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Social Processes and Communication

A great deal of behaviour is altered by external factors and that is why it is so important to examine interpersonal relationships, group dynamics and media influences. The researchers within this theme investigate how social interactions – whether these are face-to-face or via electronic media communication – are related to individual mental health and well-being. Our research aims to promote healthy and effective behaviour via both the social environment and the media environment that everyone, from infants to adults, operates in.

Investigating social processes and communication

When investigating social processes and communication, we have three particular fields of interests:

  1. Defining the key factors that distinguish the positive and negative features of close relationships (e.g., social support and conflict).
  2. Exploring group processes relating to aggression, social status, leadership, prejudice and social norms.
  3. Focussing on the efficacy and impact of media campaigns (i.e., advertising and marketing) and social media.

Researchers utilise experimental and non-experimental research. The virtual reality lab and “bar” labs are commonly used for experimental manipulations. For the non-experimental studies we use observations, interviews and survey methods, for instance to investigate food choices made by children and parents in supermarkets.

Contributions to society

This research contributes to society by implementing intervention and prevention programmes and informing local and national policymakers. For example, intervention and prevention programmes that improve young children’s recognition of advertising and marketing, encourage healthy eating behaviours of children and adolescents, and discourage health-risk behaviours (e.g., substance use) of adolescents and young adults.

Our researchers work closely with partners in educational, commercial (e.g., food industry), and governmental settings. Specific partners include the Center of Food, the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care, the Ministry of Health, and Pro Persona.