At the Department of Education and Psychology at Freie Universität, Kanngießer will build up a junior research group to investigate the development of social rules within different cultures. Previous research on the development of social standards and the psychological foundations of this development was done mainly on children in Western societies. Research on adults from different cultures, however, demonstrated that their understanding of norms varies considerably. In Kanngießer's opinion, this suggests that the developmental trajectories of Western children are not universally valid.
Against this background Kanngießer aims to examine from a comparative cultural perspective how children in different societies develop an understanding of social norms. In a large-scale study, she plans to analyze the developmental trajectories of children from five different, non-industrialized societies in Africa and South America. Through the transcultural comparison – unlike the previous approaches – she expects to identify which parts of social norm understanding apply across cultures, and which parts are caused by the cultural environment.
Kanngießer has conducted field studies in Kenya, Namibia, and Argentina and done research at Kyoto University and Harvard University, among others, and most recently, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. She is one of eight researchers to receive a Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation this year.
The funding will initially run for five years with 561,500 euros earmarked for the first phase. A speaker for the foundation said the fellowship is intended for excellent postdoctoral researchers who wish to realize pioneering and creative research ideas at German universities and research institutions and not only have outstanding expertise, but also the ability to overcome disciplinary boundaries.