The Role of Control Motivation in Germans’ and Poles’ Interest in History


  • Michał Bilewicz
  • Anna Stefaniak
  • Markus Barth
  • Marta Witkowska
  • Immo Fritsche


Contemporary societies seem to be obsessed with history. This is reflected in the popularity of historical books, films, and reenactments. In our research, we aimed to assess the specific types of content that interest people when exploring their national histories and the psychological factors motivating such explorations. Following the two-dimensional model of social cognition that points to morality and competence as the main dimensions in individual and group perception, we distinguished interest in competence-related aspects of national history (control) from interest in historical moral actions (moral agency). Two studies performed in Poland and Germany showed that in both countries people’s interest in history is structured in a similar way, in which moral agency and control play essential roles. Additionally, in both countries people reacted to individual control threats with enhanced curiosity about the past moral agency of their nations. We discuss these results within the framework of the model of group-based control and compensatory control processes.