The Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology uses experimental and field research methods to study human behavior and its underlying processes. Our research focuses on theory of human social behavior and human cognition. Theoretical knowledge and rigorous methodology is used to solve applied problems in society and organizations. Currently the department consists of three sections: Cognitive, Organizational and Social Psychology.

Cognitive Psychology

The Cognitive Psychology group of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam focuses its research efforts on the general theme of “Attention and Performance”. Within the area of attention, we investigate top-down and bottom-up control of visual selection, the relation between attention and eye movement, visual search, visual marking, and attention in 3-D. Within the area of performance we focus on nonspecific preparatory processes in reaction time tasks and on task switching.

We investigate these issues using different approaches and techniques, i.e., behavioral RT tasks, eye movement recording, EEG, MEG and fMRI recording and neural network modeling. In addition to the basic research on attention and performance, we also conduct applied research in the area of information processing, traffic behavior and human decision making. Applied research is usually conducted on the basis of external funding.

Organizational Psychology

The Organizational Psychology Section focuses on how people form and behave in organizations and how membership of organizations in turn shape people’s behaviors, emotions, and cognitions. Membership of all kinds of organizations – be it work, leisure, community or religious organizations – largely define us as humans, but they can be quite challenging too. Organizational Psychology help us understand those challenges and tries to answer fundamental questions about human organizational nature by applying and combining insights from social, personality, organizational, and evolutionary psychology. In doing so we attempt to address questions, such as:

  • How do people effectively work together in teams?
  • What personality factors predict work place behaviors?
  • How do leaders behave in organizations, and how can they lead more effectively?
  • What are the neural and hormonal correlates of power, status, and charisma?
  • Does organizational justice matter?
  • How should employees be rewarded?
  • What do evolutionary and neuroscience approaches contribute to the study of organizational behavior?

To answer these questions, we draw from a broad range of innovating research methods including surveys, assessments, games, observations, interaction analysis, cognitive, and neuroscience methods.

Our team consists of dedicated, award-winning teachers and researchers and we offer a cutting-edge, highly popular, and well-evaluated educational program in Organizational Psychology. We participate in the international Bachelor Psychology and are part of a minor program in Social and Organizational Psychology, with courses on topics such as Group Dynamics, Human Resource Management, Leadership, and Evolutionary Psychology (in Organizations). In addition, we offer a unique English taught 1- year Masters course in Work and Organizational Psychology that includes an internship and research project.

Social Psychology

This group focuses on three interrelated research themes: Trust, emotion, and cooperation. Life is filled with social situations that pose challenges – dilemmas involving altruism, helping, or fairness, or those involving  heating, corruption, or compliance. For example, how can one promote and maintain trust in dyads and groups? What determines sacrifice and ambivalence in relationships, or donation to noble societal causes? What is it that undermines cooperation – within groups, between groups, and even between group leaders? Why do people develop theories that seem strongly conflicting with evidence – conspiracy theories, myths of self-interest, feelings of superiority? What emotions facilitate or undermine each of these phenomena, and what functions do these emotions serve?

Social psychology, along with closely related fields (e.g., evolutionary biology, experimental economics, social neuroscience) helps us understand those challenges and can answer fundamental questions about trust, emotions, and human cooperation. Our group draws from a broad range of research methods and approaches, including economic games, interaction analysis, experience-sampling, modeling, cross-national data, big data, meta-analysis, as well as cognitive and neuroscientific methods (e.g., fMRI, neuroendocrinology).