Faculty & Research

Alex Koch

Alex Koch

Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science and Asness Junior Faculty Fellow

Alex Koch studies differences between processing positive and negative information. For example, positive information is recognized faster and summarized as well as generalized more readily than negative information. Negative information is more attention-grabbing, is remembered more accurately, carries more weight in decisions and judging others than positive information. He explains such processing differences based on features of the information ecology such as higher frequency and similarity of positive compared to negative information, complementing the standard explanation that processing negative (vs. positive) information is more relevant for surviving and thriving. He endorses an efficient spatial arrangement method to measure similarity in which participants drag and drop more similar stimuli closer together on the screen. His results from this method show that people perceive a great variety of positive others, things, and events as more similar to one another compared to negative entities.

In a second line of research, Alex models the dimensions that people spontaneously use to compare society-representative categories like rich people, immigrants, parents, the military, alcoholics etc. His evidence points to agency / socioeconomic success (A), conservative-progressive beliefs (B), and trustworthiness / communion (C), summarized as the ABC model of stereotypes about groups. He finds that perceivers agree on groups’ agency and beliefs but not communion because it increases with group-perceiver similarity in agency and beliefs. That is, agency and beliefs are consensual, structural stereotype dimensions, whereas communion is a non-consensual, relational stereotype dimension. Follow-up projects include specifying the function of beliefs stereotypes, identifying boundary conditions of perceiving groups based on their stereotypic agency versus beliefs versus communion, relying on economic games to show behavioral consequences of people’s ABC stereotypes, and adversarial synthesis between the ABC and other models of social perception and cognition.

Alex’s research has been published in several impactful journals in the field of (cognitive and social) psychology, including Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Alex completed undergraduate studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Cologne in Germany. He also conducted research as a visiting undergraduate student at the University of New South Wales in Australia, as a visiting graduate student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and as a visiting postdoctoral scholar at Princeton University. Prior to joining Booth, Alex held a postdoctoral position at the University of Cologne.


2019 - 2020 Course Schedule

Number Title Quarter
38103 Strategies and Processes of Negotiation 2020 (Winter)

Alves, H., Koch, A., & Unkelbach, C. (2018). A cognitive-ecological explanation of intergroup biases. Psychological Science, 29, 1126–1133.

Alves, H., Koch, A., & Unkelbach, C. (2017). The "common good" phenomenon: Why similarities are positive and differences are negative. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 512–528.

Alves*, H., Koch*, A. S., & Unkelbach, C. (2017). Why good is more alike than bad: Processing implications. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21, 72–82.

Koch, A. S., Alves, H., Krüger, T., & Unkelbach, C. (2016). A general valence asymmetry in similarity: Good is more alike than bad. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42, 1171–1192.

Koch*, A. S., Imhoff*, R., Dotsch, R., Unkelbach, C., & Alves, H. (2016). The ABC of stereotypes about groups: Agency/socioeconomic success, conservative–progressive beliefs, and communion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110, 675–709.