The target group of the Minor Social Neuroscience will mainly, but definitely not exclusively, be psychology students. The course is also interesting for, and open to, students from other programmes inside and outside of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences who are interested in the relationship between the brain and social behaviour. Such as Sociology, Pedagogy, Educational Science, Economics, Political Sciences, Law, Medicine and Biology.
Social Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that uses insights from the social and neurosciences to investigate the fundamentals of human social and emotional behaviour, whereby the relation between the brain and social interaction is of the essence.
In the 20th century, biological and social explanations for human behaviour were often deemed to be incompatible. However, recent developments in social and biological sciences have led to the foundation of social neuroscience, a field that attempts to integrate knowledge from these two fields in order to develop new biologically-constraint insights and predictions for social behaviour, to ultimately also offer points of reference for altering socially deviant behaviours.
Social neuroscience thus is a new scientific discipline, which starts off with theories and concepts that are mainly based on social psychology and the cognitive neurosciences, but biological, clinical and developmental psychology also play a vital role. Furthermore, there are application-oriented links to economics, (micro)sociology, law and political sciences.
Social neuroscience studies social behaviour from the perspective of an evolutionary 'social brain' and tries to link important socio-emotional behaviours and misbehaviours not only to specific areas of the brain and their communication, but also to neurotransmission and hormonal processes.
An analysis of the biophysical and behavioural processes also forms an important part, in so far as these processes offer insight into the functioning of the brain in social interactions. Within social neuroscientific research, behavioural paradigms are therefore used that allow interpretations from a neuroscientific perspective, but also modern bio / physiological / neuroscientific methods, such as fMRI, EEG / ERP, TMS, ECG, EMG, GSR, eyetracking and pupillometry, and hormonal measurements.
Globally, the field is one of the fastest growing interdisciplinary fields of science. In social neuroscience, the relationship between social behaviour and the social brain is classified in terms of a framework pertaining to so-called bottom-up subcortically-controlled and top-down cortically-controlled processes. The bottom-up processes are the social-affective processes that are controlled reflexively by the limbic emotional-motivational structures, whilst the social-cognitive processes are more reflective and are dominated by top-down-controlled cortical mechanism structures.
Nevertheless, our social behaviour is always a combination of social-cognitive and social-affective processes. As a result, the themes studied in social neuroscience are endless; recognition/interpretation of social and emotional stimuli, social stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, social communication and trust, social empathy and perspective taking, morality, social aggression and fear, self-regulation and impulse control, recognition of other people's and one’s own intentions, self-recognition and awareness, socio-economic decision-making behaviour, risk and gambling behaviour, etc..
The programme of the Minor Social Neuroscience consists of a compact set of courses, which will be presented in more or less direct succession. The programme presents an in-depth analysis of a field in development, in which a proportional degree of attention is paid to theory, methods and techniques, and empirical / practical experience.
The Minor starts with a general introductory course in Social Neuroscience that is open to everyone and is followed by an in-depth programme with a maximum number of 24 participants. The overall Minor programme totals 37.5 ECTS. There are four course components, namely:
- Neuroscience of social behaviour and emotional disorders (Block 1, 7.5 ECTS)
- Methods and techniques in social neuroscience (Block 3, 7.5 ECTS)
- Research seminar in social neuroscience (Block 3, 7.5 ECTS)
- Research project in social neuroscience Block 4, 15 ECTS)
Note: Psychology students from Utrecht University will complete the Minor for 22.5 ECTS; the course Research project in Social Neuroscience (200900354) will be used as part of their Major as a replacement for an obligatory Bachelor Thesis.
The timeframe of the programme
The course Social Neuroscience (SNS) is given in block 1. In block 3 the programme is resumed with a smaller group, with the courses Methods and Techniques (M+T) in SNS and the SNS research seminar (RS). In block 4 the research project (RP) is performed.
Ideally, the entire Social Neuroscience Minor programme should be completed in one academic year. It is important to take this time schedule into account for personal study planning purposes.
The courses can also be chosen separately, outside the minor.
The first Social Neuroscience course is open to everyone. For the Minor programme as a whole, the admission requirements will include an entry test in which prior knowledge and interest in the field of social neuroscience can be established in the first Social Neuroscience course.
Afterwards, students who follow the Social Neuroscience track should know the basic principles and research methods for describing and studying the relation between the brain and social behaviour and interactions. Students who have completed the Minor programme can move on to Academic and Research Master's programmes, in which scientific knowledge about the brain and social behaviour is acquired and applied to understand and modify the causes and consequences of social behaviour. Finally, the programme provides more in-depth information and a ‘profile’ that students can use to distinguish themselves from others in those disciplines in which interest in the relationship between social and bio/neurosciences is increasing.
The Minor programme, as a whole, is subject to a maximum number of 30 students per year.
Please note: students who do not wish to take part in the entire Minor, but only want to follow separate courses, can register for that specific course via OSIRIS. For the general introductory course in Social Neuroscience there is no maximum, the other courses have a maximum of 30 students.
Utrecht University students
Students who are interested in following the whole minor can register via OSIRIS. The minor has a maximum of 30 students. It is recommended to have gained prior knowledge in the field of Biological Psychology before starting the minor.
Students from outside Utrecht University
You can enrol for the courses through our application form at OSIRIS Online Application (visit our subsidiary courses page for more information). Use the same application form to apply for the minor. After your form is processed, the Student Information Point will enrol you for the minor.