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 (2021) A broader mind: Concern with other humans, equality, and animals. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 42, 109-1131
J Wu, S Számadó, P Barclay, B Beersma, TD Dores Cruz, SL Iacono & ... (2021) Honesty and dishonesty in gossip strategies: a fitness interdependence analysis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 376 (1838), 202003002
TD Dores Cruz, I Thielmann, S Columbus, C Molho, J Wu, F Righetti & ... (2021) Gossip and reputation in everyday life. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 376 (1838), 2020030115
NJ Van Doesum, RO Murphy, M Gallucci, E Aharonov-Majar & ... (2021) Social mindfulness and prosociality vary across the globe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118 (35)
J Wu, S Számadó, P Barclay, B Beersma, TDD Cruz, SL Iacono & ... (2021) Adaptations for Sharing Honest and Dishonest Gossip: A Fitness Interdependence Analysis. PsyArXiv
P van Lange & D Rand (2021) Human Cooperation and the Crises of Climate Change, COVID-19, and Misinformation. PsyArXiv
J Sierksma, N Lee & P van Lange (2021) Prosocial Choices: How Do Young Children Evaluate (In) Considerate Behavior?. PsyArXiv
PAM Van Lange & AL Huckelba (2021) Psychological distance: How to make climate change less abstract and closer to the self. Current Opinion in Psychology5
NJ Van Doesum, PAM Van Lange, JM Tybur, A Leal & E Van Dijk (2021) People from lower social classes elicit greater prosociality: Compassion and deservingness matter. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 13684302209820721
K Eriksson, P Strimling, M Gelfand, J Wu, J Abernathy, CS Akotia & ... (2021) Perceptions of the appropriate response to norm violation in 57 societies. Nature communications 12 (1), 1-1121
C Engel & PAM Van Lange (2021) Social mindfulness is normative when costs are low, but rapidly declines with increases in costs.. Judgment & Decision Making 16 (2)1
MJ Gelfand, JC Jackson, X Pan, D Nau, D Pieper, E Denison, M Dagher & ... (2021) The relationship between cultural tightness–looseness and COVID-19 cases and deaths: a global analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health 5 (3), e135-e14496
J Wu, D Balliet & PAM Van Lange (2021) 3 Reputation. Cooperation and Conflict: The Interaction of Opposites in Shaping Social …
PAM Van Lange & S Columbus (2021) Vitamin S: Why Is Social Contact, Even With Strangers, So Important to Well-Being?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 096372142110025383
M Dong, JW van Prooijen, S Wu & PAM van Lange (2021) Culture, status, and hypocrisy: High-status people who don’t practice what they preach are viewed as worse in the United States than China. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 19485506219904513
J Wu, DP Balliet & PAM van Lange (2021) Reputation: A fundamental route to human cooperation. Social cooperation and conflict, 45-651
D Balliet, J Wu & PAM Van Lange (2021) Indirect reciprocity, gossip, and reputation-based cooperation. Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles 3, 265-872
M Dong, JW van Prooijen & PAM van Lange (2021) Calculating Hypocrites Effect: Moral judgments of word‐deed contradictory transgressions depend on targets' competence. Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology
ML Visserman, F Righetti, A Muise, EA Impett, S Joel & PAM Van Lange (2021) Taking Stock of Reality: Biased Perceptions of the Costs of Romantic Partners’ Sacrifices. Social Psychological and Personality Science 12 (1), 54-624
LS Peperkoorn, DV Becker, D Balliet, S Columbus, C Molho & ... (2020) The prevalence of dyads in social life. PloS one 15 (12), e02441889

View full list of publications on Google Scholar