Master of Science in Psychology: Social Influence

University of Amsterdam

Program Description

Master of Science in Psychology: Social Influence

University of Amsterdam

Many organisations and companies benefit from effectively influencing the behaviour of citizens or consumers: Politicians try to win votes, advertising agencies try to increase sales of a particular product, and municipalities try to discourage cycling in pedestrian areas. But what is the best way to approach this?

Social Influence is an English-taught Master's track offered by the Department of Social Psychology.

  • Why are some advertising campaigns effective and others are not?
  • How do we encourage fewer people to cycle in pedestrian areas?
  • How do we study the effectiveness of measures to prevent tax evasion?

An evidence-based approach

For many years intuition, experience, and creativity were decisive factors when designing interventions in human behaviour. However, this did not always lead to effective interventions. A famous example of this concerns a unique forest in the United States: a sign was put up at the entrance informing people that a lot of petrified wood had gone missing as a result of vandalism and theft. However, this intervention actually led to more of the wood being stolen (Cialdini et al., 2006). Closer to home there also are examples of well-known campaigns which are not always the most effective: a billboard with an image of Miffy proved to be more effective at increasing road safety than the “wordt geen slaaprijder” (don’t be a drowsy driver) campaign.

Bearing these experiences in mind, there is an increasing need for an evidence-based approach when influencing human behaviour. An evidence-based approach is all about applying scientific knowledge and a scientifically responsible method to develop more effective interventions. For example, various ministries have introduced Behavioural Insights Teams to exploit insights from the behavioural sciences to design more effective interventions and market research agencies that translate scientific knowledge for use in the advertising industry are booming.

In this Master's track, students learn to apply social-psychological knowledge and scientifically responsible methods to create evidence-based approaches to such issues regarding human behaviour. Students learn to analyse processes which lead to certain types of behaviour, develop interventions and evaluate those interventions.

The influence of social context

Social psychology as a science is about explaining and predicting human behaviour. The emphasis here is on understanding the role of the social context. Knowledge about the determinants of behaviour, such as emotions, motivation, attitudes and group dynamics can, when coupled with a systematic approach to analysing and intervening in human behaviour, significantly increase the effectiveness of interventions.

Expanding and applying knowledge

During this Master’s track students have the opportunity to deepen their social-psychological knowledge and hone their research skills as well as learn about systematic, critical approaches to applied problems when influencing behaviour. Students work through various case studies to learn how to apply scientific knowledge and approaches to applied influencing-behaviour problems.

Students learn how to analyse concrete human behaviour using social-psychological theory and how to generate valid and reliable measurements of (current) attitudes, emotions, motivation and behaviour. Students also learn, step by step, how to develop interventions and how to evaluate those interventions using intervention theories such as intervention mapping.

Career Prospects

Students who graduate from this Master's track can be found in organisations or departments that are involved in behavioural influence in the broadest sense of the word.

Graduates of this Master’s track often go on to work as (among others):

  • Strategists/Researchers at advertising agencies and consultancy firms.
  • Advisers on influencing behaviour (e.g., the Nutrition Centre, patient associations, electricity companies, large municipalities).
  • Policy and research positions at governmental institutions such as ministries, educational settings and municipalities.
  • Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research/SCP or commercial market research agencies such as Motivaction, TNO, and Kantar TNS.
  • Consumer behaviour advisors/researchers.
  • Psychology lecturers at universities of applied sciences (HBO level).
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated October 12, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
12 months
Full time
2,060 EUR
EU/EEA students. Non-EU/EEA students €14,740 per year.
Netherlands - Amsterdam, North Holland
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2019
Netherlands - Amsterdam, North Holland
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info