HATE: Streams of hate and untruth? Using online news comments, posts and tweets to investigate attitudes and the prevalence of hate and untruth in political debates

PI: Susana Salgado

Co-PI: Jorge Vala


Hundreds of millions of comments, posts and tweets are left everyday by people all over the world, but many of them are polarized and uncivil, clearly stretching freedom of speech and often putting democratic political debate into question. This research addresses this pressing political and social issue and the impact of technology on society in different countries, through a comparative and innovative multi-methods and interdisciplinary approach. ​


Scope and Meanings of the Intergroup Time Bias in Racialised Social Relations

PI: Cicero Roberto Pereira 

Co-PI: Jorge Vala


Is it possible that people invest their time differently when they assess and make decisions about outgroup and ingroup members? If they do, which psychological variables are associated with this discrimination in the use of time? Importantly, what are the consequences of this discrimination regarding social inclusion?

Recently, we started a research line about the time people invest when forming impressions (1). Examining the problem from the perspective of intergroup relations (2, 3), and considering time as a socially valued resource (4, 5). We found that white participants spent more time judging white people than black people, which indicates a bias in time spent judging members of the ingroup and the outgroup. We called this effect “Intergroup Time Bias” (ITB), a psychological phenomenon characterized by the motivation to invest more time in evaluating and making decisions about ingroup than outgroup members. That is, the ITB is a form of implicit discrimination against black people.

The study of the meaning and consequences of ITB represents an innovation in social psychology. In fact, time as a socially valued resource has not yet been the object of in-depth study by social psychologists. Overcoming this gap is socially relevant because the ITB can have dramatic social consequences in diverse social life domains.
Thus, we propose to carry out eight studies to achieve the following objectives:

a) To determine whether ITB occurs in other social judgments besides impression formation (1). So, we will analyse ITB in medical diagnosis and in schools. In the medical context, we will study the time that physicians invest in the diagnosis of white and black patients, and elderly and middle aged people. In the school context, we will study whether teachers also invest more time when evaluating black and white students.
b) To analyse the psychosocial mechanisms underlying ITB. Specifically, the role of the aversion felt by white people towards black people as a mediator of the ITB effect. This hypothesis stems from previous studies (6) on aversive racism. The hypothesis that mediation due to aversion only occurs when threat perception is activated will tested. In addition, a further study will analyse if the ITB is associated with depleting effects of spontaneous prejudice suppression (7).

These studies will be conducted by an ICSUL research team of specialists in the fields of discrimination, prejudice, and cognitive processes. The researchers involved are Cicero Pereira, the project coordinator, who specialises in intergroup relations and experimental and comparative research methods; Jorge Vala, who specialises in racism, intergroup relations and social norms; and Rui Costa-Lopes, who specializes in social norms and implicit prejudice. FP-UL: Leonel Garcia-Marques specialises in social cognition and decision-making processes. CIS\IUL: Miguel Ramos specialises in well-being minority groups. FM/ISA-UL: Paulo Nicola, specialist in studies about public health in minorities

EPOCA: Corruption and economic crisis, a poisonous combination: understanding process-outcome interactions in the explanation of public support for democracy


There is a growing debate about the danger of deconsolidation in many countries, i.e. citizens becoming dissatisfied with democracy and increasingly open to nondemocratic alternatives. This trend has been more sensitive in bailout countries like Portugal. Support for democracy has been seriously questioned in terms of the idea of democracy and the values underpinning its governance (diffuse); the performance of its institutions (specific); and the incumbent’s decisions and actions (reasoned). Although there is a vast literature on economic (outcome-oriented) and institutional (process-oriented) predictors of political support, little has been said regarding their interaction and how it accounts for multiple combinations of these three interrelated levels.

Recent empirical research confirms a link between corruption and political support, but evidence seems to suggest that citizens do not always punish incumbents electorally when corruption is made salient. There is a propensity, among the public, to trade off ethical standards for economic wellbeing. Although corruption is a deviation from normative conventions about admissible political exchanges, in contexts of economic growth it does not seem to produce equally strong reactions of moral outrage. When economic crisis erupts, corruption becomes an expression of unfairness and social injustice, producing feelings of anger.

There is a sizable body of literature analyzing the impact of the crisis on political support in democracy, including on the Portuguese case. However, the role of corruption and corruption-related attitudes and perceptions as a determinant factor has not been examined, partly because of its conceptual complexity. Hence, the need to carry out a mass survey to inspect how changes in the living conditions of individuals brought by government policies have affected their understanding, interaction with and levels of tolerance towards corruption, and how these changes help to explain levels and gradients of political support in democracy.

Under what conditions do citizens connect concerns about corruption (process-oriented factor) to economic performance (outcome-oriented factor) in their evaluations of the nature of the political regime, the performance of its institutions and the actions and policies of sitting executives? The interplay of economic and institutional predictors of political support — the process-outcome interaction — and its impact on the type of political support is under-examined: citizens’ perception of corruption coupled with the feeling of unjustified loss of wellbeing due to government policies and economic conditions may be more damaging in terms of specific and diffuse political support than in terms of reasoned support to the incumbents.

The project’s main thesis is that in contexts of economic crisis, citizens become particularly sensitive to corruption, especially that affecting political actors, institutions, and processes and when exposed to the problem’s salience in society, their judgements are more likely to express a system-oriented (‘sociotropic’) rather than individual-oriented (‘pocketbook’) understanding of the phenomenon. The general objective of this study is to analyse, using both observational and experimental data, how economic outcomes, real and perceived, can impact upon citizens’ ethical standards, in particular those regulating their relationship with politics and notions of procedural fairness, and how these, in turn, may help explaining levels and gradients of political support in democracy. More specifically, the project objectives are threefold:

1) Consolidation – to consolidate knowledge on citizens’ attitudes, perceptions and experiences of corruption by tacking stock of the findings of the FCT-funded 2006 mass survey [POCI/CPO/60031/2004] and replicating some of its core questions in order to evaluate tendencies before and after the crisis;

2) Innovation – to advance knowledge in this field at the conceptual level and in terms of the measurement of procedural perceptions and political support;

3) Validation – to offer a testing ground for survey methods and techniques. The project will make use of new experimental methods to overcome some of the problems that are recurrent when using surveys to study normative issues, such as the issue of social desirability or untruthful answers and to test the cause-effect relationships in different social groups and political targets.


CLAVE – The social development of human values in childhood and early adolescence

PIAlice Ramos, sociologist, ICS-ULisboa,  Co-PI – Ricardo Rodrigues, social psychologist,  ISCTE-IUL

Research team: Ana Nunes de Almeida and Vasco Ramos, both sociologists from ICS-ULisboa and Isabel Correia  and Sibilia Marques, both social psychologists from ISCTE-IUL

 Aims of CLAVE

The literature review briefly accounts for how much we have learned from studying basic human values, and its antecedents and consequences, in adulthood. We have also discussed the potential of expanding our knowledge about the development of basic human values in childhood and adolescence. More specifically, we aimed to show that research on the development of values  in younger populations, particularly adopting comprehensive values frameworks (e.g., Theory of Basic Human Values), is very recent, and focused on some key, but rather restricted, aspects, such as the organizational structure of values  and the way children prioritize different values. In this context, we pointed out the existence of virtually no evidence on the outcomes of children and adolescents’ basic human values.

CLAVE proposes to address this limitation by mapping in Portugal and other European countries the basic human values of children and young adolescents (6-14 years) and studying their impact on children’s feelings of personal growth and well-being in the family and in the school contexts, and doing so while considering both perceived and objective indicators of social and academic inclusion. Alongside, CLAVE also aims to address the impact of values on representations of justice and attitudes towards different social groups (age, gender, nationality, etc.).

This should provide the field with a better understanding of the current and future dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in the European area. This is particularly relevant if we consider the increasing levels of diversity and mobility in a globalized Europe and the pressing challenges for integrating social and cultural diversity while assuring the younger generations are given an active role and a voice.

CLAVE proposes to take a transnational research approach to be able to determine the extent to which the formation and development of basic human values in childhood and adolescence is culturally informed, but also to identify the findings perimeter of generalizability and their value to inform both national and European public policies aimed at creating more inclusive societies. The European Social Survey (ESS) that started in 2002 provides an example of the research perspective that CLAVE aims to pursue where both fundamental and applied questions are addressed.

In our literature review we also highlighted that despite several studies having examined the role of socialization processes on the onset and development of children’s values, assessing in a systematized was the relative contribution of different reference groups and the consequences for children of being faced with conflicting influences has not been studied yet.

Hence, CLAVE proposes to study the relative influences of the family and peers/friends in the formation of children and adolescents’ basic human values, and to what extent are these influences conflicting and perceived by the child/adolescent as such. This will allow us to develop a more integrated understanding of the socialization processes involved in the formation and development of basic human values, but also the consequences of conflicting influences to children’s feelings of personal growth and well-being, and their degree of social and academic inclusion. In a similar vein, CLAVE will also advance our knowledge about family and peers/friends’ relative influence on children and adolescents’ representations of justice and their attitudes towards different social groups (age, gender, nationality, etc.), and the mediating role of values. This knowledge should inform the design of public policies and interventions aiming to promote positive social attitudes and the inclusion of social diversity in the school context. It can also inform about the potential efficacy of value-based intervention – that can be indirect and comprehensive – compared to existing interventions that are typically more direct and limited in their scope to one social domain (age, ethnicity, nationality, etc.).

Research Plan and Methods

The development of CLAVE is based on the execution of three studies:

  • International study
  • National longitudinal study
  • Focus Group study
  • International study

One of the aims of CLAVE is to analyze children values in a cross-national perspective. Due to the limited financial resources available, the methodology proposed to achieve this objective is to combine the fieldwork of the study with the fieldwork of the European Social Survey 9 (ESS-ERIC). This plan depends upon the approval of the Central Scientific Team of the ESS-ERIC (submitted and waiting for decision) and will proceed as follows: within the households with children in their composition that participate in the ESS 9, a child will be selected and interviewed after the informed consent of one of the parents (or legally responsible adult). The number of countries participating in this study is not defined yet, depending on the negotiations between CLAVE team and the ESS-ERIC National Coordinators. The method used will be a PAPI (Paper and Pencil Interview) face-to-face interview of 15-20 minutes, in the house of the child, and, depending on the age of the child, an appropriate set of vignettes describing values, attitudes and behaviors will be used based on the Picture-Based Value Survey for Children ([16], [34]). The PBVS-C assesses children’s values through self-report and thereby depicts Schwartz’s theory of universal human values at an early age. In terms of sample, it depends a lot on the number of children living in private households, but it is expected to collect around 150 interviews in each country. Prior to the administration of the questionnaire, a pilot will be run in each country to test the equivalence of indicators (translations may have a serious impact on conceptual and metric equivalence) and the adequacy of the questions to the different cultural contexts.

2) National Longitudinal study

The second study of CLAVE aims to collect data from up to 1000 children. To reach the children, public basic schools will be contacted (in the context of previous research, the Co-PI has contacts in the 18 Portuguese school groupings). For each child one parent will also be interviewed in order to measure the degree of convergence/divergence of values priorities between generations as well as the effect of family socialization. In the case of children, the method used will be similar to the one used in the international study. In the case of parents, an on-line survey will be prepared. This study will have two waves, being the pairs children/parent interviewed with a time span of one year. This will allow analyzing how cognitive development influences the values’ structure and the salience attributed to each value. In terms of sample the aim is to achieve a sample as much as possible diversified and unbiased in terms of age, gender, ethnicity/nationality and socio-economic background of the children and the parents.

  • Focus Group Study

The two first studies have a quantitative nature that is appropriate for cross-cultural and longitudinal analyses. However, a study like CLAVE would not be complete without a qualitative perspective. There are issues that need a more deepening analysis and that provide a huge improvement on the attribution of meaning to children’ opinions and beliefs. In order to enrich the data collected with the two quantitative studies, 5 Focus-group studies will be conducted: 3 with different age group children, one with parents and one with teachers. The introduction of teachers within this study, is also a way of understanding how the present curricula of the basic educational level approaches the issue of values and citizenship with children and young adolescents, and it is expected to raise questions and solutions directed to inform public policies on education at the national level.

  1. C) Data analysis methodologies

The diversity of data collection modes, of data nature, of disciplinary theoretical models and empirical approaches opens the range of data analysis methodologies and techniques that can be used. From descriptive analysis to model testing approaches, several techniques will be used, namely OLS-Regression models, Structural Equation Modeling, Multilevel Analysis, Multi-dimensional scaling, discourse analysis.

  1. D) Open-access and dissemination

The expected outcomes of CLAVE include the archive of the data sets produced in the APIS (Portuguese Archive of Social Information) in a way that researchers from different scientific areas may profit from the data collected. The access to data of the 3 studies and to its documentation will be made freely available following strict procedures of disclosure control [37] guaranteeing that no one (child, parent or teacher) can be directly or indirectly identified

The dissemination of activities and outcomes of CLAVE will be done through the website that will be created for the purpose, and Facebook and Tweeter accounts will also be created and fed regularly in order to reach different publics.

MiLD: Nobody’s fault but your own: The role of Meritocracy in Legal Decisions towards low status group members

MiLD: Nobody’s fault but your own: The role of Meritocracy in Legal Decisions
towards low status group members
PI: Rui Costa Lopes; Co-PI: Jorge Vala

Extended Abstract


We face trivial decisions everyday but every once in a while we face decisions with a deep impact on others as they may imply serious harm or unequal distribution of relevant material or symbolic resources. These socially critical decisions (SCD) – i.e. decisions that involve serious consequences for others – and specifically legal decisions (i.e. formal decisions regarding punishment for alleged illegal behaviors) constitute the core of this project and its main goal is to study whether and how the endorsment or a contextual salience of a meritocratic norm impacts on legal decisions towards low status group members.

Research on SCD within asymmetric social relations has focused on different examples such as “shoot vs. not-shoot” police decisions as a function of different  ethnic target groups, medical decisions, moral dilemmas and legal decisions. A consistent result across these different decisional contexts indicates that low status group members (e.g. blacks, gipsies, homeless) are targeted with more unfavorable decisions and that implicit prejudice (e.g. stereotypes about these groups) may partially explain these discriminatory decisions. For example, looking in particular to legal decisions, a meta-analysis unequivocally demonstrated the existence of racial bias in studies addressing juror decision-making, where other-race defendants are generally targeted with more negative decisions. Moreover, and based on real-life legal decisions, defendants possessing afrocentric features (such as darker skin tone or wide nose) are more likely to be sentenced to death, even when controlling for a wide array of aspects such as the circumstances of the crime and criminal record.

However, research has been more focused in showing this group-based discrimination in SCD than in explaining it. Importantly, a significant factor that has been consistently shown to impact on group-based distinctions and intergroup biases has been neglected by this line of research: that is, the impact of a meritocratic norm. Although seen as an important social norm that regulates society, descriptive meritocracy, i.e. the belief that people are rewarded based on their efforts) is however associated with intolerance and dislike of members of low status groups and may therefore be logically associated with more unfavorable decisions towards low status groups. The potential reason for that may be that when meritocratic beliefs are salient, low status individuals are not seen as victims of a discriminatory system, but as responsible for their own negative situation. Thus, meritocracy may lead to an enhanced status legitimacy perception regarding the negative situation of low status groups. In turn, this perceived legitimacy may facilitate the emergence of negative decisions towards these low status group members. Particularly in legal decisions, making the norm of meritocracy salient in a given context may lead to more negative legal decisions where low status group members are more likely to be considered guilty and sentenced to harsher sentences. Nonetheless, to our knowledge, the impact of meritocracy has never been studied within the research on legal decisions.
Moreover, and specifically regarding the Portuguese context, the existence of such bias in legal decisions has not been systematically addressed, even though there are indirect indications of its existence (e.g. statistics reveal a 15 times higher likelihood of people from PALOP countries being incarcerated).

Thus, several issues remain unsolved: Are low status group members targeted with more negative legal decisions in the Portuguese context? Does the salience of a descriptive meritocratic norm have an impact on such legal decisions? If so, how does that impact occur? Does the “powerful” role (in the sense of authoritative status) of those making the legal decisions facilitate this bias?

The team involved in this project has developed several lines of research studying the impact of normative and ideological factors on the facilitation of negative attitudes and discrimination of low status group members. Moreover, this same team has conducted studies directly addressing other types of SCD. Specifically, on-going research has shown, on the one hand, that making a meritocratic norm salient has led (high status) participants to view decisions involving the sacrifice of low status group members within moral dilemmas as more acceptable. On the other hand, research focused on medical decisions has shown that, when asked to make decisions about organ transplants, Portuguese participants, to whom the same meritocratic norm has been made salient, attribute less priority to non-portuguese patients (controlling for symptoms and medical history). Building on this research, we intend to apply the knowledge and experience to another very socially relevant setting: the legal setting.

Accordingly, this project involves correlational and experimental studies that, as a general approach, involve 1) either the manipulation of meritocracy salience or the measurement of meritocracy endorsement, 2) the measurement of status legitimacy perceptions of low status groups, and 3) the measurement of (ficticious) legal decisions. The legal decisions (towards low status group members) will focus on aspects such as likelihood and severity of sentences and decisions about parole. Studies will use samples of both lay people and professionals with formal implication  in legal processes, namely judges or law graduates studying to become judges and legal workers who are responsible for producing assessments that form the bases of judges’ decisions to attribute (or not attribute) parole.

To manipulate meritocracy, we will use a version of the Scrambled Sentence Task successfully used to manipulate meritocracy before. In this task, unscrambled sentences make either meritocracy or neutral content salient. Alternatively, and for more nuanced activations of meritocratic content, a fake text comprehension task will be used. In studies involving instead the measurement of meritocracy, previously tested scales will be used. To measure status legitimacy perceptions, we will use items affirming the situation of low status groups as moral and appropriate, based on previous related scales. The manipulation/measurement of meritocracy and measures
of legitimacy perceptions will either be included as additional aspects of the same study or presented as belonging to supposedly independent studies along with subtle cover stories to disguise their real purpose. Legal decisions will be developed in strict collaboration with experts from the legal system. For all purposes and measures, low status groups are construed here as groups that are seen as low status in both fundamental dimensions of stereotype content: warmth and competence as yielded by pre-tests, although a stronger focus on decisions involving individuals with different ethnic origins is envisioned. Stereotypes and prejudice towards low status groups will also be assessed to test the impact of our main variables over and above the effect of the former variables. Other specific variables (namely potential moderators) are
specified in the description of the activities to be developed.

Concretely, the following activites are planned:
1) Activity 1 – Systematic review of the literature
2) Workpackage 1: Impact of meritocracy on legal decisions (with lay people)
3) Workpackage 2: Testing the impact of meritocracy in mock trial decisions using samples of judges or future judges
4) Workpackage 3: Testing the impact of meritocracy in decisions about parole (using samples of legal workers – “técnicos de reinserção profissional”)
5) Administrative management

FCT funded R&D projects

Congratulation to SPARC members Alice Ramos, Luís de Sousa and Pedro MagalhãesRui Costa Lopes and  Jorge ValaCicero Roberto Pereira and Jorge ValaSusana Salgado and Jorge Vala, and also Filipa Raimundo who each won an FCT funded R&D project!

For more information see:

Alice Ramos: “Clave-The social development of human values in childhood and early adolescence “

Luís de Sousa and Pedro Magalhães: ” EPOCA: Corruption and economic crisis, a poisonous combination: understanding process-outcome interactions in the explanation of public support for democracy”

Rui Costa Lopes and Jorge Vala: ” MiLD: Nobody’s fault but your own: The role of Meritocracy in Legal Decisions towards low status group members”

Susana Salgado and Jorge Vala: “HATE: Streams of hate and untruth? Using online news comments, posts and tweets to investigate attitudes and the prevalence of hate and untruth in political debates”

Cicero Roberto Pereira and Jorge Vala: “Scope and Meanings of the Intergroup Time Bias in Racialised Social Relations”





Roberto Pannico “When parties are always right: The relative importance of party cues and policy information for voters’ attitudes toward EU issues. An experimental test.”

Roberto Pannico presented a paper on the influence of that political parties have on citizens’ opinions about European integration, using an online survey experiment.

Here’s the abstract:

“This work analyses the influence that political parties have on citizens’ opinions about European integration. By measuring at the same time the content and the source effect on political attitudes, the paper considers the possibility that voters pay less attention to the argumentations used in a political message than to the source it comes from. Results from an online survey experiment show that partisan voters use a heuristic model of processing when taking positions on EU issues, even though the prevalence of the source effect is moderated by respondent’s political sophistication and party attachment. Furthermore, people tend to reduce the attention they pay to the message’s content when the message comes from their preferred party. These findings raise concerns about parties’ accountability for their activity at the EU level. “31870857_10155654319838562_927092704003751936_n