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Psychology: Social Influence (track)

Study programme

In this master's track, you will learn to apply social-psychological knowledge and scientifically responsible methods to analyse and empirically investigate the social-psychological determinants of behaviour. This goes together with developing evidence-based interventions in human behaviour, with an emphasis on behaviour with societal implications. It also involves developing strategies for evaluating those interventions. The one-year programme consists of four courses, which are completed in the first four months, followed by a master’s thesis and an internship.

Study programme

First semester: September to December

The four courses comprising the first semester each count for 6 ECTS. “Developing Interventions” and “Behavioural Influence” are offered from September to October; “Applying Research Methods” and “Emotional Influence” are offered from November to December.

  • Developing Interventions

In this course, you will learn how to develop, conduct and evaluate an effective, evidence-based behavioural change intervention. These interventions are created for different kind of social issues in which a change in human behaviour is (part of) the solution (e.g. alcohol abuse among teenagers, public littering, discrimination in organizations, obesity, etc.). During lectures, tutorials and a practical assignment, you will learn and apply the intervention mapping approach to a real-world problem submitted by an external organisation.

  • Behavioral Influence

In this course, you will specialise in the motivational and social-cognitive underpinnings of behavioural influence. The effectiveness and coherence of different strategies behind commercial and non-commercial marketing and information campaigns are examined (e.g. nudging, neuro-marketing, personality profiles and tailored targeting). In lectures, guest lectures, tutorials, and a practical assignment, you will learn to expand your theoretical knowledge about social influence, discuss practical and ethical problems with applications and develop a strategy for a real-world behavioural change case submitted by an external organisation.

  • Applying Research Methods

Rather than a statistics course, this course discusses the merits and drawbacks of the methods that are common in social and cultural psychological research, both from a fundamental and applied perspective. The course discusses a wide range of research approaches (experimental, quasi-experimental, surveys, big data, qualitative research, and research across social and cultural contexts) and teaches you to make informed decisions about applicable research methods; for instance, to gain insights into the psychological determinants of specific behaviour, or to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. In general lectures, tutorials and a research proposal, you learn to apply the different methods to specific topics in the area of social influence.

  • Emotional Influence

This course focuses on the emerging understanding of the role of emotional expressions in social influence, i.e. when and how emotional expressions may contribute to a successful influence attempt. Topics include the role of emotions in conflict and negotiation, the influence of emotional expressions in attitude change, customer service and consumer behaviour, and the role of emotional expressions in leadership and politics. The lectures pay ample attention to the mechanisms and contingencies that govern the social effects of emotional expressions.

Second semester: January to June

The second semester starts in January with a Master’s thesis (18 ECTS) followed by the Master’s internship (18 ECTS).

Master’s Internship

The internship is typically a work placement in a professional environment. You will spend three (or more) months at a company or institution involved in influencing human behaviour, such as an advertising agency, market research agency, municipality, or training and assessment agency. You are free to find an internship that fits your own interests and career aspirations, either in the Netherlands or abroad. This is facilitated by the University’s network of past internship organisations and the internal track website on which internship vacancies are posted frequently. Alternatively, you may opt for a research internship, which involves working on elements of an ongoing research project under the supervision of a researcher.

Master’s thesis

Your academic skills and theoretical knowledge are perfected during the master’s thesis. The goal is to gain hands-on experience with the generation of the fundamental knowledge on which evidence-based interventions are built; to improve empirical research skills and to specialise in a specific theoretical topic. You will conduct an empirical study within the research programme of one of the scientific researchers in the Social Psychology department. During this project, you will complete the entire empirical cycle: from formulating a research question, developing the empirical study and collecting data to analysing data and reporting on and presenting results.