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Interview with Dr. Olga Stavrova, Postdoc at the Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology

Dr. Stavrova is a postdoc at the Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology (ISS) at the University of Cologne. She works with Professor Fetchenhauer at the Chair for Economic and Social Psychology. Dr. Stavrova recently received a UoC Postdoc Grant for her research funded in the frame of the University’s Institutional Strategy. Congratulations, Dr. Stavrova!

What is your research about and how does the grant help you to pursue your research?

Photo: University of Cologne

I have various research focuses. I explore subjective experiences of happiness and meaning of life, but also health in a cross-cultural comparison. For example, how do religiosity, prosocial behavior, social relations and certain facets of a person’s personality affect the well-being of people in different countries and from different cultural backgrounds? I also conduct research on justice psychology, religion and perceptions of oneself and others. 

I received the postdoc grant for my research on the interrelation between people and products. I can give you an example: Would you like to wear a sweater that belongs to a person who exhibits immoral behavior? Most people will respond that they would not like to wear such a sweater. This reaction can be explained by the so-called “contagion belief” – the implicit assumption that in the physical contact between a person and a thing, part of the person’s nature is transferred onto the object. My research aims to specify the forms, modes and consequences of “contagion belief” (e.g. for people’s behavior).

I will primarily use the money provided by the grant as additional funding for my research – to conduct surveys and experiments. It is also an important resource to finance research stays and conference attendance in Germany and abroad in order to exchange ideas with international colleagues.

In the course of your research at the UoC, you also spent some time at Yale University. How would you describe the research relationship between your department at the UoC and Yale?

In 2014, I was at the Yale School of Management for two months. A colleague of mine had established this contact in the past and I was able to build on it during my time there. My colleagues there were very friendly and supportive. The exchange scheme is excellent. What I like best about the working conditions there is that research is possible in a relatively short period of time. That is because research and administrative tasks are strictly separated. At German universities, the academic staff has to do a lot of administration work, and this time is no longer available for research.

Is the University of Cologne an attractive employer for international postdocs?

I think the University of Cologne is a very attractive research location because we are very international. In my post graduate program SOCLIFE, where I attained my PhD before my postdoc position at the ISS, we were 60% international doctoral students. At my institute, I work with Americans, Greeks, Chinese and Eastern Europeans. Mobility and exchange enhance research. That is what we practice every day at the University of Cologne. As an international researcher, I feel very much at home here.

Moreover, I can conduct my research very independently. As a postdoc at the ISS, I largely set my own priorities and independently schedule my research work. That is a great advantage.

Last but not least: besides pursuing an academic career, what would you have liked to become?

Probably I would have become a translator or a foreign languages lecturer. I am very Francophile. I love the French language and French culture.