Research Projects

At the Social and Economic Cognition III Lab, we are interested in ambivalence and mixed feelings and the effects of contextual variables on decision-making. Find out more about the research done in the lab below, or check out the publications page.

In our main line of work, we focus on mixed feelings, inner conflict, and ambivalence. Most of us have experienced inner conflict and ambivalence at one time or another. For instance, we might feel ambivalent or conflicted when pondering contentious societal issues like universal basic income, or when trying to decide whether we should get fast food for dinner or not, or even when we try and get up from the sofa to go for that evening run. It’s the experience we have when we both love and hate something, like and dislike something, and want and not want something. This experience, when we feel positive and negative at the same time, is ambivalence.

These experiences of conflict and mixed feelings are quite common in people’s lives and are often related to important topics. For instance, we have researched ambivalence towards food, societal topics, and relationships and organizational settings.  The ambivalence people experience about these topics has important consequences for how people feel, how they make decisions, and how they process information. We examine these consequences, both within the person (How does someone act and think when they are ambivalent? How does this affect their decision-making? Are some people more ambivalent than others?) and between people. (How do people judge ambivalent leaders? What is the role of conflict between greedy or altruistic motives in social behavior?). We are also interested in the role of conflict and ambivalence in sustainable behavior. Because most sustainable behavior requires change, these topics are often a source of conflict. We investigate how this conflict affects to what degree people actually change their habits and behavior. Topics we examine here are, for instance, the role of ambivalence in food waste and meat consumption.

We are also interested in contextual effects on judgment and choice. Specifically, we are interested in the role of spatial distance. Assuming that perception is for thinking,  spatial distance information can inform people on how to think about objects in the world. For instance, when two pieces of fruits are close, people are more likely to see them as fruit or snack, but when they are far, they are just an apple and an orange. Such differences have important consequences for representations and choice behavior. We are also interested in how people construe what is close and what is far, and whether distance can influence perceptions of others around them.

Building on a strong background in social cognition, we examine these topics by using innovative and rigorous experimental methods, while at the same time situating our studies in ecologically valid contexts, such as real-life choices and evaluations.

We aim to produce robust and inspiring science. Therefore, we adhere to the following open science practices when practically possible and applicable:

  • hypotheses are either pre-registered or studies / analyses are explicitly marked as exploratory,
  • data and materials (and if possible also reproducible analysis scripts) are made publicly available at the time of publication,
  • all manipulations and assessed variables are reported; failed studies in a project are reported, for instance in supplements or online.
  • studies are planned to have sample sizes that allow achieving sufficient statistical power; sample sizes are a-priori determined (if possible) 

Our work has been published in Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and Frontiers in Psychology: Cognition, among others. It has also has been featured in popular media outlets, including Slate Magazine, Mind Magazine (Dutch), and NRC Handelsblad (Dutch).