What is (almost) done happening…

What is (almost) done happening…


  1. Versteegen, P.L. (2023). Those Were the What? Contents of Nostalgia, Relative Deprivation, and Radical Right Support. European Journal of Political Research. doi:
  2. Versteegen, P.L. (2023). The excluded ordinary? A theory of populist radical right supporters’ position in society. European Journal of Social Psychology. doi:

Chapters and other publications

Versteegen, U. & Versteegen, P.L. (2020). Social Fields As An Awareness-Based Approach To Reconnect Self, Other, and Whole. In O. Gunnlaugson (Ed.), Advances in Presencing, Volume 3. Vancouver, Can: Trifoss Business Press. 

Versteegen, P.L. (2023). Populist radical right voters do not have a monopoly on nostalgia! The Loop – ECPR’s Political Science Blog. Link

Work in progress

With Byron G. Adams: More Than Just Part of the Group? Uniqueness’ Role in Inclusion Experiences  (under review)

Optimal distinctiveness research suggests that people feel included when finding a balance between two needs: they need to belong to the superordinate group and simultaneously remain unique with their distinct subgroup background. Inclusion, in turn, can promote well-being, possibly through group identity. However, the theory that uniqueness improves inclusion experiences and subsequent well-being beyond mere belonging remains largely untested. We address this gap in two studies, using convenience samples from the U.S. and the Netherlands. Study 1 shows that the relationship between belonging and well-being is strengthened when the uniqueness need is met. In Study 2, belonging and uniqueness separately predict an inclusion experience, even though the subsequent relationship between inclusion and well-being is not mediated through group identity. Finally, we discuss avenues for future research to operationalize the two inclusion needs and raise a practical implication: practitioners can improve inclusion interventions by accounting for individuals’ need to be unique. 

Trump Voters’ Social Position in US Society: Uniqueness and Radical Right Support (revise & resubmit)

Previous research portrays radical right voters as economically, geographically, or politically marginalized. However, it seems implausible that these self-perceived ordinary people––often over-representing historically powerful majorities (whites, men, Christians)––are also socially marginalized. In the present paper, I theorize why they may feel socially excluded, nonetheless: Optimal distinctiveness research posits that individuals feel included in society if they experience a.) belonging to it and b.) uniqueness within it (i.e., feel their background is recognized). I argue that historical power and self-perceived ordinariness satisfy most majority members’ belonging need but that recent diversification and liberalization leave their uniqueness need unsatisfied. Indeed, cluster analyses of ANES data show that a substantial share of majority members experiences firm belonging to society but lacks uniqueness therein. This group is more likely to support Trump than individuals whose needs are satisfied. This paper contributes a social inclusion perspective on radical right voters’ position in society.

We Love, They Hate: Emotions in Affective Polarization and How Partisans Use Them  (revise & resubmit)

What emotions do affectively polarized individuals report, and how? While affect is a broad term, research suggests that different emotions predict distinct political behaviors. Therefore, it is vital to understand what emotions partisans report. However, as research on motivated reasoning suggests that people process information consistent with their partisan mind, I argue that they may not necessarily report the emotions they feel. Instead, they may ascribe normatively desirable emotions to their ingroup and normatively undesirable emotions to opposing outgroups. Doing so makes their ingroup distinct from and superior to outgroups. This paper develops and showcases this argument. I analyze data in which affective polarization was likely high––interviews with radical right voters conducted before a major election––to illustrate what emotions partisans report and how. This discussion invites future research to test how affective polarization correlates with single emotions and if partisans strengthen polarization through how they talk about emotions.

Everyone is in Charge: Compassion Predicts Personal and Civic Prosocial Behaviors in Societal Crises (With Jacob Sohlberg) (under review)

Who is in charge during societal crises? While perceptions of responsibility vary across individuals, issues, and countries, crises like climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic require everyone’s action. Hence, it is crucial to identify predictors that motivate citizens’ personal \textit{and} political prosocial behaviors. In this paper, we argue that compassion––the consciousness of others’ suffering paired with the desire to mitigate it––predicts these \textit{personal} and \textit{civic} prosocial behaviors. Representative panel data from Sweden collected during the pandemic demonstrates that compassion predicts their own action and makes citizens assign responsibility to other societal actors. An online experiment from the US replicates and extends these results, showing that compassion predicts personal action and responsibility assignment. Moreover, compassion leads individuals to monitor the crisis handling of various actors. Together, we conclude that compassion––easy to learn and quick to scale––is an efficient tool when emerging crises require everyone to take action.

For a Cause but with Affect: When and Why Emotions Matter in Protest (With Elena Leuschner) (under review)

How do negative and positive emotions affect an individual’s protest participation? While previous literature suggests that negative emotions initiate political protest, it remains unclear how these emotions develop throughout their participation. We propose that protests are emotion regulating and motivate individuals to continue protesting as a decrease in negative emotions is accompanied by an increase in positive ones. We test this theory with online experiments in the U.S. (total N = 1,603), operationalizing guilt as a negative and hope as a positive emotion. In contrast to expectations, emotional triggers do not predict protest participation (Study 1). However, regardless of why a person started protesting, participation affects protesters’ emotional state by reducing guilt and increasing hope. Hereby, protesters are incentivized to further protest (Study 2). These results imply that protest movements are more likely to prevail when building positive emotions.

How To Cope With Status Threat: Experiments to Increase Majority Tolerance for Diversification (With Stylianos Syropoulos) (in prep.) 

Western societies are diversifying, liberalizing, and striding for social equality. Consequently, some members of historically dominant majorities (e.g., whites, men) feel threatened to lose resource, power, and attention privileges. Previous literature shows that majority members often react to these status threats with backlash, expressed in outgroup animosity and radical right support. In turn, these reactions undermine further progress towards diversity and equality. Therefore, we ask what strategies decrease majority members’ status threat reactions to societal change and subsequently increase their tolerance for diversification, liberalization, and equality. Drawing on social psychological theories, we conduct pre-registered online experiments (total N = 3,294) to test two possible strategies. Indicative evidence suggests that priming a common national identity serves to reduce majority members’ status threat perceptions and increases their tolerance for diversification. Together, we provide a pragmatic approach to reaching the normative ideal of equality by addressing the tangible reality of majority backlash. 

How Self-Disclosure Bridges Divides: A Tool for Increasing Political Respect and Willingness to Interact (With Emily Kubin and Kurt Gray) (in prep.)

To combat rising polarization, scholars studied ways to make opponents feel more connected to one another. We explore one underlying mechanism increasing connectedness, suggesting that people feel more connected to opponents who self-disclose (i.e., share personal or sensitive information). We argue that sharing experiences often more powerfully promotes pro-social attitudes (respect and willingness to interact) than facts because they are more self-disclosing. In Studies 1a and 1b, we find that experiences are more self-disclosing than facts, breeding connectedness and prosocial attitudes. In Study 2, we directly test the role of self-disclosure and find that sharing experiences most effectively drive connectedness and pro-social attitudes if self-disclosure is high. Study 3 communicates facts (a key tenant for healthy democracies) through self-disclosure and finds that even facts bridge divides when they appear self-disclosing.