Psychology: Social Psychology

Applied social psychology

Psychology: Social Psychology

What can social psychology theories contribute to understanding health and environmental problems? How do you tackle the problems of crime, antisocial behavior, and radicalization in society? These are just some questions that this course in Applied Social Psychology is concerned with.

The Master’s programme in Applied Social Psychology is an excellent preparation for research and practice. You will learn to apply social psychology theories to understand, and help solve, various social and societal challenges. You learn to analyze these problems from a social psychological perspective, conduct high quality research, and develop meaningful interventions. Practice and theory go hand in hand in this Master's course taught by various experts in (applied) social psychology. You will also learn a variety of professional skills relevant to a career as an (applied) social psychologist.

The central theme of this Master’s programme is how you can bring theory to practice: how can you help solve pressing societal questions and problems as a social psychologist? In a practical internship you will, under professional supervision, apply your knowledge and skills to understand, and help to solve, societal issues. Additionally you will design a research project that you will carry out, analyze, and rapport in the final Master’s thesis.

In the first semester you will enroll in 5 Master courses. These courses shape the content and theoretical basis of the Master’s programme. With this luggage you will be well equipped for the second semester which is comprised of your internship [14 EC] and the writing of your Master’s thesis [16 EC].


Advanced Organizational Research Skills [6 EC]
Applying Theories to Societal Issues [6 EC]
Negotiation [6 EC]
Social Processes and Organizational Change [6 EC]
Applied Social Psychology [6 EC]


Psychology: Social Psychology courses in study guide.

Education is of a very high standard

The Master’s degree Psychology at VU Amsterdam is small, intensive, and well organized. You work together with other students in small groups. A lot of teachers are professionals in practice. They have time for you. As soon as you start the programme you will also be assigned a teacher as tutor to whom you can turn for study matters or personal matters.

There is a lot of attention for your future

You will have the opportunity to enroll in courses that prepare you for your work career. There is also a good network for internships within major private and public organizations in the Netherlands and beyond. 

The broad approach is unique

All the Master’s degrees in the field of psychology are part of the Graduate School of the faculty. Therefore, there is a unique coherence within research, education, and academic and professional training. With the degree Psychology from VU Amsterdam there are many roads you can follow. You receive a good education in scientific research, but there is also a lot of attention for the skills that you will need in the practice of a psychologist.

Unique combination

What is especially unique about the Master’s degree Work and Organizational Psychology, is the combination of Human Resource Management and Organizational Psychology. The degree is not only scientific but also highly applicable: you will get the opportunity to analyze problems in organizations based on scientific research, yet there is also a lot of attention for practice-focused skills such as leadership and negotiation.
Research Social and Organizational Psychology VU

The research department of Social and Organizational Psychology is organized within the research programme Trust, Leadership, and Cooperation (TLC). As a Master’s student you will profit from the expertise and knowledge present within the department and have the opportunity to make a contribution yourself to research and practice during your research for the Master’s thesis. The department is of high international standing and cooperates with a variety of departments and institutions within VU Amsterdam (such as NSCR and the Zijlstra Centre), and with lots of international universities (such as Oxford, Singapore, UCLA, Michigan State, Queensland). Also, the department has good contacts with major public and private organizations in the Netherlands, in Europe, and beyond.

Trust, cooperation, and leadership are the themes that are central to our departmental research programme. When do we trust others? Are there biological and genetic influences that foster trust and cooperation between people? What makes us want to help others, or the group? What role do empathy, personality, and leadership play in social interaction? How do people deal with injustices? What must a leader do to optimally motivate people to step up for the group? Which skills should you possess to stay in control of your feelings, and can self-control be accomplished through training?

The research programme Trust, Leadership, and Cooperation       

Overview Psychology: Social Psychology

Language of instruction



1 year

Tuition fee

Application deadline

15 July for Dutch students. For International students who apply after April 1 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can not guarantee that accommodation will be available for them

Start date

1 September

Study type


Field of Interest

Behavioural and Social Sciences

Charis Ooms

Student Social Psychology


"What I like about Social Psychology is that the programme bridges theory and practice. Based on the theoretical background that you have acquired during your Bachelor’s degree you learn to apply this knowledge by developing interventions for a variety of social psychological problems for example. Soon I will start my internship at a coaching firm. I expect to really gain practical experience from the developing process by managers and talented professionals, among others."

Meet the staff

foto Daniel

Dr. Daniel Balliet, Assistant Professor

All too often human social interactions involve unnecessary conflict that results in a worse outcome for each person, compared to if each person chose to cooperate. This is true for a range of relationships, including dyads, individuals interacting in small groups, and relationships between nations. My research attempts to understand what motivates individuals to work together toward achieving the best possible joint outcomes and equality during social interactions. Applying a social psychological approach to this problem, I have chosen to focus my research on how features of the person and the situation affect an individual’s cooperation with a partner or group.

My research on the relationship between personality and cooperation is focused on three traits that seem exceptionally important in the process of cooperation, including concern about others (i.e., social value orientation), thought about the future (i.e., self-control and consideration of future consequences), and generalized trust in others. Additionally, my research on situations that affect cooperation has focused on communication and punishment/rewards for cooperation. The theory of the relationship between these factors and cooperation has primarily been decentralized and involved so-called mini theories to predict and explain specific relationships. A goal of future research when examining these relationships and others will involve integrated cross-disciplinary efforts to arrive at a more comprehensive theoretical perspective. My most recent research has turn towards integrating evolutionary theory and social interdependence theory as a possible solution to this challenge.

Additionally, I am also quite interested in how individuals resolve conflicts. This has led me to the study of forgiveness as an important motivational process in conflict resolution. To date, I have examined the role of self-control and its interaction with concern for others in the process of forgiveness. I am also quite interested in the process of changing behavioral strategies and/or goals after conflict emerges in relationships and how this might impede or foster cooperation.

Selected Journal Publications

Balliet, D., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (in press). Trust, conflict, and cooperation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin.

Balliet, D., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (in press). Trust, punishment and cooperation across 18 societies: A Meta-analysis. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 

Balliet, D., & Ferris, D. L. (in press). Ostracism and prosocial behavior: A social dilemma analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Balliet, D., Li, N. P., Macfarlan, S. J., & Van Vugt, M. (2011). Sex differences in cooperation: A meta-analytic review of social dilemmas. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 881-909.

Balliet, D., Li, N. P., & Joireman, J. (2011). Relating trait self-control and forgiveness among prosocials and proselfs: A test of compensatory and synergistic models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 1090-1109.

Balliet, D., Mulder, L. B., & Van Lange, P.A.M. (2011). Reward, punishment, and cooperation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 594-615.

Balliet, D., & Joireman, J. (2010). Ego depletion reduces proselfs’ concern with the well-being of others. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 13, 227-239.

Balliet, D. (2010). Communication and cooperation in social dilemmas: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 54, 39-57.

Balliet, D. (2010). Conscientiousness and forgivingness: A meta-analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 259-263.

Balliet, D., Parks, C., & Joireman, J. (2009). Social value orientation and cooperation in social dilemmas: A meta-analysis. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 12, 533-547.

Van Lange, P. A. M., Balliet, D., Parks, C., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Social Dilemmas: Understanding Human Cooperation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Personal page 

Dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Associate Professor

What fascinates you in the area of social psychology?
Social psychology studies every-day life phenomena that one can see happening continuously in normal social interactions. Topics such as social influence, group behavior, aggression, helping, cooperation, and the like, can be observed everywhere. Yet, the psychological dynamics underlying these phenomena typically are rather complex and incorporate elements of both the individual and the social environment. As such, social psychology is indispensible if one seeks to understand why people behave the way they do.

What are recent accomplishments in your research?
My research program is focused on how people respond to injustice. A substantial part of my work examined how people cope with experiences of procedural injustice, such as when one feels victimized by unfair decision-making. In addition, I study how people respond to injustice when they are independent observers. Even observers respond strongly to injustice, as reflected in a desire to punish the perpetrator, to compensate the victim, and also—quite paradoxically—to blame innocent victims for their fate.

What are you working on at the moment?
My current work focuses on the question what leads people to suspect injustice. People often do not really know how fair or unfair others behave, as they cannot continuously monitor other’s actions. What is particularly striking is how distrustful people typically are about the intentions of powerful others, such as managers and politicians. As such, some of my current research examines why many people believe in conspiracy theories following threatening societal events, such as terrorist strikes or a natural disaster.

Personal page

Josh Tybur

Dr. Joshua Tybur, Assistant Professor

What fascinates you in the area of social psychology?
I am most fascinated and excited about the application of the evolutionary framework that guides the broader study of animal behavior – including social behavior – to advancing how we understand human social behavior. Combining the theory that has transformed how biologists understand the living world with the rich empirical work and experimental tradition used in social psychology has the potential to revolutionize how we understand topics ranging from aggression to cooperation to romantic relationships to intergroup conflict.

What are recent accomplishments in your research?
My recent work has offered novel theory and research findings concerning the emotion disgust. This research has demonstrated that disgust responses vary along three dimensions, which my colleagues and I refer to as pathogen disgust, sexual disgust, and moral disgust. Using an evolutionary framework, my work has offered accounts for how observations of disgust responses toward such things as foods, sexual propositions, and moralized rules can inform the psychological processes that are important for understanding food choice, mate choice, and moral condemnation, respectively.

What are you working on at the moment?
Among other things, I am currently investigating the degree to which expressions of disgust toward moral violations shape observers’ impressions of and behavior toward the disgust expresser and the target of the expression. In sum, this line of research is designed to help understand and explain the connection between disgust and morality.

Personal page 

Professor Paul van Lange

Social psychology matters.  What we say to others, what we do for others, and what others say to us or do for us is very important to understanding cooperation and conflict, trust and distrust, understanding and misunderstanding, exclusion and inclusion, and justice and injustice – as well as the psychology that often follows from social interaction, such as self-esteem, feelings of acceptance, well-being and the like.  This is also what attracted me to social psychology over 25 years ago, and it has been a very happy marriage ever since.

I am particularly intrigued by the functions of interpersonal trust: how does trust help individuals, dyads, and groups?  How can one be build trust?  How is it undermined?  In my research, I work with a model that emphasizes generosity as an important means to building trust.  It is also assumed that different forms of generosity help individuals to give others the benefit of the doubt, which is very important when dealing with misunderstanding and unintended errors.  One thing for sure:  Misunderstanding is a very important source of suspicion and distrust, hostility, and even “wars” between people, groups, and nations.  So, it is not only intellectual curiosity that underlies my happy marriage with social psychology. The other reason is that, indeed, social psychology matters… to anyone, anywhere, in the past, now, and in the future.

Personal page

Thomas Pollet

Dr. Thomas Pollet, Assistant Professor

What fascinates you in the area of social psychology?
I am fascinated with all areas of human social behavior. I am especially intrigued with how reasoning based an evolutionary theory can help explain how humans tick. The beauty of this approach is that you get to work on diverse topics such as, for example, family relations, social networks, individual differences (personality, height) and mate choice.

What are recent accomplishments in your research?
You can see what I'm up to on this website.

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am interested in investigating how stature (height) affects not only social perception but also behavior towards others. We know from research that height is related to a whole host of outcome variables, health, income/education, even whether you get a date or not. Using various paradigms, we will test when ‘bigger’ is indeed better and when this is just a social construction.

Personal page 

Dutch students

Afhankelijk van je vooropleiding gelden verschillende toelatingseisen, deadlines en aanmeldprocedures voor de master Psychologie: Mastertraject Sociale Psychologie.
Starten met de masteropleiding is alleen mogelijk per 1 september. Er is geen instroommogelijkheid in februari.

Heb je al een masterdiploma?
Let op! De kosten van een tweede master zijn niet gelijk aan het reguliere collegegeld. De aanmeldprocedure is gelijk aan die met een bachelor van de VU, van een andere Nederlandse universiteit of van het hbo (volg de links hierboven).
Meer informatie over tarieven tweede graad.
Rechtstreeks toelaatbaar
Met een bachelordiploma Psychologie van de VU kun je direct instromen in de masteropleiding Psychologie: mastertraject Sociale psychologie. Je hoeft geen toelatingsverzoek in te dienen.

Uiterlijk 31 juli moet je je aanmelding in Studielink en VUnet hebben voltooid. Meer informatie vind je op VUnet. Het advies is om je uiterlijk 31 mei al aan te melden!
Uiterlijk 31 augustus moet je je volledige inschrijving hebben voltooid

Aanmelden/inschrijven na de deadlines is niet meer mogelijk.
Meer informatie over de procedure voor aanmelden kun je vinden op de VU website

Niet toelaatbaar

Beschik je niet over het bovengenoemde VU-bachelordiploma, dan voldoe je helaas niet aan de toelatingseisen en kun je niet instromen in de masteropleiding Psychologie, mastertraject Sociale psychologie.

N.B. 15 juli: Deadline aanmelding Studielink en deadline indienen toelatingsverzoek bij de toelatingscommissie. 

Rechtstreeks toelaatbaar

Met een bachelordiploma Psychologie van een andere Nederlandse universiteit ben je toelaatbaar tot de masteropleiding Psychologie: mastertraject Sociale psychologie.

Hoe meld je je aan?
Je meldt je aan in Studielink. Een aanmelding verplicht je tot niets en kan nog tot 1 september kosteloos geannuleerd worden. Dan ontvang je inlogcodes waarmee je je kunt aanmelden in VUnet.

Bij je aanmelding in VUnet moet je de volgende documenten uploaden:

  • Kopie diploma van de opleiding(en) op grond waarvan je toelating vraagt tot de master (indien reeds in je bezit) 
  • Kopie officiële cijferlijst van de opleiding(en) op grond waarvan je toelating vraagt tot de master. Als je nog geen definitieve cijferlijst hebt, voeg dan een voorlopige cijferlijst toe.

Onvolledige aanmeldingen worden niet in behandeling genomen.

Deadline aanmelding in Studielink en indienen toelatingsverzoek in VUnet: 15 juli
Deadline volledige inschrijving: 31 augustus

Aanmelden/inschrijven na de deadlines is niet meer mogelijk.
Meer informatie over de procedure voor aanmelden kun je vinden op de VU website.

Niet toelaatbaar

Beschik je niet over een bachelordiploma Psychologie, dan voldoe je helaas niet aan de toelatingseisen en kun je niet instromen in de masteropleiding Psychologie, mastertraject Sociale psychologie.

Aan de VU hebben we geen premasteropleiding Psychologie. Met een hbo-opleiding kun je niet instromen in de masteropleiding Psychologie, mastertraject Sociale psychologie. Je moet eerst het universitaire bachelordiploma Psychologie behalen.

Something for you?

Do you dare to submit your own ideas to thorough analyses and to only speak with full conviction when you have sufficient scientific evidence? Do you see tackling societal issues as a challenge? Do you have an eye for the human and social side of such issues? Then you will definitely be in the right place at the Master’s programme Applied Social Psychology.

  • Please look at what more this programme has to offer you! Find more information about the courses in the Studyguide.
  • Join a Social Psychology Master’s degree student for a day: send an email to


Information on study related issues as courses, study programme and study choice:
Study advisor

Order a brochure

Information days 
7 December 2017: VU Master's evening

International students

The Master’s specialisation Social Psychology which is part of the Master in Psychology programme is open to both Dutch and international students with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. If you have read the admission criteria below and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet the admission criteria

In order to gain admission to the Master’s specialisation Social Psychology, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis or other piece of academic writing you have done during your prior education.

Specific requirements for the Master Social Psychology
For admission to this study programme, a student needs to have completed (or is currently completing) a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology . If you are applying with a Bachelor’s diploma from a non-Dutch university, the Admission Committee will evaluate this diploma and it’s curriculum against the level of a Dutch Bachelor’s degree from a research university.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Dutch students or students with a Dutch University degree, please follow: Online application for students with a Dutch University degree.

Students with an international degree, please follow: Online application for students with an International University degree.

Please note:
As this study programme is a specialisation which falls under the Master of Psychology, in Studielink, please select the Master Psychology or, the Dutch name: Psychologie. In our Vunet application system, which follows, you can indicate which specialisation you are choosing.

Required documents
For International degree holders, digital scans of the following documents are required: 

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • 2 Letters of recommendation
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Diploma(s) / statement of expected graduation
  • A transcript of the marks obtained during the Bachelor's (and additional) programme
  • Bachelor's or Master's thesis, or alternative academic writing
  • English language test

Detailed descriptions of the required documents and deadlines for supplying

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about three to four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma and submitting the results of your English language test. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU Amsterdam to withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option).

Registration procedure and relevant deadlines

When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!       

Further information about
Tuition fees

Admission to a Master’s programme: the Bachelor-before-Master rule 

emptyThe Bachelor-before-Master rule is applied to all VU Programmes. This means that you can only start a Master’s programme on 1 September if you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree. Unconditional admission to our Master’s cannot be granted based on uncompleted Bachelor’s programmes.

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. VU Amsterdam, the Dutch government and other organisations offer scholarships, fellowships and grants. Below you can find detailed information about scholarship programmes, grants and loans most often used by our international students.

VU Fellowship programme

VU Amsterdam offers fellowships to outstanding non-Dutch students who take part in its international Master's degree programmes, through the VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP). Selected students will receive a scholarship for the duration of the degree programme. There is a limited number of fellowships available. Please note that the VUFP application deadline is set to February 1st.

General information about scholarships

Learn more about other scholarships:

  • Direct Loan Programme (US students)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Libertas Support Fund
  • Other scholarships possibilities

Student grants and loans by Dutch government

If you have questions about a student grant and loan provided by the Dutch government, you should contact DUO (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs) or call the central information line on +31 50 599 7755.

Practical information about studying in Amsterdam

We will help you get the important things done during your stay, such as finding accomodation and optaining a visa/residence permit.
Extra information you need as an international student at VU Amsterdam

International Office

Something for you?
Do you dare to submit your own ideas to thorough analyses and to only speak with full conviction when you have sufficient scientific evidence? Do you see tackling societal issues as a challenge? Do you have an eye for the human and social side of such issues? Then you will definitely be in the right place at the Master’s programme Applied Social Psychology.

  • Please look at what more this programme has to offer you! Find more information about the courses in the Studyguide.
  • Join a Social Psychology Master’s degree student for a day: send an email to


Information on practical matters (application & registration procedure, admission requirements, scholarships, etc.):
Wytske Siegersma
International student advisor        

Information on study related issues as courses, study programme and study choice:
Study advisor

Information days & meet us in your own country
Please check information days at our university or a list of educational fairs that we will attend throughout the world.

Order a brochure
Information days