The Sensitivity to Mean Intentions (SeMI) Model: Basic Assumptions, Recent Findings, and Potential Avenues for Future Research


Correspondence to: Department of Psychology, Philipps-University Marburg, Gutenbergstr. 18, 35032 Marburg, Germany. Email:


A large body of research has demonstrated that people who are habitually sensitive towards victimization tend to behave uncooperatively and immorally in socially uncertain situations. The “Sensitivity to Mean Intentions” (SeMI) model (Gollwitzer & Rothmund 2009) aims at describing social-cognitive mechanisms that underlie and explain this effect. The model posits that in socially uncertain situations, victim-sensitive individuals are asymmetrically sensitive to cues of untrustworthiness. When such cues are present, suspicious cognitive and motivational reactions are triggered in victim-sensitive individuals, and they behave preemptively selfish to avoid being exploited by others. Although functional at times, victim sensitivity does have dysfunctional side effects. The present article reviews recent findings regarding the SeMI model and sketches potential avenues for future research.