000045
    In the present research, we tested the hypotheses that (a) adults are intuitive mind-body dualists, (b) that this belief can be considered a default, and (c) that it is partially explained by essentialistic reasoning about the nature of the mind. Over 8 studies, using various thought experiment paradigms, participants reliably ascribed to a physically duplicated being a greater retention of physical than ofmental properties. This difference was unrelated to whether or not this being was given a proper name (Study 1b) and was only found for entities that were considered to actually possess a mind (Study 1c). Further, we found that an intuitive belief in mind-body dualism may in fact be considered a default: Taxing participants’ cognitive resources (Study 2) or priming them with an intuitive (vs. analytical) thinking style (Studies 3a and 3b) both increased dualistic beliefs. In a last set of studies, we found that beliefs in mind-body dualism are indeed related to essentialistic reasoning about the mind. When a living being was reassembled from its original molecules rather than recreated from new molecules, dualistic beliefs were significantly reduced (Studies 4a and 4b). Thus, results of the present research indicate that, despite any acquired scientific knowledge about the neurological origins of mental life, most adults remain “essentialistic mind-body dualists” at heart.
  • Todd, A., & Burgmer, P. (2013). Perspective taking and automatic intergroup evaluation change: Testing an associative self-anchoring account. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 786-802. doi:10.1037/a0031999
    The current research adopted a multipronged mediational approach to test an associative self-anchoring account of automatic intergroup evaluation change following perspective taking. We contend that actively contemplating outgroup members’ perspectives strengthens associative links between that outgroup and the self, enabling a transfer of positive automatic self-evaluations to the group. A first set of experiments, using both measurement-of-mediation and experimental-causal-chain designs, supported a model in which strengthened self–outgroup associations underlie perspective taking’s positive effects on automatic intergroup evaluations. Additional experiments, using a moderation-of-process design, found that the benefits of perspective taking were attenuated when measured or manipulated automatic self-evaluations were relatively negative, preventing positive associative transfer. A final experiment uncovered a practical downstream implication of our causal model, as perspective-taking-induced changes in automatic intergroup evaluations were still evident 1 day later. Overall, these findings supported our associative self-anchoring account; additional analyses found no support for an alternative, empathy-based account.
  • Burgmer, P., & Englich, B. (2013). Bullseye! How power improves motor performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 224-232. doi:10.1177/1948550612452014
    Power makes people think, feel, and behave in ways that help them to maintain and increase power. Thus far, the mechanisms underlying power’s beneficial effects on goal pursuit have been investigated predominantly on a cognitive level. The present research tested whether power influences goal pursuit in an even more fundamental way, namely by improving actual behavior on motor-based tasks. Furthermore, we suggest that this effect is produced by changes in perceptual goal representation. Consistent with our assumptions, Experiment 1 found that individuals primed with high-power outperformed control participants on a golf-putting task. In Experiment 2, individuals receiving a high-power prime outperformed individuals receiving a low-power prime on a dart-throwing task. Moreover, high-power primed participants represented the focal goal (a dart board) in greater goal-relevant detail, which mediated the effect of power on motor performance. Taken together, these findings suggest that power shapes performance in more fundamental ways than previously assumed.
  • Forstmann, M., Burgmer, P., & Mussweiler, T. (2012). “The mind Is willing, but the flesh Is weak”: The effects of mind-body dualism on health behavior. Psychological Science, 23, 1239-1245. doi:10.1177/0956797612442392
    Beliefs in mind-body dualism—that is, perceiving one’s mind and body as two distinct entities—are evident in virtually all human cultures. Despite their prevalence, surprisingly little is known about the psychological implications of holding such beliefs. In the research reported here, we investigated the relationship between dualistic beliefs and health behaviors. We theorized that holding dualistic beliefs leads people to perceive their body as a mere “shell” and, thus, to neglect it. Supporting this hypothesis, our results showed that participants who were primed with dualism reported less engagement in healthy behaviors and less positive attitudes toward such behaviors than did participants primed with physicalism. Additionally, we investigated the bidirectionality of this link. Activating health-related concepts affected participants’ subsequently reported metaphysical beliefs in mind-body dualism. A final set of studies demonstrated that participants primed with dualism make real-life decisions that may ultimately compromise their physical health (e.g., consuming unhealthy food). These findings have potential implications for health interventions.

Book section

  • Schneider, D., Klimecki, O., Burgmer, P., & Kessler, T. (2019). Social cognition. In V. Zeigler-Hill & T. Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer Publications. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2317-1
  • Forstmann, M., & Burgmer, P. (2017). Antecedents, manifestations, and consequences of belief in mind-body dualism. In The science of lay theories: How beliefs shape our cognition, behavior, and health. (pp. 181-205). Springer U.S. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-57306-9_8
    In this chapter, we will discuss the cognitive and perceptual underpinnings, manifestations, and downstream consequences of common-sense belief in mind–body dualism. Reviewing literature from developmental, social, and cognitive psychology, as well as from experimental philosophy, we will propose a model for dualistic belief (self- and other-oriented) that incorporates both explicit and intuitive beliefs, their relation to one another, and the processes contributing to their respective formation, particularly mental-state inference and bodily self-awareness. We will further discuss different manifestations of dualistic beliefs with a focus on religious belief in souls, an afterlife, or animistic spirits. Finally, the last section of this chapter will discuss practical consequences of dualistic beliefs, focusing on their relation to health behavior, dissociative disorders, lay belief in free will, and processes related to the perceived inaccessibility of minds.
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