Institute of Psychology (IOP)
The Institute of Psychology (IOP) of Erasmus University Rotterdam is one of the national universities in which students can acquire a bachelor and a master degree in psychology. Research within the institute is focused on various types of normal and abnormal human behaviour and their physiological basis in the brain. Four research groups can be identified:
- Biological and Cognitive Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Educational and Developmental Psychology
1. Biological and Cognitive Psychology
Principal investigators: Prof. Dr Rolf Zwaan and Dr Jan van Strien
The research group Biological and Cognitive Psychology investigates psychological functions such as attention, perception, memory, language, emotion, and knowledge representation and the underlying brain mechanisms. This research is done employing both psychofysiological techniques such as EEG (and in the future: TMS and transcranial Doppler), skin conductance, and heart rate measurement and behavioral techniques such as reaction time measurement and neuropsychological testing. The biopsychological research projects examine the functional brain organization of cognition and emotion and the influence of aging. Research questions concern the patterns of cerebral activation in response to cognitive and emotional stimuli, and the connectivity within and between cerebral hemispheres. In addition, the changes in connectivity and in cerebral activation with aging are studied. The cognitive research projects address the question how knowledge is represented in human memory and how this knowledge is activated. An important theme is the embodied cognition framework. This framework states that cognitive processes, such as memory, are based on the systems of perception and action, and not on abstract symbolic manipulation, as is proposed by more traditional cognitive theories (this project is supported by a Vidi-grant awarded to Diane Pecher). Carol Madden (who was recently awarded an EUR fellowship) investigates language processing, in particular sentence comprehension, from an embodied cognition perspective. Eye movements have been studied extensively in language research and provide valuable insights in the mechanisms underlying reading and sentence comprehension. The availability of eye tracking research would strengthen this line of research. Other topics include visual word recognition, false memories and implicit memory. The biopsychological and cognitive approach are integrated in several EEG studies concerning memory and language. In the near future, more researchers will be included in the B&C research group. As a consequence, the need for more technical apparatus such as EEG is continuously growing. There is also an increasing demand for space and equipment to run subjects in behavioural studies.
2. Clinical Psychology
Principal investigator: Dr Ingmar Franken
Research in the field of clinical psychology is partially supported by NWO Veni (Ingmar Franken) and Vidi (Eric Rassin) grants and focuses on the study of abnormal human behavior, and thus pertains to psychological problems and disorders in adulthood, of which many already have clear antecedents during childhood. The primary foci of our research group are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other common deviant behaviors such as aggression, delinquency, and criminality. Four specific topics can be discerned: (1) the diagnostics and classification of abnormal behavior, (2) the etiology of abnormal behavior, (3) cognitive-biological processes that play a role in the maintenance of abnormal behavior, and (4) the prevention and treatment of abnormal behavior. A broad range of research methods are employed to study these topics, varying from questionnaires and interviews, neuropsychological tests, behavioral experiments, to psychophysiological assessment. This means that besides clinical and field studies, laboratory experiments are carried out in which reaction times (e.g., emotional Stroop test, Implicit Association Test, Erikson flanker paradigm) and physiological indexes (e.g., EEG, skin conductance, eye blink startle reflex, and blood supply in the brain by means of the transcranial Doppler technique) are recorded.
3. Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Principal investigator: Prof. Dr A.B. Bakker
The research of the I/O faculty is in the domain of work, organizational and personnel psychology. Using a mix of laboratory experiments and survey studies, faculty members focus on the following themes: (1) Positive organizational behaviour, which examines the additional value of positive emotions over and above negative emotions in determining organizational performance. In this research line, field and lab studies are carried out to examine, e.g., the crossover of positive and negative work-related states from one person to another; (2) Organizational entrance, where attention is paid to issues of prediction and decision-making in personnel recruitment and selection. In addition, applicants’ viewpoints are taken into account, such as their job search and choice behavior, and their test motivation and anxiety. Research methods include telephone interviews with job searchers, and experiments among students during test taking, where anxiety and motivation are measured using paper-and-pencil and physiological measures; (3) Emotional labour, which addresses the question how difficult and demanding social interactions can best be managed. Research focuses on emotion management strategies and possible consequences, including emotional dissonance/consonance and performance. In addition to diary studies, lab experiments are conducted, in which participants are exposed to virtual reality simulations of demanding work situations, and where they have to respond on line (and interactively) to stimuli; (4) Small and medium-sized business. This research line examines relationships between entrepreneurs’ and small business owners’ personality and attitudes on the one hand, and well-being and job performance on the other hand. The analyses focus on the individual and group level. Behavioral experiments among students working in teams and survey research are among the research methods used; (5) Cross-cultural and diversity issues. This domain focuses on issues of (non) discrimination during personnel selection and in the workplace – using lab experiments and field surveys. In addition, this research investigates minority-majority issues, diversity in the workplace, and job performance among expatriates; (6) Test- and scale development. This final theme centers around the development and validation of tests and scales for the measurement of a diversity of work-related individual differences characteristics (e.g., integrity, cultural intelligence). There is a particular interest in less conventional testing methods, such as the development of multimedia (video-scenario) and situational tests. Reaction time measures are employed in relationship to cognitive test scores but also in relationship to social desirability answers in non-cognitive tests.
4. Educational and Developmental Psychology
Principal investigators: Dr Remy Rikers
This group studies changes in human behavour from birth until death that occur as a function of natural development and education. Research with an emphasis on developmental psychology focuses on three topics: (1) factors during and after pregnancy that influence children’s health (Generation R-project in collaboration with Erasmus MC), (2) learning and attention disorders in children and adults (in particular ADHD), and (3) psychosocial development of persons with severe physical health problems (such a heart failure). Research with a primarily educational character focuses on two topics: (1) development of expertise (in particular medical expertise), and (2) the possibilities and limitations of the use of information and communication technology in educational settings. A variety of research methods is used to study these topics, including behavioural cognitive tasks (reaction time measurements and eye movements) and psychophysiological measurements such as variations in heart rhythms and EEG.