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Trust, Leadership and Cooperation

This research program Trust, Leadership, and Cooperation (TLC) combines expertise from social and organizational psychology to investigate important themes in social interaction and group processes. The primary objective of the program is to understand how humans interact with each other to achieve important interpersonal, group, and organizational goals.

Research themes
The main research themes are trust, leadership, and cooperation, which are pillars of human prosociality. Using a combination of experimental and field research and a broad range of innovating methodologies from psychology and adjacent disciplines (such as behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, psychometrics and meta-analysis) the programme examines the evolutionary, social and individual psychological processes shaping trust, cooperation, and leadership, and applies these insights to improve the welfare of individuals, relationships, groups, and organizations. TLC also investigates related topics such as altruism, justice, culture, self-regulation, personality and power. In light of the multidisciplinary focus of the programme, we actively engage in collaborations with researchers in other fields both inside and outside psychology and both nationally and internationally.

Trust, Leadership and Cooperation

  • About TLC

    History of TLC

    TLC started in 2009 with the merger of two departments, Social Psychology and Work & Organizational Psychology. Before 2009 there were two separate research programs “social interaction” (leaders, Prof. Rusbult and Prof Van Lange) and “management of individual differences and social processes in organizations” (leader, Prof. Van der Flier, interim Prof. Kelderman). With the appointment of Prof. van Vugt (to replace the retired van der Flier) and the loss of Prof. Rusbult (in 2009) the programs were merged into one, TLC, with foci on classic social psychology themes such as trust and cooperation and organizational psychology themes such as leadership and diversity.

    TLC is embedded within the department of Social and Organizational Psychology (see section department S&O) with an international focus (staff and PhD-students come from no fewer than 7 countries). There are regular colloquia, brown-bag research meetings, and an annual mini-conference where staff and PhD’s present their research to each other. Presentations at prestigious conferences are financially supported (each staff and PhD receive an annual personal budget).


    There are VU-collaborations with computer sciences (for modeling), Camera (in Dutch) (for virtual reality), and VU-Medical Center (for hormonal and twin research). TLC ensures high quality training for PhD’s through courses offered through the Kurt Lewin Institute and Faculty of Behavioural and Human Movement Sciences Graduate School.

    Much of the research is conducted with students of our Masters courses, in particular the 2-year Research Masters which offers high class research training for aspiring PhD-students (80% of graduates get into PhD-positions) through in-house and international experts (Amodio, Baumeister, Tice, Williams). TLC-members work with scientists at  universities around the globe (including Oxford, Singapore, UCLA), and the Department is a popular hub for US and European researchers.

    Research Facilities

    The department offers excellent research facilities and staff and PhD’s have access to dedicated labs for experimental research, including labs for observation, physiological research (ERP), and neuro-imaging. 

    For more information on lab facilities of the faculty of Psychology and Education see Research Facilities.

  • Projects

    Research projects Trust, Leadership and Cooperation

    All research projects within the programme of TLC fit within the core themes of the programme: Trust, Leadership, and Cooperation. Each of these projects is supported by an external grant. Select one of the main themes, then look for individual projects. Find an overview of research themes and projects below.

    TrustBiological and Cultural Perspectives of Trust and Cooperationdr. Daniel P. Balliet, prof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange
    Trust and Self-control in Relationshipsprof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Tila M. Pronk, dr. Francesca Righetti
    LeadershipEvolutionary Psychology of Status, Power, and Leadershipdr. Claire E. Ashton-James, dr. Leander van der Meij, dr. Thomas V. Pollet, dr. Richard D. Ronay, dr. Reinout E. de Vries, prof. dr. Mark van Vugt
    Leadership, Personality, and Moralityprof. dr. Marise Born, prof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Joshua M. Tybur, dr. Reinout E. de Vries, prof. dr. Mark van Vugt
    Leadership and Organizational Dynamicsdr. Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, dr. Janneke K. Oostrom, dr. Richard D. Ronay, dr. Reinout E. de Vries, prof. dr. Mark van Vugt
    CooperationThe Psychology of Helpingprof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Esther van Leeuwen, dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen
    Fairness, Cooperation, and Conspiraciesprof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen
    Social Dilemmas and Human Cooperationdr. Daniel P. Balliet, prof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Joshua M. Tybur, prof. dr. Mark van Vugt
    The Psychology and Neuroscience fo Altruism, Norm Violation, and Social Mindfulnessprof. dr. Roy Baumeister, prof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange, dr. Thomas V. Pollet, dr. Tila M. Pronk, dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen, dr. Francesca Righetti
  • Academic reputation

    The program is developing a strong scientific reputation, as reflected in the quality of publications in outlets such as American Psychologist, Annual Review of Psychology, Academy of Management Review, Current Biology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Personality and Social Psychology Review and Psychological Bulletin.

    The program leaders have published theoretically integrative books such as Bridging Social Psychology,  a forthcoming “Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology” (Van Lange, Kruglanski & Higgins, 2011), Applying Social Psychology (Buunk & Van Vugt, 2008), and a trade book “Selected: Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow and Why It Matters” (Van Vugt & Ahuja, 2010). Staff members have served in key editorial positions (including the flagship journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), NWO committees (Van Lange; Van Vugt) and program committees for major conferences (EAESP, SESP). For links to most of these books and publications, see Key Publications.

    Also, staff members have given key notes at many conferences, and received awards (or nominations) for best papers (e.g., Homan won the best publication award at the Academy of Management). Our academic profile has been further strengthened by the recent appointment of Prof Roy Baumeister, an international expert on social interaction, culture, and self-regulation.

    Some examples of academic achievements

    NWO grantsPollet (VENI), Van Leeuwen/Van Vugt (Mozaiek), Van Prooijen (NWO-Program Conflict), and Van Lange (Replacement Grant)
    AppointmentsRoy Baumeister (Professor), David Amodio and Kip Williams (Affiliates)
    ArticlesArticles published in prestigious journals (e.g., Annual Review of Psychology, Psychological Bulletin) and journals that bridge social psychology with social neuroscience (e.g., Current Biology, NeuroImage, International Journal of Psychophysiology, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience)
    Associate editorshipse.g., Paul van Lange and Mark van Vugt (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), Jan Willem van Prooijen (European Journal of Social Psychology), Reinout de Vries (Leadership Quarterly)
    PublicationsPublication of trade book on leadership (Mark van Vugt) and Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology (Paul van Lange, Kruglanski & Higgins)
    PhD'sSuccessful completion of many PhD's, including three with distinction "cum laude" (Lotte van Dillen, Anton Klapwijk, both in 2009; Francesca Righetti, in 2011)

    Find in the list below journals and publishers mentioned above.

    American Psychologist
    Annual Review of Psychology
    Academy of Management Review
    Cognition and Emotion
    Current Biology
    European Journal of Social Psychology
    Journal of Applied Psychology
    International Journal of Psychophysiology
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
    Leadership Quarterly
    Psychological Science
    Personality and Social Psychology Review
    Psychological Bulletin
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

  • Grants

    Grant-funded research projects
    Members of the research program conduct research in partnership with or commissioned by national and international businesses, local and national governments, and NGO’s. There are currently several grant-funded research projects on topics such as:

    - The Mixed Feelings of Bystanders (NSCR/VU)
    - Theories of Social Psychology (N.W.O.)
    - Beliefs about Selfishness (Finnish Academy of Science)
    - Cooperation between Groups (Portugese Science Foundation)
    - Personality and Leadership (funded by NOA)
    - Evolutionary Organizational Psychology (funded by Economic and Social Research Council)
    - Evolution of the Social Brain (British Academy)
    - Environmental Sustainability (ESRC)
    - Guilt and Self-control in Social Dilemmas (ESRC)
    - Innovation (ETC)

    Grant highlights
    Including prestigious competitive grants from NWO:

    - VENI-grant: Righetti;
    - 3x Mozaiek: €270,000; Van Dijk, 2007; Homan & Van Vugt, 2010; Van Leeuwen & Katharina Alvarez, 2011;
    - replacement grant: €48,000; Van Lange, 2007;
    - Postdoc: €165.000 Van Prooijen, Van Lange.

    The department also obtained funding from:

    - the Swiss Science Foundation (€125,000; Van Lange, 2006)
    - the Finnish Cultural Foundation €18,000 (Van Lange, 2007)
    - the ESRC (€50,000: Van Vugt, 2009)
    - industry (for psychometric test development: Performance Coaching (€100,000; De Vries)
    - NOA (€100,000; De Vries)

    Recently TLC has attracted a NWO-VENI winner (€200,000; Pollet).

  • Societal impact

    Members of the programme have been invited to present their work (e.g., on leadership, business, the environment, volunteering) at various national and local government departments (ministries and industry). Interventions based on our research have noticeably influenced policy-making in areas such as leadership assessment (through test development) and environmental management.

    TLC research appears regularly in the national and international media (New Scientist, CNN, Times, NRC, Volkskrant). Visit the departmental website of Social and Organizational Psychology for news updates. We are contributing to popular websites such as Psychology Today (Van Vugt) and have written student and popular text on applying and bridging social psychology. See 'key publications'.

    Recently TLC has attracted various external PhD’s, usually psychologists working in business/management background who want to further their academic career.