For a general overview of research of the Psychology department have a look at Mindwise . This is a blog platform of the Department of Psychology of the University of Groningen (located in the Netherlands). Staff and students write in a personal capacity about psychological research and education in Groningen, and express their opinions on current affairs based on their expertise.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Het was heel interessant voor de instelling dat ik wat marketingvakken had gevolgd.
Ik koos de Master Sociale Psychologie omdat ik meer wilde weten over wat mensen motiveert om bepaalde keuzes te maken. Ik vind het bijvoorbeeld interessant om te weten waarom mensen ervoor kiezen om gezond te eten, of om minder energie te gebruiken.
Ik had tijdens de master veel vrijheid om mijn eigen pakket samen te stellen, dat was erg fijn. Ik heb bijvoorbeeld ook een paar vakken over marketing gevolgd aan de faculteit van bedrijfskunde. Een interessant vak was bijvoorbeeld Consumer Psychology. Daar keken we naar de psychologische processen die ervoor zorgen dat consumenten bepaalde keuzes maken.
In mijn scriptie onderzocht ik of het meten van energie in andere eenheden invloed had op het energieverbruik van mensen. Mensen weten vaak namelijk niet wat ze zich bij een Kilowattuur moeten voorstellen. Daarom gaf ik bijvoorbeeld aan hoeveel kilometer ze met dezelfde uitstoot hadden kunnen rijden met de auto, of het aantal bomen dat nodig was om de CO2 uitstoot weer om te zetten in zuurstof en dan keek ik of dat effect had om hun energieverbruik. Ik vond het erg leuk om te doen en ik kreeg veel vrijheid om mijn eigen onderzoek te bedenken en op te stellen.
Na mijn afstuderen kreeg ik een werkervaringsplek bij een marktonderzoeksbureau. Ik deed daar onderzoek naar reclamecampagnes van grote bedrijven die wilde weten wat hun klanten daarvan vonden. Het was leuk om op die manier het werkleven te leren kennen en het had zeker raakvlakken met mijn studie door het onderzoek en de statistiek.
Ik ben vervolgens gaan solliciteren en vond een baan als manager bij een psychologie instelling die is gespecialiseerd in het behandelen van trauma en nare ervaringen. Ik zorg voor het reilen en zeilen van de praktijk, ik organiseer onderwijsactiviteiten voor psychologen, doe de marketing en de verkoop van een apparaat dat wordt gebruikt bij EMDR therapie. Het was dan ook heel interessant voor de instelling dat ik wat marketingvakken had gevolgd. Ik heb nog steeds wat aan mijn studie, natuurlijk analytisch denkvermogen, maar psychologie geeft je ook gewoon een brede algemene basis.
Ik snap beter hoe groepsprocessen werken, dat is heel nuttig in mijn werk.
Ik begon in Groningen met een studie Marketing, maar na mijn eerste jaar ben ik de studie Psychologie erbij gaan doen. Je zou het niet verwachten, maar eigenlijk sluiten die twee studies best goed op elkaar aan, vooral omdat ik me besloot te specialiseren in Sociale Psychologie. Bij beide studies leer je hoe je het gedrag van groepen mensen kan sturen en veranderen.
Het onderwerp voor mijn masterscriptie kon ik dan ook gebruiken voor beide masters. Ik deed onderzoek naar de kwaliteit van dienstverlening bij de politie. Ik onderzocht wat mensen van de politie vonden, hoe men de dienstverlening ervaarde. Dit had raakvlakken met psychologie en marketing.
Ik werk nu al meer dan zes jaar voor het bedrijf Fizr. Dat is een consultancybedrijf voor zorginstellingen. Wij zijn gespecialiseerd in zorgregistratie en administratie en helpen zorgaanbieders hier op een zo efficiënte manier mee om te gaan. In de zorg is er namelijk enorm veel wet- en regelgeving waar instellingen zich aan moeten houden. Het zorglandschap veranderd snel en de complexiteit neemt, door de veelheid aan regels, enorm toe. Dit maakt het voor zorginstellingen soms ingewikkeld en onoverzichtelijk. Wij adviseren en helpen hen daarbij.
Ik vind mijn werk erg leuk en afwisselend. Als projectleider kom ik bij verschillende instellingen over de vloer en moet er dan voor zorgen dat processen binnen de organisatie veranderen. Dat is vaak een hele uitdaging omdat je iedere keer weer in een heel nieuw bedrijf met een nieuwe groep mensen aan de slag moet.
Ik heb het meest gehad aan mijn studie Sociale Psychologie. Het is in mijn werk handig om te weten welke psychologische aspecten ervoor zorgen of een organisatie verandert. Ik snap beter hoe groepsprocessen werken, dat is heel nuttig in mijn werk.
İk zou huidige studenten de tip geven om vooral stage te gaan lopen en werkervaring op te gaan doen. Daar leer je heel veel van. Ik leerde pas in de praktijk hoe het er echt aan toegaat in het bedrijfsleven, dat bleek toch anders dan in de theorie die ik tijdens mijn studie had geleerd.
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 center 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 Behavioral 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.