ACT: Why are the Big Two of Agency and Communion so Fundamental to Human Psychology? An Agency-Communion Theory (ACT) and its Novel Account of Social Influence

Research question/goal: 

The Big Two of agency (influence, resourcefulness, authority) and communion (benevolence, prosociality, honesty) are fundamental to human social cognition, the self-concept, and personality. The Big Two must have a tremendously important function for humans, otherwise they were not that fundamental. Yet, what is this function? State-of-the-art answers explain the function of the Big Two either in social cognition or in the self-concept or in personality and those answers contradict each other in critical ways. Here, I propose the first all-encompassing answer to the functional question of the Big Two in social cognition and the self-concept and personality. My answer comes in the form of a novel theory: Agency-Communion Theory (ACT). ACT’s  novel portrayal of the Big Two entails a wide variety of previously unforeseen behavioural consequences, including a novel account of social influence. The state-of-the-art account presupposes the existence of an innate tendency to conform to majority norms. ACT questions the existence of such an innate tendency and offers an alternative with far-reaching implications for many theories across social sciences and urgent societal challenges in the sphere of social influence. My interdisciplinary team will empirically test ACT and its novel account of social influence. We will use new, tailor-made methodology in laboratory experiments, formal evolutionary models, Big Data, and panel studies.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
EU (ERC)
Duration: 
2022 to 2028
Status: 
in preparation
Data Sources: 
Lab experiments at the MZES lab, Danish Register data, BBC dataset
Geographic Space: 
Germany, Denmark, UK

Publications