Asymmetric Mutual Social Perception of Austrians and Germans: A Social Identity Approach Assessing Implicit and Explicit Attitudes

Walter Renner, Bartosz Gula, Maximilian Wertz, Stefan Fritzsche


Whereas Austrians tend to perceive Germans as "competent but cold", Germans tend to see Austrians as "incompetent but nice" in the sense of Fiske's Stereotype Content Model. With respect to the unequal distribution of power between Austria and Germany, which outnumbers Austria by approximately the tenfold population, Social Identity Theory (SIT) predicts that Austrians will tend to devalue Germans, attempting to preserve their self-esteem and cultural identity, whereas Germans will perceive Austrians more positively. We tested this expectation with N = 31 Austrian and N = 49 German students at an Austrian university. Our hypotheses of asymmetrical mutual attitudes and massive devaluation of Germans by Austrians were confirmed by the Implicit Association Test, whereas on adjective lists as an explicit measure, Austrians described Germans more favourably, obviously out of a desire not to appear prejudiced. The results support SIT and have important implications for the development of Austrian academic education.


National stereotypes; Implicit Association Test; Germany; Austria

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