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: MF-C589

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

PAM Van Lange, ET Higgins & AW Kruglanski (2020) Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. Guilford Publications4
G Spadaro, K Gangl, JW Van Prooijen, PAM Van Lange & CO Mosso (2020) Enhancing feelings of security: How institutional trust promotes interpersonal trust. PloS one 15 (9), e0237934
C Molho, JM Tybur, PAM Van Lange & D Balliet (2020) Direct and indirect punishment of norm violations in daily life. Nature communications 11 (1), 1-9
U Athenstaedt, H Brohmer, JA Simpson, S Müller, N Schindling, A Bacik & ... (2020) Men View their ex-partners more favorably than women do. Social Psychological and Personality Science 11 (4), 483-4911
JJ Van Bavel, K Baicker, PS Boggio, V Capraro, A Cichocka, M Cikara & ... (2020) Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-12435
I Van Sintemaartensdijk, JL Van Gelder, JW Van Prooijen, C Nee, M Otte & ... (2020) Mere presence of informal guardians deters burglars: a virtual reality study. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1-201
ML Visserman, F Righetti, A Muise, EA Impett, S Joel & PAM Van Lange (2020) Taking Stock of Reality: Biased Perceptions of the Costs of Romantic Partners’ Sacrifices. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1948550619896671
E Van de Vliert & PAM Van Lange (2020) Latitudinal gradients as scientific tools for psychologists. Current opinion in psychology 32, 43-46
NJ Van Doesum, RE de Vries, AAJ Blokland, JM Hill, DM Kuhlman & ... (2020) Social mindfulness: Prosocial the active way. The Journal of Positive Psychology 15 (2), 183-1937
J Wu, D Balliet, LS Peperkoorn, A Romano & PAM Van Lange (2020) Cooperation in groups of different sizes: The effects of punishment and reputation-based partner choice. Frontiers in Psychology 10, 29562
MJ Gelfand, JC Jackson, X Pan, D Nau, M Dagher, P Van Lange & CY Chiu (2020) The Importance of Cultural Tightness and Government Efficiency For Understanding COVID-19 Growth and Death Rates. 4
J Wu, DP Balliet & PAM van Lange (2020) Reputation: A fundamental route to human cooperation. Social cooperation and conflict: Biological mechanisms at the interface
AL Huckelba & PAM Van Lange (2020) The Silent Killer: Consequences of Climate Change and How to Survive Past the Year 2050. Sustainability 12 (9), 3757
F Righetti, J Tybur, P Van Lange, L Echelmeyer, S van Esveld, J Kroese & ... (2020) How reproductive hormonal changes affect relationship dynamics for women and men: A 15-day diary study. Biological Psychology 149, 1077842
JA Häusser, C Stahlecker, A Mojzisch, J Leder, PAM Van Lange & ... (2019) Acute hunger does not always undermine prosociality. Nature communications 10 (1), 1-103
PAM van Lange & E Van De Vliert (2019) Latitude adjustment: Distance from the equator shapes our thinking. Scientific American 321 (4)
SM Dark, T Aalberg, A Blekesaune, E Elvestad, T Abbott, RP Abelson & ... (2019) The relation between intelligence and religiosity: A meta-analysis and some proposed explanations. Contemplating Climate Change: Mental Models and Human Reasoning 18 (3), 1-36
E Van de Vliert & PAM Van Lange (2019) Latitudinal psychology: an ecological perspective on creativity, aggression, happiness, and beyond. Perspectives on psychological science 14 (5), 860-8848
Z Manesi, PAM Van Lange, NJ Van Doesum & TV Pollet (2019) What are the most powerful predictors of charitable giving to victims of typhoon Haiyan: Prosocial traits, socio-demographic variables, or eye cues?. Personality and Individual Differences 146, 217-22513
M Dong, JW van Prooijen & PAM van Lange (2019) Self-enhancement in moral hypocrisy: Moral superiority and moral identity are about better appearances. PloS one 14 (7), e02193822

View full list of publications on Google Scholar