dr. M.A.S. (Maarten) Boksem

Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Member ERIM
Field: Marketing
Affiliated since 2010

I have a broad interest in human behaviour and in how the brain orchestrates this behaviour. My current research topics range from the decoding of psychological processes from the brain, to investigating brain responses with naturalistic stimuli (movies), to the neural underpinnings of cheating and deception, and to the role of context in decision-making. Past lines of research include the role of hormones in behaviour and brain processes, the neural substates of emotions, goal-directed motivation and their control, performance monitoring and the impact of fatigue on cognition. I will briefly outline these research lines below.


**Decoding psychological processes from the brain**


The human psyche pretty much remains a black box: we can observe or even manipulate the input a person’s psychological system receives, but not the feelings or cognitive processes that are evoked by this input. Likewise, we can observe the decisions made by the system, but not the feelings or cognitive processes that drove these decisions. In this line of research, we decode these latent processes or states from the brain, using machine learning methods applied to distributed pattern of brain activity.


For example, in two studies (one using EEG, and one using fMRI), we presented participants with video content while measuring activity from their brains. Using machine learning, we trained classifiers to accurately decode the emotional experience evoked by these videos in our participants. As another example, in every-day life we observe large differences in honesty and fairness across individuals. In a set of two studies (using fMRI), we decode idiosyncrasies in the underlying motivations for honesty and fairness. We find that particularly individual differences in the engagement of cognitive control and theory of mind drive differences in prosocial behaviour.


**Brains at the movies**


In the past, research in neuroscience has used decontextualized stimuli and highly artificial experimental designs to study the neural substrate of cognitive processes. Although this approach has been very successful, as it allows for tightly controlled experiments and straightforward interpretation of results, it has left open the question of how the brain responds to events in more naturalistic settings. In this line of research, we address this issue by investigating how brain processes unfold during movie watching.


We find that we can track emotions, engagement and preference that follow the narrative of the presented videos. In addition, we observe that we can not only predict how well individual participants will like the movie they are watching, but also how well others will like this movie. That is, we can predict, from brain activity measured during movie-watching in a small set of participants, to what extent a different set of participants will like this movie, and even estimate how well the movie will do at the box office.


**Cheating, unfairness and deception**


Dishonest behaviour, such as tax evasion, music piracy or fraud, is highly prevalent in our society and inflicts huge economic costs. Every day, we are faced with the conflict between the temptation to cheat and deceive for financial gains and maintaining a positive image of ourselves as being a ‘good person’. In this line of research, we investigate the psychological and neural underpinnings of decisions to either cheat and deceive, or to remain fair and honest.


We find that particularly individual differences in the engagement of cognitive control and theory of mind drive decisions to be fair and honest (or not). For example, in one study we found that cognitive control may override an individual’s moral default, allowing honest people to cheat, whereas it enables cheaters to be honest. These insights contribute to a deeper understanding of individual differences in honesty and may aid in developing more targeted interventions aiming at reducing dishonesty.


  • Academic (49)
    • Speer, S. P., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2021). Cognitive control promotes either honesty or dishonesty, depending on one's moral default. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(42), 8815-8825. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0666-21.2021

    • Speer, S., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. (2021). Different neural mechanisms underlie non-habitual honesty and non-habitual cheating. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15, [610429]. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2021.610429

    • Eijlers, E., Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2020). Measuring neural arousal for advertisements and its relationship with advertising success. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(736). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00736

    • Speer, S., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. (2020). Cognitive control increases honesty in cheaters but cheating in those who are honest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Ame, 117(32), 19080-19091. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2003480117

    • Couwenberg, L., Boksem, M., Sanfey, AG., & Smidts, A. (2020). Neural mechanisms of choice diversification. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14, 502. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00502

    • Chan, H., Smidts, A., Schoots, V., Sanfey, AG., & Boksem, M. (2020). Decoding dynamic affective responses to naturalistic videos with shared neural patterns. NeuroImage, 216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116618

    • Losecaat Vermeer, AB., Boksem, M., & Sanfey, AG. (2020). Third-party decision-making under risk as a function of prior gains and losses. Journal of Economic Psychology, 77(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2019.102206

    • Chan, H., Smidts, A., Schoots, V., Dietvorst, RC., & Boksem, M. (2019). Neural similarity at temporal pole and cerebellum predicts out-of-sample preference and recall for video stimuli. NeuroImage, 197, 391-401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.076

    • Eijlers, E., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. (2019). Implicit measurement of emotional experience and its dynamics. PLoS One (online), 14(2), [e0211496]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211496

    • Chan, H., Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2018). Neural profiling of brands: Mapping brand image in consumers' brains with visual templates. Journal of Marketing Research, 55(4), 600-615. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.17.0019

    • Couwenberg, L., Boksem, M., Dietvorst, RC., Worm, L., Verbeke, W., & Smidts, A. (2017). Neural Responses to Functional and Experiential Ad Appeals: Explaining Ad Effectiveness. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(2), 355-366. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijresmar.2016.10.005

    • Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2015). Brain responses to movietrailers predict individual preferences for movies and their population-wide commercial success. Journal of Marketing Research, 52(4), 482-492. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.13.0572

    • Quirin, M., Kent, M., Boksem, M., & Tops, M. (2015). Integration of Negative Experiences: A Neuropsychological Framework for Human Resilience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, 43-44. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X14001666

    • Losecaat Vermeer, AB., Boksem, M., & Sanfey, AG. (2014). Neural mechanisms underlying context-dependent shifts in risk preferences. NeuroImage, 103, 355-363. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.09.054

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., Quirin, M., IJzerman, H., & Koole, S. (2014). Internally-directed cognition and mindfulness: An integrative perspective derived from reactive versus predictive control systems theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(429). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00429

    • Smidts, A., Hsu, M., Sanfey, AG., Boksem, M., Ebstein, RB., Huettel, SA., Kable, JW., Karmarkar, UM., Kitayama, S., Liberzon, I., Knutson, B., Lohrenz, T., Stallen, M. M., & Yoon, C. (2014). Advancing Consumer Neuroscience. Marketing Letters, 25(3), 257-267. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-014-9306-1

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., & Koole, S. (2013). Subjective effort derives from a neurological monitor of performance costs and physiological resources. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(6), 703-704. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X13001167

    • Riem, MME., Van IJzendoorn, MH., Tops, M., Boksem, M., Rombouts, SARB., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, MJ. (2013). Oxytocin effects on complex brain networks are moderated by experiences of maternal love withdrawal. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 23(10), 1288-1295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.01.011

    • Boksem, M., Mehta, PH. P., Van den Bergh, B., van Son, V., Trautmann, ST., Roelofs, K., Smidts, A., & Sanfey, AG. (2013). Testosterone Inhibits Trust but Promotes Reciprocity. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2306-2314. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613495063

    • Riem, MME., Van IJzendoorn, MH., Tops, M., Boksem, M., Rombouts, SARB., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, MJ. (2012). No Laughing Matter: Intranasal Oxytocin Administration Changes Functional Brain Connectivity during Exposure to Infant Laughter. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37, 1257-1266. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.313

    • Boksem, M., Kostermans, E., Tops, M., & De Cremer, D. D. (2012). Individual differences in asymmetric resting-state frontal cortical activity modulate ERPs and performance in a Global-Local attention task. Journal of Psychophysiology, 26(2), 51-62. https://doi.org/10.1027/0269-8803/a000067

    • Van der Helden, J., & Boksem, M. (2012). Medial Frontal Negativity reflects learning from positive feedback. Psychophysiology, 49(8), 1109-1113. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01388.x

    • Tops, M., Buisman-Pijlman, F., Boksem, M., Wijers, AA., & Korf, J. (2012). Cortisol-induced increases of plasma oxytocin levels predict decreased immediate free recall of unpleasant words. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(43). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00043

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2012). What's that? What went wrong? Positive and negative surprise and the rostral-ventral to caudal-dorsal functional gradient in the brain. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(21), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00021

    • Tops, M., Van IJzendoorn, MH., Riem, MME., Boksem, M., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, MJ. (2012). Oxytocin receptor gene associated with the efficiency of social auditory processing. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 2(60), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00060

    • Boksem, M., Kostermans, E., Milivojevic, B., & De Cremer, D. D. (2012). Social status determines how we monitor and evaluate our performance. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7(3), 304-313. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsr010

    • Boksem, M., Smolders, R., & De Cremer, D. D. (2012). Social power and approach-related neural activity. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7(5), 516-520. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsp006

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2011). A potential role of the inferior frontal gyrus and anterior insula in cognitive control, brain rhythms, and event-related potentials. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(330). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00330

    • Riem, MME., Bakermans-Kranenburg, MJ., Pieper, S., Tops, M., Boksem, M., Vermeiren, RRJM., Van IJzendoorn, MH., & Rombouts, SARB. (2011). Oxytocin Modulates Amygdala, Insula, and Inferior Frontal Gyrus Responses to Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Biological Psychiatry, 70(3), 291-297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.02.006

    • Boksem, M., Ruys, KI., & Aarts, H. (2011). Facing disapproval: Performance monitoring in a social contex. Social Neuroscience, 6(4), 360-368. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470919.2011.556813

    • Boksem, M., Kostermans, E., & De Cremer, D. D. (2011). Failing where others have succeeded - Medial Frontal Negativity tracks failure in a social context. Psychophysiology, 48(7), 973-979. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01163.x

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2011). Cortisol involvement in mechanisms of behavioural inhibition. Psychophysiology, 48(5), 723-732. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01131.x

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., Luu, P., & Tucker, DM. (2010). Brain substrates of behavioral programs associated with self regulation. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00152

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2010). Absorbed in the task: Personality measures predict engagement during task performance as tracked by error negativity and asymmetrical frontal acitivity. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 20(4), 441-453. https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.10.4.441

    • Boksem, M., Van der Helden, J., & Blom, JHG. (2010). The Importance of Failure: Feedback Related Negativity Predicts Motor Learning Efficiency. Cerebral Cortex, 20(7), 1596-1603. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhp224

    • Boksem, M., & De Cremer, D. D. (2010). Fairness Concerns Predict Medial Frontal Negativity Amplitude in Ultimatum Bargaining. Social Neuroscience, 5(1), 118-125. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470910903202666

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2010). Concerns over mistakes predicts the amplitude of the error-related negativity, error positivity and frontal alpha power asymmetry. Psychophysiology, 47, s94-s94.

    • Boksem, M., & Van der Helden, J. (2010). Scream or praise? How personality differences relate to the effectiveness of punishments and rewards for efficient learning. Psychophysiology, 47, s102-s103.

    • Tops, M., Russo, S., Boksem, M., & Tucker, DM. (2009). Serotonin: modulator of a drive to withdraw. Brain and Cognition, 71(3), 427-436.

    • Tops, M., & Boksem, M. (2008). Cortisol, energiemobilisatie en chronische vermoeidheid. NeuroPraxis, 12(4), 126-132.

    • Boksem, M., Tops, M., Kostermans, E., & De Cremer, D. D. (2008). Sensitivity to punishment and reward omission: Evidence from error-related ERP components. Biological Psychology, 79(2), 185-192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2008.04.010

    • Boksem, M., & Tops, M. (2008). Mental fatigue: Costs and benefits. Brain Research Reviews, 59, 125-139.

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., Wijers, AA., Van Duinen, H., Den Boer, JA., Meijman, TF., & Korf, J. (2007). The psychobiology of burnout: Are there two different syndromes? Neuropsychobiology, 55, 143-150.

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., Wester, AE., Lorist, MM., & Meijman, TF. (2006). Task engagement and the relationships between the error-related negativity, agreeableness, behavioral shame proneness and cortisol. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 31, 847-858.

    • Boksem, M., Tops, M., Wester, AE., Lorist, MM., & Meijman, TF. (2006). Error Related ERP Components and Individual Differences in Punishment and Reward Sensitivity. Brain Research, 1101, 92-101.

    • Boksem, M., Meijman, TF., & Lorist, MM. (2006). Mental fatigue, motivation and action monitoring. Biological Psychology, 42(2), 123-132.

    • Boksem, M., Lorist, MM., & Meijman, TF. (2005). Effects of mental fatigue on attention: an ERP study. Brain Research, 25, 106-117.

    • Wijers, AA., & Boksem, M. (2005). Selective attention and error processing in an illusory conjunction task: an event-related brain potential study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 19(3), 216-231.

    • Lorist, MM., Boksem, M., & Ridderinkhof, KR. (2005). Impaired control and reduced cingulate activity during mental fatigue. Brain Research, 24, 199-205.

  • Professional (2)
    • Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2016). Voorspelt EEG filmsucces? Psychologische processen in het brein. Tijdschrift voor Marketing, (Maart), 44-47.

    • Boksem, M. (2015). Can brain responses to movie trailers predict success? RSM Discovery - Management Knowledge, 22(2), 5-7. http://hdl.handle.net/1765/78359

  • Academic (2)
    • Tops, M., Luu, P., Boksem, M., & Tucker, DM. (2013). The Role of Predictive and Reactive Biobehavioral Programs in Resilience. In M. Kent, M. C. Davis, & J. W. Reich (Eds.), The Resilience Handbook - Approaches to Stress and Trauma (pp. 21-38)

    • Boksem, M., & De Cremer, D. D. (2009). Morality and the brain. In D. De Cremer (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on ethical behavior and decision making (pp. 153-166). Information Age Publishing.

  • Professional (3)
    • Eijlers, E., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. (2020). Implicit measurement of emotional experience and its dynamics. In Neuromarketing Yearbook 2020 NMSBA.

    • Chan, H., Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2019). Neural profiling of brands: Mapping brand image in consumers' brains with visual templates. In Neuromarketing Yearbook 2019 NMSBA.

    • Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2015). Your brain on movie trailers – How brain responses to movie trailers predict individual preferences for movies and their population-wide commercial success. In Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015 NMSBA.

  • Academic (4)
    • Speer, S., & Boksem, M. (2020). Decoding fairness motivations from multivariate brain activity patterns. In Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsz097

    • Quirin, M., Tops, M., Boksem, M., & Koole, SL. (2017). Large-scale neural networks and the lateralization of motivation and emotion. In International Journal of Psychophysiology (Vol. 119, pp. 41-49)

    • Tops, M., Boksem, M., & Wester, AE. (2005). Error-related potentials: relations with reward and punishment sensitivity, and cortisol reactivity. In - (Vol. 42, pp. s18-s19)

    • Wijers, AA., & Boksem, M. (2003). Selective attention and error processing in an illusory conjunction paradigm: ERPs fail to confirm the special status of conjunction errors. In - (Vol. 17, pp. 141-141). 3

  • External (1)
    • Boksem, M. (2006). Mental fatigue: Costs and benefits. RUG.

  • Academic (1)
    • Tops, M., Boksem, M. A. S., Montero-Marin, J., & Van Der Linden, D. (2021). A role of serotonin and the insula in vigor: Tracking environmental and physiological resources. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44, [e136]. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X21000261

  • Professional (7)
    • Speer, S. (Author), & Boksem, M. (Author). (2020). How brain measures can help to understand fairness. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

    • Speer, S. (Author), Smidts, A. (Author), & Boksem, M. (Author). (2020). Why honest people cheat. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

    • Chan, H. (Author), Boksem, M. (Author), & Smidts, A. (Author). (2019). All in the mind? How neuroscience can help measure the emotional impact of brand image and video engagement. Web publication/site

    • Chan, H. (Author), Smidts, A. (Author), & Boksem, M. (Author). (2019). Brain scans reveal engagement levels of videos. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

    • Eijlers, E. (Author), Smidts, A. (Author), & Boksem, M. (Author). (2019). Tracking emotions real time in the brain. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

    • Chan, H. (Author), Boksem, M. (Author), & Smidts, A. (Author). (2018). Identifying strong brands in the brain. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

    • Couwenberg, L. (Author), Boksem, M. (Author), & Smidts, A. (Author). (2017). Brain scans reveal what makes a TV advert effective. Web publication/site, RSM Discovery.

  • Role: Daily Supervisor
  • PhD Candidate: Catalina Ratala
  • Time frame: 2012 -
  • Role: Daily Supervisor
  • PhD Candidate: Linda Couwenberg
  • Time frame: 2012 - 2020
  • Role: Daily Supervisor
  • PhD Candidate: Esther Eijlers
  • Time frame: 2013 - 2020
  • Role: Co-promotor
  • PhD Candidate: Hang-Yee Chan
  • Time frame: 2014 - 2020
  • Role: Daily Supervisor, Co-promotor
  • PhD Candidate: Aljaž Sluga
  • Time frame: 2015 -
  • Role: Daily Supervisor
  • PhD Candidate: Sebastian Speer
  • Time frame: 2016 -
  • Role: Co-promotor, Daily Supervisor
  • PhD Candidate: Leonard Diederik van Brussel
  • Time frame: 2019 -
  • Role: Co-promotor
  • PhD Candidate: Marina Lenkovskaya
  • Time frame: 2021 -
  • Role: Co-promotor
  • PhD Candidate: Ting-Yi Lin
  • Time frame: 2021 -
  • Specialization Module on Consumer Behavior (2019/2020)

The marketing group at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University seeks highly motivated PhD students looking to study topics in marketing science, consumer behaviour, and consumer neuroscience. Strong applicants typically have backgrounds in economics, psychology, business, statistics, neuroscience, or computer science, and are looking to pursue careers as world-class academic researchers. Students define and execute their own projects in consultation with their advisers, and thus need creativity, self-direction, and a passion for scientific research.

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  • Fellowship - ERIM early career talent programme (2010)


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