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Emma Renström

Senior Lecturer

Department of
Visiting address
Haraldsgatan 1
41314 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 500
40530 Göteborg

About Emma Renström

My area of research is broadly focused on social psychology and I follow two lines of research within that field; political psychology and gender psychology, especially especially in relation to language. I have five currently ongoing projects (see below).

For more information, see the project websites: The political psychology of radicalization and Genderfair.

I teach mainly in the fields of statistics and methodology, and social psychology. I also supervise theses on all levels. Feel free to contact me should you be interested in writing your thesis in one of the projects listed below. 1. Extrem aktivism? Psykologiska förklaringar till protestbeteende.

Ongoing projects:

The Political Psychology of Radicalization. The current project aims to study the psychological mechanisms leading an individual to become radicalized, and investigate how the current state action plan against anti-democratic extremism is formulated, what responsibilities different societal institutions have, and what they do. We aim to formulate new governmental responses to radicalization based on our results. We investigate the radicalization process by the cross-fertilization of political science and psychology. We aim to establish a causal mechanism between rejection and proneness to radicalization in experimental studies, and validate our results by tracing discussions in online radical forums. We will also investigate the current state action plan is implemented, and formulate suggestions for how to counter radicalization. We take a multiple methods approach mixing quantitative and qualitative methods, which provides an overall better understanding of the radicalization process that is both generalizable and provides in-depth understanding. Social exclusion has often been presented as a risk factor for being recruited to radical and terrorist groups, but systematic research showing this causal link is lacking. The internet provides open access to radical online forums where the process can be traced back in time following individual members. This is a new and unique source of information since most of these interactions have previously taken place in interpersonal settings in closed groups. In order to counter radicalization it is vital to understand the social underpinnings. To date there is very little research on governmental responses to radicalization, and how different societal institutions are equipped to deal with this. How such strategies should be formulated and executed are dependent on such an understanding of the roots of radicalization. The project has high societal relevance and provides a deeper understanding of the circumstances under which individuals become radicalized.

Co-applicants: Professor Hanna Bäck, Department of Political Science, Lund University

Funder: Forte

Polarized Democracy. The effect of threat on anti-immigrant sentiments in Western Europe.

The role of globalization in shaping modern politics has reached historic importance, with unprecedented support across the Western world for anti-immigrant populist parties and candidates who frame immigration as a threat to the host nation’s economy and culture. The aim of this project is to understand the relationship between the perceived threat of immigration, immigration attitudes, and the emergence of political polarization. Since political polarization creates challenges to the functioning of democracy, it is important to understand the inter-group conflict behind its causes. This project takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining political science and psychology theory and methods, to present a theoretical model where polarization is hypothesized as a consequence of perceived threat of immigration. We suggest that cultural and economic threat may differentially affect emotional reactions, creating either anger or fear, with differing impacts on anti-immigrant sentiments and polarization. In addition, the impact of threat may be affected by identification with one’s own nation or with masculine ideals. Moreover, we differentiate between types of polarization, stressing the role of identity-based polarization in addition to a more often analyzed ideological polarization. To evaluate our hypotheses, we combine experiments with social media data and comparative surveys, and introduce novel measurements based on semantic analyses and eye-tracking.

Project Leader: Emma A. Bäck, Dept of Psychology, Gothenburg University

Co-applicants: Hanna Bäck, Dept. of Political Science, Lund University; Royce Carroll, Dept. of Government, University of Essex.

The importance of language in gender equality at work

This project aims at analyzing the relationship between language used within organizations and gender equality within working life. Our hypothesis is that so-called gender fair language contributes to gender equality in organizations and, ultimately, also results in a less gender-segregated working life. Our definition of gender equality implies an equal distribution of women and men in several sectors, as well as the absence of gender-related discrimination.

Views about gender and equality can be explicitly communicated through specific words, but also through subtle and often unintentional nuances in language. Hence, we ask: How are organizations creating, sustaining and communicating equality and inequality through their language? How can language instead be used to contribute to gender equality in working life? To answer these questions, we present two specific aims, relating to two different kinds of studies:

1) Determine the relationship between organizational language and gender equality

In the first specific aim, we use computerized tools for text analyses, to determine how organizational language transmits views about gender and equality. These analyses result in quantitative measures of language use, which can be related to statistics of gender equality within the organizations, such as gender-segregation, wage differentiation and formal power. We also aim at establishing a deeper collaboration with organizations, making it possible to relate our results to subjective experiences of gender equality such as measured in staff surveys.

2) Clarify how language use affects gender equality Our second specific aim is to validate the results from the text analyses. We use social psychological experiments to analyze how subtle changes in language use of organizations can influence experiences and perceptions of the organizations in terms of gender equality and discrimination, as well as enhance equality and counter discrimination in recruitment situations.

Project leader: Anna Lindqvist, Department of Psychology, Lund University

Co-applicant: Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University

Funder: Forte

Finished projects:

Extreme activism? Psychological explanations for protesting. The main focus of this project is to explain why individuals participate in protests, given that the cost is relatively high, while the possibility to affect the political outcome is low. We use traditional political science theories about political partcipation, and use social psychological methods and explanations related to (fear of) social exclusion and conformity to a group to explain participation.

Project leader: Professor Hanna Bäck, Department of Political Science, Lund University

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Who is hen? Attitudes to, and cognitive effects of, a gender neutral pronoun. The gender neutral pronoun hen has become increasingly established in the Swedish language as an alternative to the gendered pronouns han (he) and hon (she). The debate about the word has been heated and many have voiced concerns regarding possible consequences of using hen. However, there is no empirical evidence for such claims and the project aims at exploring how hen is percieved, what associations it elicits and how it affects stereotypical perceptions about gender.

Project leader: Dr. Marie Gustafsson-Sendén, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University

Co-applicant: Dr. Anna Lindqvist, Department of Psychology, Lund University

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Political participation among young people - From party democrats to social media activists. Young people are less and less engaging themselves in traditional parties, despite a high interest in politics. One hypothesis is that they instead engage in other forms of political participation. Lately, social media, such as FaceBook, Twitter and the similar arenas have become an increasingly popular way to engage in political discussions, sharing political material, signing petitions and as a tool to organize demonstrations. The project aims at exploring if young people of today turn their back against the traditional political parties in order to engage in other forms of political participation.

Project leader: Dr. Malena Rosén-Sundström, Department of Political Science, Lund University

Co-applicants: Professor Hanna Bäck, Department of Political Science, Lund University

Dr. Nils Gustafsson, Department of Strategic Communication, Lund University.

Funder: Marianne and Marcus Wallenbergs Foundation

Expected leave? The effects of meeting with staff for pain patients well being and return to work. In this project we aim to investigate how interactions with staff in the health care system may affect the length of sick leave for pain patients. Of special interest is the gender aspect. Women are more often on sick leave for pain and they are on longer leave than males. We explore if gender stereotypes about males as providers and women as weaker may affect this outcome.

Professor Hanna Bäck, Department of Political Science, Lund University

Funder: AFA Insurance

The face of "hen" - the influence of a gender neutral pronoun on gender categorization and face perception

In 2015, 'hen' was included in the official dictionary of the Swedish language as a gender-neutral third personal pronoun. 'Hen' can be used to refer to individuals outside of the binary gender dichotomy, or to when gender is unimportant or unknown. Previous research show that gender is a primary category when judging others, and that gender is perceived dichotomous rather than continuous despite that individuals in reality display a wide variation in looks and gender expressions. One question in the project is to investigate whether 'hen' can decrease the dichotomous categorization of gender. A second question is whether 'hen' can decrease gender stereotypes when judging others. Previous research show that happiness is more easily perceived in female faces while aggression is more easily perceived in male faces. Studies also show that androgynous faces labeled as male or female are judged in accordance with the associated gender stereotypes even though there are no gender cues in the face. Memory may also be affected by what gender a face is labeled as. The project is conducted through a series of experiments to test if and how 1) 'hen' can decrease the binary categorization of gender (male/female), 2) emotions are differentially perceived in faces labeled 'she', 'he', or 'hen', 3) choice of pronoun in relation to face presentation affect judgments of personality, and 4) how recall is affected by the looks and pronouns of a face.

Projektledare: Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Psykologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet

Medsökande: Anna Lindqvist, Psykologiska institutionen, Lunds universitet

Finansiär: Riksbanken

Explaining radicalization and political violence: Online and offline processes

Project leader: Professor Hanna Bäck, Department of Political Science, Lund University.

Funder: Marianne and Marcus Wallenbergs foundation