How can psychology contribute to solving conflicts between groups, to a better environment, or health?
In our master's program, we highlight which social psychological factors determine human behaviour, and how these factors can be influenced. Based on social psychological theories, we outline how such factors can be studied, and how knowledge derived from research can be implemented in an applied context.
Social psychological research can deliver insights on how to solve societal and environmental problems. We examine issues like:
This is a great opportunity to really get to know what scientific research involves
As an international student at the University of Groningen (UG) I felt welcomed and supported throughout the academic year. The international office with its professional staff has guided me to complete all the necessary procedures. The university student desk is always ready to help students with all the academic and personal necessities. The only thing you need to do is to ask for help and the university staff will do their best for you. The student is the centre of attention.
I had an exceptional academic experience with lots of challenges and excitement at the RUG. I had attended high standard courses, supervised by the best researchers in their respective fields. Apart from their professionalism they are passionate and inspiring. Faculty members are accessible and willing to give students advice about their study related questions and concerns. The Master program is structured in a way that allows students to select the courses that best suit to their interest. Lectures are given in an interactive format, meaning active participation is expected. There is a strong focus on research skills (statistics, writing, presenting), combined with learning how to conduct high-quality research or policy advice. This is a great opportunity to really get to know what scientific research involves. The perfect combination of theory, skills and practice will thoroughly prepare students for a job in the scientific world. The things you learn throughout the program will certainly allow you to successfully pursue a job outside of the academic world.
The University also offers extracurricular courses and social events that make the whole experience even more exciting. The extracurricular courses aren’t restricted to the faculty members only, for example, I attended an extracurricular course on social entrepreneurship offered by the faculty of economics and business. If you are enthusiastic and motivated, the University of Groningen is a great match for you!
Studying and living in Groningen is a life experience. Alongside a wide range of study programs, Groningen is considered to be one of the youngest cities in the Netherlands. Therefore, this beautiful city offers lots of activities for young people. Starting from the sport activities to the art classes organized by the student associations, you will have a chance to meet up with the diverse mix of students from all around the world.
Dutch people are very nice and friendly towards foreigners, almost everybody speaks perfect English and not knowing Dutch is not an issue to communicate but it is always possible and encouraged to take a free course in the Dutch language offered by the University.
To conclude, the learning process was even more than I ever expected could be possible. Based on this, I would fully recommend the University of Groningen to anyone who wants to get an outstanding education in a nice atmosphere.
Natia Ubilava is from Georgia and moved to Groningen to study psychology at a master level, at the faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences. Natia has a government scholarship to pursue her degree at RUG. Upon completion of her studies, Natia will return to Georgia to work for the public sector. Natia will also pursue a career in social psychology at the Tbilisi State University at a doctorate level.
Peter Meems is manager at Psy-zo!
I chose the Master of 'Social Psychology' because I wanted to know what it is that motivates people to make certain choices. For example, I think it is interesting to know why people choose to eat healthy, or to reduce their energy consumption.
During the master, I had the freedom to choose which courses I wanted to take, which was very nice. Therefore, I could also follow some courses about marketing at the Faculty of Economics and Business. I also took the course ‘Consumer Psychology’. It was very interesting, because we looked at the psychological processes of consumers making certain choices.
In my thesis, I examined whether measuring energy in different units can have an influence on the energy consumption of people. It is often not clear how much a watt hour exactly is. Therefore, I compared the usage to the amount of kilometres people can drive by car with the same emissions, or the number of trees that are needed to turn the CO2 emissions back into oxygen. This made it less abstract for people. Because I had the freedom to come up with my own research, I very much enjoyed the process of writing my thesis.
After my graduation, I got a work experience placement at a firm conducting market research. I did research on advertising campaigns by big companies that wanted to know what their customers thought about those advertisements. It was nice to get to know the working life in this way and it certainly had a connection with my study through research and statistics.
After that, I found a job as a manager at a psychology institution specializing in the treatment of traumas and nausea experiences. I take care of many different things, I organize educational activities for psychologists, and I do the marketing and sales of a device used in EMDR therapy. For the psychology institution it was interesting that I had done some marketing courses during my studies. As I believe that Psychology helps you to get a broad general knowledge I believe that the study still helps me during my daily work, just like the analytical thinking I acquired.
Within Applied Social Psychology I could focus on women's empowerment.
I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, but moved to the Netherlands nine years ago. I completed the English Bachelor's programme in Psychology in Groningen and am currently doing the Master's programme in Social Psychology.
I chose Groningen because the programme was in English, but immediately fell in love with the city. I liked that it was a city but also comparable to a cosy little village, and that it is really international. Unlike my previous experiences, I feel that diversity is truly celebrated in this city, which is important to me. I have also made many international friends.
It was hard for me to choose between Clinical and Social Psychology. At first, I couldn't really imagine what a Social Psychologist really does, while it was easier to imagine what a Clinical Psychologist does. However, after asking around, I found out that Social Psychology also includes Cultural Psychology and that I could focus on women's empowerment. This convinced me to choose Social Psychology.
I focus on Cultural Psychology, so have learnt about intergroup and group behaviours as well as the effect of culture on people's behaviours. A particularly significant course unit that I followed ('Managing Groups') taught me how to apply my research and theoretical knowledge in the real world. This gave me the confidence that I needed, as I was still unsure about my future career.
I enjoy doing different extracurricular activities: I have been head-resident of my student flat building, a member of the board of the African Students Community, a research assistant and a statistics tutor. I also participated in the Honours College during my Master's programme. It was very demanding, but I am glad that I did it. I gained many new skills and got to know my strengths and weaknesses better.
After my Master's, I would like to work in women's and/or refugee empowerment. It would be nice to be a policy advisor on such topics at a governmental organization.
Martijn van Zomeren - Associate professor of Social Psychology
My name is Martijn van Zomeren and I am associate professor of Social Psychology. In this degree programme we look at the surprisingly strong influence other people and the environment have on one's behaviour.
The great thing about this programme is that it very much concerns the world right around you. We investigate and try to understand political, cultural and social issues familiar to you from the news. So in Social Psychology you will learn to understand human behaviour in its political, cultural and social context.
I teach various course units in this programme, for example Cultural Psychology. In this course unit, we consider the connections and differences in behaviour. I also teach the course unit Group Dynamics. Here, we look at mass behaviour and the norms and values people want to adopt within a particular group.
My area of expertise is human protest behaviour. I use surveys and experimental research to investigate what most motivates people to take to the streets, or to sign a petition – identity, emotion, or morality, for example. Both the various political systems and cultural differences play a role here. Complex but fascinating!
At Social Psychology in Groningen we are especially skilled in putting theory and research into practice. For example, the University founded a regional centre for expertise on earthquakes. What impact does the earthquake situation have on people in this region, and how can they best be helped? A perfect example of applied social psychology! Other relevant issues include fostering environmentally friendly and healthy behaviour, the encouragement of protest behaviour, and preventing and combating hooliganism or other undesirable mass behaviour. So during your studies here, you will work with a unique and extensive group of experts involved in important social issues.
"Especially because of Social Psychology I know the psychological aspects of change. It is helpful to know how to assist healthcare institutions to comply with the changing regulations."
In Groningen I started to study Marketing, but after my first year I decided to combine this with Psychology. Although you might not expect it, there was an overlap in content, especially since I decided to study social psychology. After all, both studies teach you how to steer and change the behaviour of groups of people.
Therefore, I could use the subject of my master's thesis for both studies. I did research on the quality of services provided by local police corps. I examined how people evaluate police investigations and how they experience the services provided by the police. It had interfaces with both psychology and marketing.
Since six years, I have been working for Fizr, a consultancy company for healthcare institutions. We specialize in healthcare registration and administration, and help healthcare institutions to deal with this in an efficient manner. In healthcare, there is a lot of legislation and regulations that institutions need to keep up with. The healthcare landscape is changing rapidly and the complexity of rules increases dramatically. Therefore, it is difficult for healthcare institutions to comply with all of these rules. We advise and assist them how to deal with these changes.
I enjoy my job, mostly because it is varied. As we assist different healthcare institutions, I get to know many different organizations. Working with different people gives my job an exciting challenge. Especially because of Social Psychology I know the psychological aspects of change. It is helpful to know how to assist healthcare institutions to comply with the changing regulations.
I would advice current students to do an internship and to gain work experience, as it will teach you new skills. Only when I started to work, did I really learn how things worked within a company, which turned out to be quite different from the theory that I learned during my studies.
Nina Hansen - Associate professor of Social Psychology
My name is Nina Hansen. I'm a teacher and researcher at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen, where I specialize in Social and Cultural Psychology. I have been working at this university for almost ten years. I enjoy the combining teaching and doing research in my daily work.
One of the courses I teach is called “Personal, Social and Cultural Change”. It’s a course where students really have to get their hands dirty. They learn to analyze human behavior based on psychological theories, and how to evaluate and improve interventions which aim to change people’s behavior.
Another course I teach is “Current topics of intergroup relations in society”, which is a very interactive class. I ask students to present and analyze recent developments in intergroup relations from their own cultures based on social psychological theories they learn in class. This year we have analyzed the rhetoric of Donald Trump, after he was elected and discussed the potential psychological consequences for international relations when only focusing on “America first”Each year we discuss different recent developments in intergroup relations from nations around the world, depending on what the students want to analyze.
One of the project I am currently investigating with my students is a project on the psychological impacts of offering micro loans to marginalized people living in the global South. The majority of loans are given to women to empower them and help them to move out of the vicious circle of poverty. Recent research shows that providing loans does not always lead to the envisioned positive outcomes but may also trigger negative side effects such as an increase in domestic violence. As social psychologists, we try to find out why and how these negative side effects could be avoided. From a psychological perspective, the domestic violence is actually not that surprising: Offering small loans to women is intervening in the distribution of power in a household, in this specific case in the gendered power relation between husband and wife. More precisely, women who receive these loans are often living in patriarchal cultures. Men might feel excluded from these programs and might be skeptical about these. To retain their power hey may restrict their wives. I am interested in how microfinance programs could be improved to avoid such negative side effects and empower women. Together with a PhD student, we have investigated whether and how involving both women and their husbands to some training sessions may help to overcome the negative side effects and help to strengthen the position of women. Social psychology can offer important insights to carefully analyze and develop suitable interventions to improve current practice. Offering micro loans to women does not only intervene in the financial situation of women, but also in their social relations at home.
I think the RUG is a unique place to study social psychology. In the social psychology program, staff members offer a large range of different topics and do research with different societal actors such as companies, organizations, and governments. Students can design their masters based on their own interest for example by focusing on communication and consumer psychology, health psychology, cultural psychology, or understanding groups and diversity. They can choose an individual master thesis project from a variety of research topics bridging society and academia. Students learn how to analyze human behaviour and apply their theoretical and methodological knowledge, an important preparation for the job market. The classes are small and interaction is intense.
"The best part about the programme, in my opinion, is the way it combines theory and practice."
I'm originally German and Italian, but I have done all my studies in Groningen. I came here because I wanted to study in English, and German universities didn't offer English-taught programmes at the time. Dutch universities did, and they also had an outstanding reputation, which drew me to the Netherlands. I chose Groningen because it is relatively close to Germany.
My experiences here have been very good. I like the city, it has a nice atmosphere and there's always a lot to do. The University of Groningen also suits me well. I find the lecturers here are quite open and approachable. Interaction with them is relaxed and informal and they are always willing to help and counsel students.
After completing my BA in Psychology, I enrolled in the Master's programme of Applied Social Psychology. The best part about the programme, in my opinion, is the way it combines theory and practice. The course Designing Interventions is a good example. We started off by learning all the theories involved in intervention design, and then we were each assigned a real, existing situation to solve by designing an intervention of our own. The solutions were all aimed at changing people's behaviour: getting them to engage in car sharing, for example.
Other than the courses, the thesis is a major part of the programme. We are free to choose our own topic to research, and if we want to, we can even choose to combine a thesis and an internship. There is a lot of flexibility in that respect. I opted for just the thesis. I know research isn't everyone's favourite part of the study, but personally, I really wanted to use the opportunity to study in depth a subject of my own choosing.
My thesis deals with immigration. Through online questionnaires, I examine tolerance and intolerance in the context of migration issues. Migration is a topic that interests me greatly, so I'm hoping that I can continue to do something related to immigration after I graduate. Perhaps in a research project, but I haven't decided yet.