The Institute of Psychology is responsible for innovative and interdisciplinary research and education within psychology and related disciplines. It focuses primarily on three broad areas: health and wellbeing, development and learning, and social, cognitive and economic decision-making. Its research methods range from lab work to fieldwork and clinical trials. The Dutch Research Council (NOW) recently awarded Spinoza and Stevin Prizes to Institute researchers from all three of these areas.
Researchers at the Institute of Psychology aim, as far as possible, to combine fundamental research into e.g. cognitions, emotions and behaviour with more applied research, focusing on practical issues faced by individuals and society.
1. Health and wellbeing
This research area is concerned with the whole complex of psychological factors relating to health and illness, and the development of innovative treatment methods. The researchers look at biomedical, social and technological issues, among others. For example, why do people develop anxiety or stress disorders? The psychologists apply their in-depth knowledge to create personalised and digital solutions to help patients with mental health problems and chronic somatic complaints. This work mainly takes place at the Leiden University Treatment and Expertise Centre (LUBEC).
2. Development and learning
Researchers in the field of development and learning are interested in how the brain functions and changes as we become older – from childhood to adolescence and from adulthood to old age. They look at the changing brain in many different areas: socio-cognitive development, self-management, flexibility and learning ability. An important goal is to understand how the human brain learns and responds to its environment.
Adolescence is a formative period in which the brain becomes increasingly aware of other people in its environment. This is sometimes expressed as disruptive and risk-taking behaviour, but it also offers exciting new learning opportunities and the ability to adapt to the environment. Leiden psychologists apply their knowledge in areas such as the treatment for adolescents with behaviour problems and social anxiety.
3. Social and economic decision-making
Research into social and economic decision-making focuses on the process and consequences of making decisions in the cognitive, social and economic domains. How do people make and maintain friendships and relationships? How do we handle e.g. inclusion and diversity in the workplace, or cope with financial insecurity? Researchers study general underlying neurological processes and the related behaviour, and ask questions like: How do people respond to rewards? How can we analyse their environment for inconsistencies?
By combining psychological factors with social and environmental factors, the Leiden psychologists help people make better decisions. This can result in less stress in the work environment, the de-escalation of conflicts and more creativity and enjoyment when working in a team.