Professor, Head of the Social and Organizational Psychology Group

Paul van Lange

Professor, Head of the Social and Organizational Psychology Group

Phone: +31 (0) 20 598 8852
Room: 1B-49

Personal webpage


Over the years I have come to appreciate and recognize the importance of studying trust and human cooperation from various perspectives – the biological and evolutionary perspective, the economic perspective, the psychological perspective, and the cultural perspective. The scientific era we work in now is in my view more exciting and inspiring than ever before in my career. This why we adopt a variety of tools and methods, such as fMRI, hormonal analysis, emotion, body language, and various behavioral measures. The projects are quite diverse but complementary, and in combination should help us understand the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying trust and human cooperation as well how to promote human cooperation in an effective and efficient manner.

Bystander effect:   Decades of research reveal that it is a challenge to promote helping when others are around. But can reputational concerns promote helping even in large groups?

Social mindfulness:  It is not only money that makes the world go around.   It is also the thought that counts. How can we promote perspective-taking and non-costly helping?

Social class: Though often not consciously, we often make inferences about other people’s social classes. How do such inferences impact trust and cooperation?

Democracy: We assume that Justice and fairness basic needs. What implications does this have for perceptions and appreciation of voice and democracy?

Soccer: What are the differences between women and men on the soccer field?   What happens to the biology of spectators? Are players superstitious, and if so why and how?

Group size: What is the ideal composition of the group? And what is the ideal size of a group, especially from the perspective of promoting trust and human cooperation?

Culture: What is the role of culture in shaping trust and human cooperation? We work together with researchers from over thirty countries to examine these intriguing issues. We also conduct theoretical work on culture.

Sacrifice: Is sacrifice always good? Is personal well-being also served by balancing personal and relational concerns? If so, how and why?

Norms, reputation, and helping:   Can the mere presence of eyes serve as a reminder of costly and noncostly cooperation? What is required from the eyes? How does reputation affect cooperation in social dilemmas?

Theories: Functional Interdependence Theory (FIT), an innovative integration of interdependence theory and evolutionary theory.

Dishonesty: How can dishonesty, especially corruption, be understood in terms of trust, self-control, and emotions? How can it be reduced or eliminated?


Paul Van Lange studied Psychology at the University in Groningen (1986, MA Social Psychology, Methodology; 1991, PhD). He continued as an Assistant and Associate Professor at the VU, where he was appointed Professor in 2000. He also held a professorship titled Societal Conflicts (1999-2008) in Leiden University. In 2014, he became Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Most of his research on human cooperation and trust is grounded in psychological and evolutionary theorizing of trust and human cooperation, through which he seeks to understand the functions of forgiveness, generosity, empathy, fairness, morality, retaliation, competition, as well as general beliefs of human nature in various situations. His work has been recognized several grants and awards, including the Kurt Lewin Medal by the European Association of Social Psychology in 2014. He has published around 150 articles, and edited or written a two-volume Handbook and 10 books. He served as Associate Editor for various journals, such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Psychological Science, is founding editor of an interdisciplinary series on Human Cooperation (Oxford), Current Opinion in Psychology, and served as Director of the Kurt Lewin Institute (KLI) and President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP).

Research interests

My research interests primarily focus on the psychology, economics, and evolution of trust and human cooperation. The key challenge is to understand the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying human cooperation, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the various ways in which cooperation and trust can be promoted. This challenge operates at the level of dyads, small groups, between groups, and at the societal level. Past, present, and future projects are related to this overall theme, including bystander intervention, reputation in social dilemmas, fairness, dishonesty, forgiveness, sacrifice, social mindfulness, group size, body language, altruism, empathy, conflict, hostility and aggression. Also, with various colleagues, we examine these themes by using economic games as well as other behavioral measures, and adopt a variety of empirical approaches, including fMRI, hormonal analysis, cross-national comparisons, laboratory research as well as field research. Insights are applied to urgent societal issues such as trust in society, safety, sustainability, negotiation and conflict, soccer, and health and communication. These are covered by and discussed in national and international newspapers, popular science magazines, other media such as radio and television, and in workshops to professionals such as policy advisors and city mayors.

Google Scholar

Current Opinion in Psychology
Social Psychology Network


Interview about Empathy (In de Nieuwe Liefde, in Dutch)
TV program (episode 3) on Morality and Conscience (in Dutch)
Lecture at the University of Oxford on Human Cooperation

see also:

Recent publications

ILJ Lemmers-Jansen, L Krabbendam, DM Amodio, NJ Van Doesum & ... (2018) Giving others the option of choice: An fMRI study on low-cost cooperation. Neuropsychologia 109, 1-9
K Eriksson, P Strimling, PA Andersson, M Aveyard, M Brauer, V Gritskov & ... (2017) Cultural universals and cultural differences in meta-norms about peer punishment. Management and Organization Review, 1-201
D Balliet, JM Tybur & PAM Van Lange (2017) Functional interdependence theory: An evolutionary account of social situations. Personality and Social Psychology Review 21 (4), 361-38811
R Bekkers, D Posthuma & P van Lange (2017) Education, Religion, and Prosociality: A Study of Identical Twins. PsyArXiv
CP Reinders Folmer, T Wildschut, D De Cremer & PAM van Lange (2017) Coping with noise in social dilemmas: Group representatives fare worse than individuals because they lack trust in others’ benign intentions. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 1368430217722036
Y Ding, J Wu, T Ji, X Chen & PAM Van Lange (2017) The rich are easily offended by unfairness: Wealth triggers spiteful rejection of unfair offers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 71, 138-1441
ML Visserman, F Righetti, EA Impett, D Keltner & PAM Van Lange (2017) It’s the Motive That Counts: Perceived Sacrifice Motives and Gratitude in Romantic Relationships.. American Psychological Association1
MI Rinderu, PAM Van Lange & BJ Bushman (2017) Climate, Aggression, and Violence (CLASH): A Cultural-Evolutionary Approach. Current Opinion in Psychology4
X Tan, JW Van Prooijen, T Proulx, H Wu, I Van Beest & PAM Van Lange (2017) Reacting to unexpected losses in an uncertain world: High approach individuals become even more risk-seeking. Personality and individual differences 109, 117-1231
J Wu, D Balliet, JM Tybur, S Arai, PAM Van Lange & T Yamagishi (2017) Life history strategy and human cooperation in economic games. Evolution and Human Behavior1
NC Köbis, JW van Prooijen, F Righetti & PAM Van Lange (2017) The Road to Bribery and Corruption: Slippery Slope or Steep Cliff?. Psychological science 28 (3), 297-3062
CD Parks, X Xu & PAM Van Lange (2017) Does information about others’ behavior undermine cooperation in social dilemmas?. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 20 (2), 260-2741
NJ Van Doesum, JM Tybur & PAM Van Lange (2017) Class impressions: Higher social class elicits lower prosociality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 68, 11-208
J Krueger, AM Evans, P Heck, PAM van Lange, B Rockenbach & ... (2017) Let me help you help me: Trust between profit and prosociality.. Trust in social dilemmas, 121-1384
PAM van Lange, MI Rinderu & BJ Bushman (2017) CLASH: Climate (change) and cultural evolution of intergroup conflict. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 1368430217735579
PAM Van Lange, B Rockenbach & T Yamagishi (2017) Trust in Social Dilemmas. Oxford University Press1
PAM Van Lange, MI Rinderu & BJ Bushman (2017) The Logic of Climate and Culture: Evolutionary and Psychological Aspects of CLASH. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 402
ML Visserman, F Righetti, M Kumashiro & PAM Van Lange (2017) Me or us? Self-control promotes a healthy balance between personal and relationship concerns. Social Psychological and Personality Science 8 (1), 55-654
PAM Van Lange, MI Rinderu & BJ Bushman (2017) Aggression and violence around the world: A model of CLimate, Aggression, and Self-control in Humans (CLASH). Behavioral and brain sciences 4020
L Verburgh, EJA Scherder, PAM Van Lange & J Oosterlaan (2016) Do Elite and Amateur Soccer Players Outperform Non-Athletes on Neurocognitive Functioning? A Study Among 8-12 Year Old Children. PloS one 11 (12), e01657412

View full list of publications on Google Scholar