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Prof. G.A. van Kleef (1977) has been appointed professor of Social Psychology, with a focus on interpersonal and group processes, at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Prof Gerben van Kleef, Social Psychology
Credits: Dirk Gillissen

A large part of Gerben van Kleef’s career has been devoted to research on interpersonal and group processes. Much of his research is focused on trying to understand how people (intentionally and unintentionally) influence one another. It is within this framework that Van Kleef conducts research into the social aspects of emotions, power, morality, conflict and cooperation. His research is characterised by a shared focus on fundamental social-psychological processes and relevant (often behavioural) outcomes.

Emotion and social persuasion

In his research on emotion, Van Kleef primarily focuses on the interpersonal effects of emotional expressions (e.g. anger, joy and distress) on observers’ behaviour in different social contexts and within organisations. He explores, among other things, the consequences of emotional expressions within personal relationships, groups, negotiations, leadership, coaching and sport. On the basis of this research Van Kleef developed an influential theory on the interpersonal effects of emotions (Emotions as Social Information Theory).

Power and morality

Another important theme in Van Kleef’s research is power. Within this theme, he examines, among other things, how people acquire power and how (a lack of) power influences social information processing, interpersonal sensitivity and prosocial versus egocentric behaviour. Recently, the focus of this research has been increasingly shifting to the relationship between power and morality. For instance, Van Kleef is researching under which circumstances deviant behaviour undermines someone’s power and when such behaviour actually leads to more power.

In April of 2016, Cambridge University Press published Van Kleef’s book The Interpersonal Dynamics of Emotion: Toward an Integrative Theory of Emotions as Social Information. In the previously published Op het gevoel - Hoe we elkaar beïnvloeden met onze emoties (On feeling: How we use emotions to influence one another), Van Kleef refutes the notion that people need to suppress their emotions in order to function effectively.

Van Kleef lectures on emotional persuasion (graduate psychology students) and on the latest developments in emotion research (students of the Research Master’s programme in Psychology). 

About Van Kleef

Van Kleef is associate professor at the UvA’s department of Social Psychology. In 2012, he was named professor by special appointment of Society and Organisation-related Psychological Aspects of Prosocial Behaviour at the UvA. This chair was established on behalf of the Van der Gaag Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In addition, he is the chair of the UvA’s department of Social Psychology and research director of the Kurt Lewin Graduate School, the national research school for social psychology and her applications. In 2014, Van Kleef was a visiting lecturer at Columbia University’s Columbia Business School in New York.