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SoCCCo Ideals

The Social Cognition Center Cologne (SoCCCo) is a collaboration between research groups with broad expertise related to the psychological study of human social behavior, with an emphasis on underlying social cognitive processes. SoCCCo aims not only to conduct high-quality research in its various specialized labs, but also to organize workshops, host high-profile guest lecturers, and provide a dynamic and inspiring research environment for all researchers regardless of seniority, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or disabilities. SoCCCo implements the following guidelines to foster a safe, diverse, and inclusive work environment and work-relationships for all its members. This includes Ph.D. students, post-docs, professors, research assistants, research interns, administrative staff, visiting researchers, guest lecturers, and all other persons SoCCCo-members interact with in work contexts.

1. Academic standards

SoCCCo is committed to producing high-quality reproducible science and to facilitating the open exchange of scientific ideas. This includes best practices for conducting research, the development of theory and methods, but also the fostering of scientific curiosity and respect for others' work. SoCCCO aims 

a. to adhere to open science standards whenever practically possible

b. to foster scientific curiosity, respect, and interest in others’ work. It strives to create a welcoming and dynamic research environment for researchers in order to stimulate the exchange of scientific ideas and cultivate new collaborations.

c. to provide feedback that is constructive, respectful, appreciative, and of high quality. All members therefore endeavor to give helpful feedback that is directed at the presenter (or researcher whose work is being discussed) and their work while keeping in mind their specific goals and requested areas of feedback.

2. Professional and respectful working environment

SoCCCo strives to offer a professional and respectful, inclusive working environment. Members should be empowered to develop professionally and personally, and to conduct the best possible work they can within an appreciative working environment.

a. Personal rights must be respected at all times. This includes, but is not limited to, their right to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, and religious freedom.

b. Within SoCCCo, there is no tolerance of bullying (e.g. making fun of other’s appearance, habits, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, status, religion, or lack thereof, etc.).

c. Individuals who engage in any of these behaviors should be made aware by other members and asked to refrain from said behavior in the future. When a confrontation happens, both sides should remain respectful, and keep comments aimed at the specific topic or action. Concerns of those who make a complaint should be taken seriously. Raising a concern in a respectful manner should never lead to disadvantages to the person who raised the concern.

d. If any issues cannot be solved among those involved, SoCCCo’s trust person may be approached by all junior members to mediate or advise on any conflicts. The trust person or any other person can seek support or information at other levels of the University as for example detailed here and here. The personal rights of everyone need to be heeded. SOCCCo cannot exercise disciplinary measures, but the University of Cologne can meet violations with disciplinary action according to its HR regulations.

3. Working conditions

SoCCCo aims to be excellent, not just in research, but also in the supervision and mentoring to help members as well as other supervisees and mentees to produce excellence in their academic work and reach their fullest potential.

a. The supervisor communicates the legal regulations of the position. All differing expectations should be communicated explicitly, especially concerning work times, place of work (i.e. home office), and side jobs.

b. The supervisor should communicate the length of the employment contract and potentials for extensions. The supervisor should be transparent in all communications about potential changes to the current employment situation of the supervisee. This includes changes in funding and potential future funding and changes in the employment of the supervisor. If the supervisor implicitly or explicitly requests the information to be treated confidentially, this should be honored by the supervisee.

c. Information regarding organizational changes of SoCCCo (e.g., new coworkers, structural changes, etc.), news, and events (e.g., conferences, especially those organized by SoCCCo) should be distributed via the SoCCCo-nians mailing list as soon as possible. Changes within research groups should be communicated to the research group members.

d. Ph.D. student supervisors should aim to employ their Ph.D. student until the Ph.D. student finished their Ph.D. (usually 3-4 years).

e. The Ph.D. student – supervisor relationship is more explicitly described in the latest version of the Advisory Agreement for PhDs, which should be signed by both parties at the beginning of the working relationship.

4. Equality and Diversity

SoCCCo is committed to equality and strives to ensure that all decisions are made in such a way to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disabilities, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status.

a. Every member of SoCCCo should continually reflect on their behavior with regard to the above-mentioned categories. This includes supervision, division of administrative tasks, language use, etc. Supervisors should make sure that they treat all employees equally, regardless of the aforementioned categories. They should assume the same level of competence and aim to give similar opportunities and responsibilities to every person within their group.

b. SoCCCo members should make an active effort to be aware of stereotypes that could influence one’s judgments and behaviors. Their actions should aim to reduce the effects of these stereotypes at all times.

c. Attention should also be paid to benevolent and protective behavior, which is done with good intentions but can still have harmful consequences. Members of SoCCCo should not assume the skills and interests of people, nor feel the need to help them based on any of the aforementioned categories. Instead, members should aim to be sensitive to the individual personality and needs of other members.

d. SoCCCo members should be cognizant of the possible language barriers that others face. This includes using a language that all people in the room can understand whenever possible, as well as being helpful to others with any language-related issues. It should be the standard that everyone in the room speaks English as soon as there is a person present who does not speak German (this is relevant for both academic and social events).

Examples (not exhaustive)

1. Academic Standards

The provision and acceptance of feedback is often an integral part of academic work. In many situations, such as presentations or sending around a manuscript, it is an implicit or explicit agreement that feedback will be given and received. Good feedback should aim at another persons’ academic improvement and be directed at the receiver and their work. In SoCCCo presentations or meetings, presenters can specify their goals and the type of feedback they wish and also entirely opt out of receiving feedback. Comments and feedback should be given with the specific goals of the presenter in mind. Moderators of the discussion should make sure that comments stay on topic (e.g. stop discussions among members of the audience that lead away from the presentation). In general, SoCCCo members strive to be attentive to others wish to (not) receive feedback. In many situations, it can be helpful to ask the receiver if they wish to get feedback.

2. Professional and respectful working environment

a. If a picture is taken of another person, the person should be asked for consent and the picture must not be distributed without their permission.

b. Bullying must not be tolerated. Bullying refers to behaviors that systematically, repeatedly and often over a longer time exclude and directly or indirectly assault another person. This includes systematically spreading discrediting rumors, systematically denying study- or work-related information (e.g., misinforming or refusing to tell a PhD student about important criteria for passing the dissertation), assigning useless tasks or no tasks at all, ignoring the person, or insulting and humiliating treatment. Ignoring such behaviors can encourage bullying. Witnesses of such behavior should feel encouraged to explicitly remark on the behavior (maybe in private) or if they do not feel confident, approach a trust person, a trusted superior, or another person who they think might be helpful (see 2.d, main document)

c. No one should slander another person nor should one spread unconfirmed rumors about another person.

d. Friendly teasing and joking about other people is sometimes used to create an informal and comfortable atmosphere, but can at times be experienced as awkward or humiliating by the receiver. One should be mindful of this fact, especially considering personal closeness and power differences, as some situations may leave receivers with little chance to reciprocate or defend themselves if they are uncomfortable.

e. Unwanted sexualized nonverbal and verbal communication and behaviors are not tolerated. Examples of such inappropriate communications and behaviors include, but are not limited to: sexual teasing or jokes, referring to an adult as a girl/hunk/doll/babe/honey, or sending suggestive or lewd emails. For more examples, see here.

f. Insults, defamatory and humiliating treatment of people based on their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disabilities, nationality, ethnicity, age or religion are not tolerated. Examples of such behaviors are, but are not limited to, making negative comments about someone’s religious beliefs, using racist slang, or sharing inappropriate images or videos.

3. Equality and Diversity

a. When research of their Ph.D. student is publicly criticized (e.g. during a presentation), supervisors who are present can feel called to their students in explaining or defending the work. Because different students have different needs, it is helpful for supervisors and students to on forehand discuss the goals of the presentation and feedback, as well as the strategy during the Q&A session in order to streamline expectations, so that judgements on when to intervene are not informed by stereotypes or prejudice. For instance, a supervisor may ask the Ph.D. student before a presentation whether and when they would appreciate help and together they could agree on a “signal”, or the Ph.D. student could explicitly invite the supervisor to the discussion.

b. Stereotypes should not affect the distribution of work among members of a group. For example, specific gender stereotypes might lead to a woman more likely receiving administrative or organizational tasks while her male colleague may more likely be assigned “prestigious” tasks that offer the possibility for academic achievements. This can disadvantage women and promote men.

c. Gender socialization teaches men and women different things. Stereotypes can be enforced if people face negative consequences when deviating from prescribed behaviors. For example, women are expected to be modest, to avoid conflicts, and to downplay their competence, while men are expected to be confident, assertive, and self-promoting. For example, when deviating from these stereotypes, a woman may be seen as “bossy” or “bitchy” or a men may be seen as “weak” or ”whiny”.

d. Assigning an organizational task to a woman, because “women are more conscientious”, relying on their “female intuition” in decisions, or behaving more protective towards female Ph.D. students than male Ph.D. students are examples of benevolent sexism. Although such justifications and behaviors may appear positive, they can promote gender stereotypes and decrease women’s self-confidence.  At the same time, to be equally successful members might differ in their need for support and encouragement to feel confident in their competence. For example, some Ph.D. students might need encouragement to make a comment in a meeting and therefore should be given priority over more senior members.