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MSc in Psychology - Health and Social Psychology

Course Description

The specialisation in Health and Social Psychology aims at understanding behaviour and behaviour change from the clinical and social psychology perspective. The main focus is on understanding how people’s personalities, cognitions, and social environment influence their health and social functioning.

You learn to analyse the underlying mechanisms of unhealthy or antisocial behaviour, using recent theories and models from various psychological disciplines. Examples of behaviours are eating disorders, smoking, excessive drinking, reckless driving, and unsafe sex. With this knowledge, you can systematically develop interventions to change such behaviour. In your thesis you could study, for instance, why people maintain bad habits. Key issues concern automatic versus controlled influences on behaviour, self-regulation, and the development of behaviour change programmes. Students who choose this specialisation should be interested in analysing everyday individual and societal problems by means of experimental or applied research.

[[Programme outline]]
The specialisation in Health and Social Psychology offers the following core courses:
‘Bad habits’ which uses various recent views from both social and clinical psychology to explain how healthy and desirable behaviours and their negative counterparts develop and endure. You consider bad habits from a cognitive perspective, with a focus on automatic associative processes and perceptual processes. You study the role of the social environment in the occurrence of bad habits
‘Manipulation’, which deals with strategies of social influence, persuasion, and attitude change. You learn what which techniques, tactics, procedures people use to manipulate or change the beliefs and behaviour of other people. You participate in discussions of learnhow social influence techniques work: what are the psychological principles underlying the effect of those techniques?
‘Self-control’Regulation’, which focuses on the regulation of behaviour: why do people find it so hard to resist their impulses? Here you study various self-control processes including emotional self-regulation,
automatic self-regulation, and the role of thinking (beliefs) and acceptance. You also focus on possible ways of improving self-control abilities
‘Planning behaviour-change programmes’, which focuses on applying psychological theory on developing behaviour change interventions, for instance, theories about risk communication, attitude change, social influences, skill training, self-regulation, and prejudice and discrimination.

In January, we offer the course ‘Academic Skills’ (5 EC) which is aimed at preparing you optimally for your research internship. You will follow lectures and workshops on methods and designs, research ethics and applying for ethical approval, writing a research proposal, and data analysis.

During the rest of the second semester, you complete a research internship and write your thesis. For your thesis, you could examine the conditions under which people are successful in controlling their impulses when faced by temptation and when they are likely to fail. Or you could, for instance, study how theories of social influence can be applied to change behaviour or how persuasive messages should be designed to change behaviour effectively.

The close link between education and research offers you many opportunities to participate in ongoing research – both at Maastricht University or elsewhere, including abroad. Topics range from with regard to the role of fear in risk communication, eating disorders, sexual health, obesity, social norms, self-control, addictive behaviours, to and stigmatisationstigmatization, as well as discrimination, learning theories, cognitive processing of health-related issues, intervention development, and planned behaviour change.

You can conduct your research internship in one of the faculty’s well-equipped laboratories, such as the behaviour laboratory (equipped with cameras), the social psychology laboratory (with separate computer cubicles), the drinking laboratory (with a full-scale bar) or the eating laboratory (with a kitchen). There are also opportunities to acquire external research experience, either by going abroad or by doing an internship at other institutes.

[[Career focus]]
Job possibilities for health and social psychologists are broad: you could be a researcher in an academic or applied health setting, or work in communication planning, health promotion, and policy-making.

Is this programme right for me?
The specialisation Health and Social Psychology aims to familiarise you with all kinds of bad habits, why they exist, and how we can prevent and how we can or change them. You will learn a lot about self-control – being one of the key concepts driving good habits. Further you will gain more insight in how to manipulate people and how to change undesirable behaviours. The pPracticals in each course offer you the opportunity to train yourself into the practice what you have learned.of health research and promotion. And last but not least, you will brush up on your academic and statistical skills.

Entry Requirements


Course Fees


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