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Leiden University receives gift for research into psychology of economic behaviour

Leiden University has received a gift of over 2m euros from the Utopa Foundation for its Department of Social, Economic and Organisational Psychology. The gift will be used to set up a Psychology and Economic Psychology research and teaching fund. There will also be a new knowledge centre, which will help improve financial literacy in the general population.

Psychological insights are essential to understanding people’s economic behaviour. Utopa Foundation has made the gift because it wants to support the University’s research and teaching in the field of economic psychology. With the new knowledge centre in Leiden, these insights will also be used to help promote the financial literacy of the Dutch population. At the centre, lectures, seminars, workshops and courses will be given to professionals from the practice, policymakers and other interested parties.

The gift will be managed by the Leiden University Fund (LUF), which will set up the Psychology and Economic Behaviour Fund to facilitate this. The research and teaching and the Knowledge Centre, as well as which shape these take, will be the sole responsibility of the researchers at the University.

The gift will be officially presented to the University on 30 October at Utopa Weeshuis in Leiden. In attendance will be Loek Dijkman, Chair of Utopa Foundation, Carel Stolker, Rector Magnificus of Leiden University, Stan de Klerk-Waller, Chair of the LUF, and the professors from the Department of Social, Economic and Organisation Psychology.

The gift was officially presented at Utopa Weeshuis in Leiden. L-R Wilco van Dijk, Professor by Special Appointment of Psychological Determinants of Economic Decision Making; Stan de Klerk-Waller, Chair of the LUF; Loek Dijkman, Chair of Utopa Foundation; Carel Stolker, Rector Magnificus of Leiden University; and Eric van Dijk, Professor of Psychology and Social Decision Making. (Photo: Marc de Haan)

It was Loek Dijkman from Utopa Foundation who first approached the researchers from the Department of Social, Economic and Organisation Psychology. This department, which is part of the Institute of Psychology, has earned a name for its research into psychology and economic behaviour. Its teaching and knowledge utilisation in this field is also groundbreaking. The master’s specialisation in Economic and Consumer Psychology, which started in 2010, has grown in a short space of time into one of the largest master’s specialisations at Leiden University.

Knowledge for society

Professor Eric van Dijk, Chair of the Department of Social, Economic and Organisation Psychology says, ‘This gift will allow us to focus our efforts on research, teaching and knowledge utilisation. These not only complement but also strengthen one another. It also fits in nicely with the need today to use scientific knowledge for societal purposes.’

Together with the National Institute for Family Finance Information (Nibud), the Department has already established an endowed chair in Psychological Determinants of Economic Decision Making, which is held by Wilco van Dijk. 

The two professors, Eric van Dijk and Wilco van Dijk (no relation), developed the outline of the gift agreement. Wilco van Dijk: ‘Obviously, it’s fantastic that we will be given the opportunity both to create an immediate impact on society and to give an extra boost to our existing research and teaching.’

Knowledge Centre for Psychology and Economic Behaviour

The Psychology and Economic Behaviour Fund, which will be realised with the gift, will support the teaching and research in the Department as well as facilitate the establishment of the Knowledge Centre for Psychology and Economic Behaviour. This new knowledge centre had been on the University’s wish list for some time already. It will focus on promoting research and effective policy in the area of economic behaviour, making use of insights from psychology.  

Financial literacy

In collaboration with Utopa Foundation, Leiden University thus hopes to use its scientific findings into behaviour to increase the financial literacy of the Dutch population. It can by no means be assumed that everyone possesses a decent level of financial literacy. Rules and procedures are too complicated for many people, for instance, which means they are less likely to find out what they are entitled to. By using psychological knowledge, policy can be developed and implemented that provides better support to people when making financial decisions

Links between research and practice

The Knowledge Centre will be run by staff from the Department of Social, Economic and Organisation Psychology and will be located at Utopa Weeshuis in Leiden. Within this centre, explicit links will be forged between research, practice and policy. Through lectures, seminars, workshops and courses, scientific insights into behaviour will be made accessible to the public, professionals from the practice and policymakers. In addition, research will be carried out in collaboration with relevant local and national organisations in the field of economic behaviour into how these insights can be effectively used in policy development and implementation.

The funding is for an initial term of five years, but both parties are already looking at the longer term. Eric van Dijk: ‘If our collaboration is a success – and we assume it will be – we will obviously want to continue it.’

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