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Magazine articles, January - July 2020

Emotions in the American primary elections


It was to be his version of the American Dream. With two grants in his pocket, Martijn Blikmans went off to investigate the effects of emotional communication in the US primary elections – on location. Out of the lab, into the field. In the end, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he had to make do with a single electoral debate and a database of ‘only’ 250,000 tweets.
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Don’t lose sight of the person behind the smoker


Susanne Täuber has previously conducted research into the effect of well-intentioned government campaigns to combat smoking and promote healthy lifestyles. According to Täuber, the government's good intentions primarily lead to divisions.
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Protecting human rights and the rule of law in times of crisis


It may feel contradictory that something that happened on the other side of the globe is now forcing us to act locally. But while we are confined to our homes, gardens and balconies, we should not lose sight of the global dimension of this crisis, says Brigit Toebes. According to her, COVID-19-related lockdown measures have prompted a crisis of international law and human rights.
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Environmental psychology joins the fight against climate change

Climate change is one of the major threats facing humanity. Urgent actions are needed to stop global warming. Environmental psychologists aim to understand the interactions between humans and the environment, as well as the psychological dimensions of climate change and climate change policies.
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Linda Steg and Pauline Kleingeld
Linda Steg and Pauline Kleingeld

Detective work leads to Spinoza Prize

In her younger years, Pauline Kleingeld was curious about the backgrounds of the many religious communities in her home town. Today, she is one of the world’s most renowned researchers on the philosophy of Kant. Her Spinoza Prize comes just at the right moment, as she is completing an important phase in her research, and brings her ultimate dream a big step closer.
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The solution to filter bubbles? Artificial Intelligence!

Personal bubble

News coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has once again underlined the fact that we have increasingly started to live in our own filter bubble. Since algorithms on social media determine what we see in our newsfeed and traditional media are also putting a greater emphasis on personalization, people only get to see information that confirms their view of the world. Tommaso Caselli, Assistant Professor of Computational Semantics and the Data Science team of the Centre for Information Technology (CIT) want to break our filter bubbles using... an algorithm.
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Fans in an uncertain world

Welmoed Wagenaar

Fans making Harry Potter necklaces and quilts or writing their own Star Trek spin-offs – researcher Welmoed Wagenaar has seen it all. In fact, she admits, she herself is ‘still obsessed with Harry Potter’. As a teenager, Wagenaar spent hours browsing online forums and discovering ‘fan fiction’: fiction written by fans who borrow characters and other elements from existing story worlds to create new stories. Her fascination led her to conduct research into online media fandoms.
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How to make children fall in love with sport

Remo Mombarg

He is a lecturer, a researcher and a lector. Undeniably true. But more importantly, Remo Mombarg is a matchmaker. He puts his heart and soul into introducing children to his own personal passion: sport. He takes a particular interest in clumsy children, the ones who aren’t natural movers. ‘Our society tends to present sport as an obligatory daily dose of cod-liver oil. But to fall in love with sport, you have to discover the joy it can bring.’
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How Spotify is influencing the music industry (and our listening behaviour too)

Robert Prey

Curating personal playlists, freeing musicians from their dependence on radio stations or record labels, enjoying free music – the Spotify music platform seems to be empowering artists and listeners as never before. Yet, according to researcher Robert Prey, this 'new radio' is shaping the way in which we are discovering and listening to music – much as the 'old' radio did. And what about the artists themselves? ‘They are in the best and the worst position ever.’
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What do youngsters do in ‘ordinary’ places?

Janine Venema will research their daily lives and identities

Janine Venema

Recently appointed PhD student Janine Venema isn’t tired of studying just yet. After following pre-vocational secondary education, studying at a university of applied sciences and obtaining a university degree, she started to miss the lecture halls rather soon. Since January, she has been researching the daily lives of young people at the Population Research Centre. As a result, she hopes to be able to improve their wellbeing.
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Millets: ancient crops for the future


Hunger, dehydration, impoverishment. It doesn't take a prophet of doom to predict this as the future scenario for certain parts of the world. Millets might just be the solution. There is a good reason for the UN dubbing 2023 the International Year of Millets. René Cappers and Peter Berger are trying to find out what is needed to promote the cultivation of these crops in India.
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Archaeology without digging

Canan Çakırlar

Stone Age people who no longer hunted wild animals but began ‘keeping them at home’ – archaeozoologist Canan Çakırlar investigates how animal husbandry began. This is one of the many themes explored by the Groningen Institute of Archaeology over the past hundred years.
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Leaders in times of corona

Stoker (R) at the awarding of the Aletta Jacobs Prize
Stoker (R) at the awarding of the Aletta Jacobs Prize

The world is in crisis. We are all under pressure, and our leaders are no exception. Janka Stoker is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change and co-director of the Centre of Expertise ‘In the LEAD’ of the Faculty of Economics and Business. This Centre conducts research into the efficacy of leadership and gives customized advice to organizations and professionals. A discussion of leadership in times of the coronavirus.
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Confused and frightened by sounds

Janouk Kosters

Deaf or blind? Which would you rather be? Everyone thinks about this at some point as a child. And even then, you probably realized that this question was about the feeling of security. A feeling that people with dementia will have started to miss earlier on, because they don’t have a grip on the world around them. Unexpected sounds can be threatening and cause problematic behaviour or depression. But this can be quickly avoided with a few simple interventions, says PhD student Janouk Kosters.
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Plea for a future-proof health system

Old Lady

Berlin is one of the most ideal cities for an architecture and urban planning excursion. Every year, Cor Wagenaar, Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism, takes his third-year Bachelor’s students to see the city – but this year, they arrived just too late. While they were there, Berlin went further and further into lockdown. ‘Some students were starting to get a little worried, so we decided to give them the option of returning back to Groningen or to their families a bit earlier. When everyone was safely back home, I stayed for a couple more weeks. It was interesting to see the city going into lockdown in stages.’
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How to fight land grabbing


All over the world, companies and investment funds are buying up land to use for agriculture or mining, which is having a huge impact on the environment and local residents. Companies, aid organizations, provincial and national governments – some of them are facilitating land grabbing but are also working together to find solutions. It is precisely this dynamic that intrigues researcher Nienke Busscher. She has visited Argentina several times to find out first-hand what does and does not work.
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The psychological impact of the coronavirus crisis

Pontus Leander

What are the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for our wellbeing? What are people’s thoughts surrounding this pandemic? What are their expectations regarding its future economic consequences? Psychologist Pontus Leander is leading a global psychological study, PsyCorona, into the consequences of the coronavirus crisis.
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Traditions in the Arctic in times of change

Inuit elders are showing Dejardins an old sod house site
Inuit elders are showing Dejardins an old sod house site

In 2018, Arctic Centre postdoc Sean Desjardins received an NWO Veni grant to study the resilience of Inuit traditional life in Arctic Canada. In this narrative, he tells us something about his interdisciplinary approach and how he co-operates with Indigenous communities. Besides his ambitions to performing high-quality research, Desjardins is clearly motivated by the relevance of his research for the area and for Indigenous societies around the world.
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Nobody knows the UG like Jan Staal

Retiring after decades of working within the University

Jan Staal (Photo: Elmer Spaargaren)

He started his career in the mail depot of the UG, spent years driving a mobile laboratory around the Netherlands and abroad and is now a chauffeur for the University; after a career spanning almost 50 years, Jan Staal is retiring from the UG this spring. How does he look back on all the years he worked for the University, years in which so much changed?
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‘The elderly should be made to take compulsory lessons before buying an e-bike’

Karel Brookhuis

E-bikes, school children on bikes and the elderly in traffic. Professor of Traffic Psychology Karel Brookhuis (himself almost 70) has clear opinions on the subject. Now approaching the end of a long career, he is cautiously stepping down from his soapbox.
‘As a psychologist, there’s not much I don’t know about ageing. You start to lose certain skills. It’s very gradual, so you don’t notice it yourself.’
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Coronavirus breaking the law?

Adriaan Wierenga

He’s in high demand. The coronavirus is raging in the Netherlands, and Dutch officials need him. Adriaan Wierenga, expert in Public Order Law (Emergency Law), has been answering calls from local authorities wanting to know what quarantine measures they can use to try to contain the virus.
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Students explain Artificial Intelligence in the new Forum Groningen

Students AI (Photo: Reyer Boxem)

Artificial Intelligence students Martijn, Eline, Pim and Bram are giving guided tours, courses and demonstrations at the AI: More than human exhibition in the new Forum Groningen. An informative experience, with cuddly robots, dancing children and wary adults.
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Better understanding of the human brain

Jelmer Borst (Photo: Elmer Spaargaren)

'Reading thoughts’ – this is what keeps Jelmer Borst busy. Not in an esoteric way but with high-tech neuro-imaging techniques. In this way, he gains insight into what happens in our brains if, for example, we multitask, solve problems or allow our thoughts to drift.
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‘We are stuck in a “disorder mindset” ’

Laura Batstra

She has written a book, Hoe voorkom je ADHD? Door de diagnose niet te stellen (How can ADHD be prevented? By not diagnosing it). She organized Festival Apaart, for more tolerance for people who are ‘different’. And she has also developed a plan for children’s birthday parties for the whole class. All of these activities typify psychologist Laura Batstra.
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Mini libraries are more successful than they seem

Mini library

‘Mini libraries? Do people actually use those?’ exclaimed a colleague when they heard about this article. Indeed, the boxes propped up in front gardens and filled with free, second-hand books sometimes seem a bit lonely, lost in the no man’s land between good intentions and uselessness. But nothing could be further from the truth.
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How can our society preserve its privacy?


In a recent issue of the Volkskrant, former marine Ingo Piepers warns that ‘if we’re not careful, the new order will not be democratic but closer to the Chinese model.’ In China, cameras are used for large-scale surveillance in public spaces. The impact of mass surveillance on privacy is the focus of the research of philosopher Titus Stahl. He believes that it does not only affect the privacy of individuals but also of society as a whole.
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'My mission is to make sure that women can make their own choices'

Elizabeth Revai Mudzimu

Elizabeth Revai Mudzimu grew up in southern Zimbabwe, where, as an eight year old girl, she decided to become a nun. She never lost her drive: not only did she join a convent, she is also using her research to help other women to make their own choices. Just like she did.
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What’s new in the news?

Frank Harbers

Frank Harbers is perfectly aware of the dangers of fake news, but its influence in the Netherlands still seems to be rather limited. And according to Harbers, it would set a dangerous precedent if a government were to start regulating news coverage. ‘If a government starts to decide what is and what isn’t fake news, that would take you down the path towards censorship.’
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Microplastics? Ventilate, ventilate and vacuum

‘Microplastics are everywhere, even the deepest crevices in the Himalayas’

Barbro Melgert

It is becoming increasingly clear that our world is full of microplastics, and that this does not bode well. Prof. dr Barbro Melgert aims to find out what this does to our lungs, and hopes to receive a second ZonMW grant next year to continue her research at the UMCG.
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Time for a new approach to hearing loss

Sonja Pyott

With the help of a good dose of curiosity, Sonja Pyott is navigating her way through the complex world of our brain and our ears. On the journey to curing or improving hearing problems, she hopes to change some of our views on hearing health along the way.
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Whatever you do, don’t humanize care robots

Van Doorn and robot

In the future, robots will play an important role in our everyday lives. In the healthcare sector, for example, an extra pair of hands is always welcome. But whatever you do, please do not give these robots a name or a human face, warns Professor Jenny van Doorn. Surrogate people make us feel uncomfortable, resulting in all sorts of consequences.
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Last modified:20 August 2020 12.23 p.m.
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