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Social Psychology RM - 1st year

The Experimental and Applied Psychology department at VU Amsterdam offers talented and motivated students a challenging and unique two-year Research Master’s programme in Social Psychology.

The programme focuses on providing in-depth knowledge of major fields in social psychology by emphasising general principles underlying social behaviour. If you choose to study Social Psychology at VU Amsterdam, you’ll take a truly interdisciplinary, integrative approach. While social psychology is the main focus, the programme actively bridges the field of social psychology with knowledge and insights from adjacent disciplines.

In your first year, you’ll take four theoretical courses, including one elective course of your choice. You’ll also take two expert workshops, three academic skills courses, and you’ll carry out a research project on a topic of your own interest. 

Social Psychology RM - 1st year programme

  • Advanced Research Methods

    Social psychologists ask some questions that can seem pretty straightforward: “What is the effect of sacrifice on romantic relationship outcomes?”, “Why are some people drawn to conspiracy theories?” “Why do people trust some people more than others?”. Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the data that can answer these questions turns out to be pretty complex, though. In Advanced Research Methods, we discuss how psychologists design and/or select research instruments to answer such questions, how they make conclusions based on data, and how they navigate recent developments (e.g., pre-registration) designed to maximize the information value of research.

    Teacher: Dr. Giuliana Spadaro.

  • Writing and Presenting

    During the presentation training you will learn to deliver high quality oral presentations that capture your audience’s attention from beginning to end! You will be trained in academic presentation skills through lectures and exercise, in which we focus not only on the content of your presentation, but also on factors such as the design of your slides, non-verbal communication, and how to handle questions from the audience.

    Furthermore, during the writing training you will (a) enhance your ability to write academic papers, and (b) increase your enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the writing process. Through lecture, discussion, and exercises, we’ll explore issues that are at the heart of the writing enterprise, including the overall structure of an empirical manuscript, how to “hook” your reader in the first paragraphs, and how to present well-justified hypotheses.

    Teachers: Dr. Karen Mortier.

  • Evolutionary Principles in Group Processes and Intergroup Relations

    The genus homo has walked the earth for millions of years, and our species homo sapiens for hundreds of thousands. Over that time period, each of our ancestors lived long enough to reproduce and, in most cases, invest substantially in their children. And, across generations, they overcame consistent challenges, such as surviving infectious disease and predators, navigating complex interdependent interactions, and finding and retaining a mate. Researchers have increasingly aimed to better understand our contemporary social psychology by thinking about aspects of the mind that have evolved to deal with these challenges. In Evolutionary Principles in Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, we will learn about these evolutionary perspectives, and about how they can enrich our understanding of social psychology.

    Teacher: Dr. Josh Tybur

  • Advanced Data Analysis

    Intimidated by statistics? You won’t feel this way after this course. In this course you will learn in a fun and interactive way to plan, execute, and interpret appropriate statistical analyses for applied and experimental research data. Specifically, this course will focus on analysis of variance, regression analysis, path analysis, logistic regression, and mixed models. Along with these techniques, issues such as mediation, moderation, and hypothesis testing are considered. You will learn to conduct these analyses in SPSS and Jamovi, two user-friendly software.  Because the application of advanced statistical techniques is central to the course, you will have several assignments to analyze existing data sets and interpret the results.

    Teacher: Prof. Marcello Gallucci

  • Moral and Political Psychology

    How do people form judgments of right versus wrong, and how do such moral judgments shape people’s political beliefs and behaviors? The fields of moral and political psychology are closely tied to impactful societal developments such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, terrorism, and global populism. In this course, you will learn some of the basics of moral psychology, focusing on issues such as moral foundations, moral motivation, moral dilemmas, punishment, and unethical behavior; also, you will learn about the implications of human morality for politics, and focus on issues such as political orientation, political extremism, political violence, conspiracy theories, and misinformation. You will read many central papers, and participate in a range of interactive lectures, about these issues. Also, you will write a literature review paper about moral and/or political psychology, and hold a presentation. 

    Teacher: Prof. Jan-Willem van Prooijen.

  • Motivation and Emotion

    What drives us to do what we do? Why do we overeat on candy despite our best intentions? What is actually the amygdala? And what role do our emotions, such as guilt, play in social life? In this course, we read and discuss research articles that help us make sense of these questions. It provides a broad overview of research related to the very core of what makes us human; our emotions and motivations. The course concludes with a written research proposal, where you get the opportunity to think deeply about your own question related to motivation and/or emotion and come up with ways to test your hypothesis.

    Teacher: Dr. Catherine Molho.

  • Expert Workshop 1

    The Expert Workshops are the “cherry on the cake” of our program. In fact, we have excellent international guest teachers (often external to the university) that are invited to teach on their topic of expertise. The first module is taught by Dr. Giuliana Spadaro on Interdependence (read description below), the second module is often on the topic of Social Cognition (this year taught by Vaughn Becker from Arizona State University). The teachers of the Expert Workshop may change on a yearly basis but we keep the main topics (e.g., social cognition).

    Expert Workshop 1 Interdependence
    When you want to understand human behavior you ultimately need to know something about the social context in which this behavior takes place. Is the context one in which people are strongly dependent on each other? Is the context one where interests conflict? Is there a future to the context or is this one context where people will not see each other again? This workshop focuses on trust and human cooperation from the perspective of interdependence. It addresses research and insights about various phenomena that are linked human cooperation, such as gossip, punishment, generosity, and more.  The workshop concludes with writing an essay on a phenomenon that is captures human cooperation.  This could be a theoretical phenomenon or a societal one that you have wondered about for a long time – as long as it relates to human cooperation. But fortunately, many do.

  • Elective 1

    Although our program is very interesting, we are also aware that you may be interested in some specific topics that we are not able to cover. That’s why we are giving you the opportunity to follow a course from another program/university. With this elective you can choose to either follow an external course that will grant you 6 EC or to perform an ART (Advanced Research Training) project (which will also grant you 6EC). If you decide to follow the ART project you will conduct a research project under the guidance of a supervisor to further improve your practical research skills and acquire greater knowledge on some topics and methodologies.

  • First Year Research Project RM SP

    In this project you can start improving your research skills in a practical way. Throughout the first year, you will work on a group-based research project under the guidance and supervision of a faculty member. This Project is intended to allow you to use your acquired theoretical, methodological, and statistical knowledge in an original line of research. By the end of the first year, you will deliver an independent report in the style of a journal article and you will present your findings in the style of a conference paper to the staff and to your fellow students.