Psychology is the study of human behavior and asks about what people do and think, and why. One might say that we are all in some sense ‘naïve psychologists’: intrigued by others and by ourselves. The study of psychology provides its students with an intellectual toolkit that makes it possible to ask questions about human behavior in a scholarly manner.

At UCU, the psychology courses introduce its students to the questions psychologists ask and to the vocabulary and methods commonly used by them. The entire set of courses (the ‘track’) was designed with two types of students in mind: those who would like to continue in psychology at the graduate level, as well as those who see their future in other domains.

The PSY11 Introduction to Psychology course offers a broad overview of the field, from the biological basis of behavior to social psychological processes and abnormal psychology. Attention is paid to historical emergence of the different sub-disciplines within psychology and their connection to other academic disciplines. The focus is on getting to know what psychology is all about. The exams are designed to check whether that knowledge is in place; presentations and individual papers serve to stimulate students to apply the methods of psychology to questions that fascinate them.

At the intermediate 200-level a number of dedicated topical ‘state-of-the-art’ courses is offered, allowing students to learn as well as to experience what types of discoveries have contributed to our broad understanding of human behavior. Social Psychology (PSY21) teaches students social relationships: the influence individuals and groups have on one another. Students are examined on their understanding of the basic paradigms in social psychology, but also have a ‘hands-on’ experience as they carry out research. Developmental Psychology (PSY22) concerns psychological changes that occur over the lifespan, such as learning processes and identity formation. In Clinical Psychology (PSY23) students are taught about the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior. In Cross-Cultural Psychology (PSY27) the focus is on comparative research; by examining psychological behavior as it occurs in different cultural contexts, we learn about basic human nature.  Lastly, Psychology of Learning and Teaching (PSY28) introduces students to educational sciences. At the 200-level, project work is an important component in the evaluation, besides exams.

At the advanced 300-level, focused specialist courses are offered in a format that resembles a seminar setting. At this level, students are expected to actively use the acquired knowledge from their earlier courses. This is also reflected in the fact that each course targets not only the student who considers him- or herself a ‘psychology major’ but students who specialize in other domains as well. The courses are designed so that these students can learn from one another. For example: the Crime in Context course (PSY34) concerns psychologically deviant, violent criminal behavior and students enrolling in it will have an interest in criminology as well as in psychology, biological and cognitive neuroscience, and/or law. The Health Psychology course (PSY37) was developed with two types of students in mind: on the one hand clinically oriented ‘psychology majors’ and on the other hand pre-med students, who come in from the SCI department with courses in the medical sciences, biology and/or cognitive sciences. The Psychology of Motivation course (PSY33) with its basis in the biological origins of behavior also draws in cognitive neuroscience students, as well as psychology and (behavioral) economics students. In that course too, each student is expected to bring in to the classroom their own ‘specialist knowledge’. A similar story can be told about the courses in Ethnic Relations (PSY31) and Adolescent Development (PSY39). Across the board, students in 300-level courses will be required to write extensive papers including serious literature reviews and often involving one or more components to do with original research design.

All courses in psychology are obviously connected with the skills courses offered in the ACC department: MET11 and MET21 are pre-requisites for the psychology courses at different levels, and the PSY25 lab course is often used as part of a statistics minor. Equally important is the connection to different disciplines offered across the UCU curriculum. Cognitive neurosciences (SCI) and linguistics (HUM) are examples of fields that combine will for individual students with an interest in psychology.

Depending on the exact course package taken and on the type of thesis-work accomplished, UCU graduates with a focus on psychology tend to do well in their further education. Competitive 2-year research masters happily accept our students, who are well equipped to continue training as a researcher. Our students are also readily accepted into the broad range of 1-year academic masters. Lastly: clinical programs note deficiencies in content knowledge only since UCU does not offer courses in diagnostics, communication skills, or in advanced psychopathology. However, UCU students are allowed these BA courses at the UU, either before or after graduating UCU – after which they are accepted into the clinical masters at the UU.

Combinations of sub-sets of psychology courses

  1. Social psychology: PSY11, PSY21/PSY27, PSY31/PSY33, especially interesting for students interested in LAW, SOC, and ANT; combined with statistics interesting for students who want to continue with psychology and/or research.
  2. Criminology: PSY11, SOC29, PSY34; especially interesting for students interested in LAW and SOC.
  3. Mental Health: PSY11, PSY23, PSY37; especially interesting for students interested in MED or clinical practice.
  4. Development: PSY11, PSY22, PSY39; especially interested for students interested in working with children, but also for those interested in CRI
  5. Cognition: PSY11, PSY28, PSY33; especially interesting for students interested in ECO, education, or management.
  • Research masters programs (2yr)
    • Good access, good performance; nr. of PSY courses taken not essential; MET31 recommended, thesis important
  • Academic masters programs (1yr)
    • Good access, good performance; specific PSY courses taken essential (deficiencies can be prohibitive)
  • ‘Klinische & Gezondheidspsychologie’ (UU, 1yr), entry requirements:
    • A quantitative thesis (!)
    • UCSSCPSY23 (Clinical Psychology) (and PSY11 and methods)
    • UCSCICOG11 (recommended by some)
    • UU courses (can be taken as off campus courses or during exchange, or otherwise during a ‘pre-master’):
      • Psychopathology II (200300181), in NL
      • Diagnostical methods in CP and HP (200300176), in NL
      • Basis communication skills: CHP (200300166), in NL

For more information: visit Christel Lutz during her office hours!

UCSSCPSY11: Introduction to Psychology
This course treats psychology as a science and a profession, emphasizing scientific theories, empirical research, and their applications. We begin with the development of psychology as a discipline devoted to answering centuries-old questions about human nature and behavior. We cover traditional fields of psychology including biological psychology, sensation and perception, learning and motivation, cognition, emotion, child development, personality, psychopathology, psychotherapy, social psychology, and applied psychology.

Prerequisites: None.

UCSSCPSY21: Social Psychology
This course demonstrates how social psychology can illuminate our understanding of social relationships and processes. It introduces the history, theories, and methods of social psychology. We review classic and recent social psychology studies in environmental conservation, medicine, law, and sports.

UCSSCPSY22: Developmental Psychology
The course centers on three main themes: changes over lifespan in several domains, relationships between age-related and individual changes, and the methods and designs used to study these topics. Whereas general psychology seeks to explain human behavior and experience, lifespan developmental psychology attempts to account for regular changes that take place throughout an individual’s complete lifespan. Lifespan development, however, does not obey universal and eternal laws. Rather, it occurs within a historical and cultural context. This course, then, explores the concepts of culture, cohort/ generation, and Zeitgeist in relation to patterns of change.

Prerequisites: Methods and Statistics I (UCACCMET11) and Introduction to Psychology (UCSSCPSY11)

UCSSCPSY23: Clinical Psychology
The course looks closely into the area of psychology concerned with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of abnormal behavior or psychological disorders. It examines the leading theories of why people develop problems, focusing on how each theory has led to a distinct approach to therapy.

The class integrates didactic, interactive, and participatory methods. Two sessions are held weekly. The first session consists of a topical lecture, which is followed by class discussion. In the second meeting, the class engages in various activities. Students view films that demonstrate experienced practitioners at work with patients, varying modes of clinical intervention, and issues in diagnosis and treatment. They also discuss the readings, role-play, and work in small groups so to gain experimental knowledge of the various tools of effective clinical psychologists.

Prerequisites:  Introduction to Psychology (UCSSCPSY11) and Methods and Statistics (UCACCMET11) 

UCSSCPSY26: Criminology
(This course has been moved to UCSSCSOC29

UCSSCPSY27: Cross-cultural Psychology
Cross-cultural psychology examines what is basic about human nature and what emerges as different depending on people’s culture. It critically evaluates the generality of knowledge from mainstream psychology and covers a wide range of topics.

This course provides a thorough introduction to cross-cultural psychology by focusing on three central overlapping aspects within the discipline. First, the basic epistemological and methodological questions are explored. For instance, whether people from different cultures can be meaningfully compared, how such comparisons should be carried out, and how culture can be operationalized. Second, several explanations for understanding (the impact of) cultural differences are considered, and the cross-cultural validity of mainstream psychology theories are evaluated. In doing so, a variety of topics are addressed, including child-rearing, self-perception, personality, and moral reasoning. Finally, contacts between members of different cultures are studied.

Prerequisites:  Introduction to Psychology (UCSSCPSY11) and Methods and Statistics (UCACCMET11) 

UCSSCPSY28: The Psychology of Learning and Teaching 

This course will provide students with a firm basis in learning research and its applications. We will study different theories of learning (e.g. behaviorist, cognitive, social, and constructivist), the architecture of the brain, developmental aspects, as well as research into interest, motivation, and self-regulation. Approximately half of the course will be devoted to this: the psychology of the learner.

But learning does not occur in a vacuum. Educators know that good teaching requires more than just knowledge about the learner (who to teach), but about teaching (how to teach) and about subject matter (what to teach) as well. See figure. Moreover, the broader societal context is of relevance too. Not only is teaching in schools and at universities affected by educational policy, it is also the case that a learner’s home environment and social background affects their attitude towards learning. 

In this course students learn how (applied) psychological and educational research informs teaching. Students will be tested in exams and individual assignments. In addition, each student will work on an individual or small group project in which their knowledge is applied to a topic of their choice in an academic discipline that is the focus of their curriculum. The outcome of this project can be a lesson plan for a school: for example, a math student might develop a way to teach a topic in high-school math. Alternatively, it can be a project concerning a non-educational topic: for example, a museum studies student can study which type of display more effectively communicates information. Or a journalism student might study the difference in information processing involved in reading a newspaper on-line versus on paper.

Prerequisites:  Recommended: Introduction to Psychology (UCSSCPSY11) and Methods and Statistics (UCACCMET11)

UCSSCPSY31: The Psychology of Ethnic Relations
This course provides an in-depth study of the social psychological aspects of the reactions of majority and minority ethnic groups towards each other. The literature focuses on the most recent research on the factors determining mutual perceptions ethnic groups and their consequences. Whereas ethnic groups define themselves as different from others in terms  of real and imagined cultural and historical factors, real as well as imagined factors play a role in the nature and dynamics of ethnic relations. Although the course focuses on general processes, some examples of the perception of racial conflicts and of the reactions to Muslim groups in Europe will be analyzed. We read the literature about the nature of categorization on processes, the effect of ethnic identification on stereotyping and the nature and consequence of prejudice. We con- sider the main theoretical explanations of negative reactions between ethnic groups and evaluate the empirical evidence supporting them. Then the focus is on aggressive manifestations of ethnic distrust in political discourse, and we consider two main questions relevant for social policy: whether or not it is true that ethnic diversity generally erodes social trust while inter-ethnic contact and tolerance may improve the relations. Finally we address the issue of acculturation. Students present their paper in the last two classes. Papers refer to at least two topics of the course.

Prerequisites: Social Psychology (UCSSCPSY21) and Methods and Statistics II (UCACCMET21)

UCSSCPSY33: The Psychology of Human Motivation
Motivation energizes behavior by definition. Most theories claim that a particular behavior is the result of a specific motivational state (e.g. you eat when you are hungry). However, besides internal states acting within the organism, the study of motivation also includes forces acting on the organism (the odors coming from the kitchen or the expectation of food around dinnertime). One aspect of the study of human motivation that makes it fascinating and complex at once, is the fact that it appears to be over-determined: there is not one behavior for which we can point to just one single motivating ‘cause’. The different systems contributing to the motivation of a particular behavior not only provide us with our own ‘backup systems’, they also interact in complex ways. 

In this course, these different motivational systems and their interactions are looked at. The basic approaches to the study of motivation are surveyed: the physiological, behavioral, and cognitive (or psycho-social) approaches. The topic of motivation is also intertwined with that of emotion. Emotions can have motivational properties, but what is an emotion? And what do we know about the neural systems involved in emotional processing? These questions are covered in the last part of the course.

Prerequisites: At least one of the following: Social Psychology (UCSSCPSY21), Cognitive Neuroscience II (UCSCICOG21), Lifespan Developmental Psychology (UCSSCPSY22), Clinical Psychology (UCSSCPSY23) or Psychology Lab course (UCSSCPSY25)

UCSSCPSY34: Crime and Context
While extremely violent crimes are a rare occurrence, they frighten and captivate us. The chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime are small and vary depending on age, gender, social class, and relationship status. While some forms of violence such as domestic violence, football hooliganism, and pedophilia transcend these boundaries, crimes like gang violence tend to be more prevalent in certain groups within society.

This course examines psychological and biosocial theories of crime which help explain aggressive and violent behavior. The course searches for the origins of criminal behavior in biological, psychological, learning, and situational factors, and looks at the link between psychopathy, mental illness and violence. Next, the general theories of aggression and those related to specific forms of violent crimes are studied. The study of a particular crime covers the theories, precipitating factors, relationship between victim and offender, and impact upon the victim.

Criminologists, among others, study violent behavior in an attempt to identify biological triggers, risk factors, developmental patterns, or learned cues, which may help explain the behavior.  These markers and factors are examined, along with the treatment paradigms that have been designed to prevent, control, and treat perpetrators (and victims) of domestic and family violence and sexual offenses.

Prerequisites: Social Psychology (UCSSCPSY21) and Criminology (UCSSCPSY26)

UCSSCPSY37: Health Psychology
This course will provide an in-depth study of current research in health psychology: the study of health issues from the dynamic interplay of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors. We will examine the psychology of health on a continuum: pathology on one extreme, robust physical and mental health on the other. We will cover a range of topics, including theoretical approaches to health psychology, the role of mental health in physical health functioning, the physiological basis of stress, eating disorders, the problem of pain, diversity issues in health, and placebo effects. We will apply theory to practice, require critical thought to evaluate health psychology issues.  We will examine the relationship between culture and health, the cultural constructions of health and illness, and the ways in which this impacts the doctor-patient relationship, diagnosis, communication, and compliance.

Prerequisites: At least one of the following Mechanisms of Diseases (UCSCIMED21), Social Psychology (UCSSCPSY21), Lifespan Develop- mental Psychology (UCSSCPSY22), Clinical Psychology (UCSSCPSY23)

UCSSCPSY39: Adolescent Development
This course provides an overview of the theories, concepts, issues, and research in the field of adolescent development. This course will focus on changes that occur within the adolescent (including changes related to biological, socio-emotional, cognitive and moral development) as well as changes in the social context (including changes in family and peer relations, school and the larger society) using a lifespan perspective. Lectures and class discussion will focus on traditional and new theoretical perspectives and how these relate to current research, policy and practice.

Prerequisites: Developmental Psychology (UCSSCPSY22) and Methods and Statistics (UCACCMET2x)

Course code Level Title Fall Spring
UCSSCPSY11 1 Introduction to Psychology 2 2
UCSSCPSY21 2 Social Psychology 2 1
UCSSCPSY22 2 Lifespan Developmental Psychology 0 1
UCSSCPSY23 2 Clinical Psychology 1 1
UCSSCPSY25 2 Psychology of Learning and Teaching 1 0
UCSSCPSY27 2 Cross-cultural Psychology 0 1
UCSSCPSY31 3 The Psychology of Ethnic Relations 0 1
UCSSCPSY33 3 The Psychology of Human Motivation 1 0
UCSSCPSY34 3 Crime and Context 1 0
UCSSCPSY37 3 Health Psychology 0 1
UCSSCPSY39 3 Adolescent Development 1 0
UCSSCRES32 3 Extended Research (15 ECTS) 1 1

Fellow: Christel Lutz received her MSc in physics from Utrecht University, and her PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns learning, motivation, and intellectual development. Christel is also senior tutor at UCU and is involved in projects concerning university education.

Margreet de Looze received her BA from UCU, her MSc in Psychology from Utrecht University, and her PhD in Child and Adolescent Psychology from Utrecht University. Her research concerns adolescent risk behavior. Margreet and also teaches at UU.

Robert Renes, Social Psychology received his MSc and PhD in social psychology from Utrecht University. He also joined the tutorial board at UCU.

Anouk Smeekes received her BA from UCU, her MSc from Utrecht University, and her PhD in Migration, Ethnic Relations, and Multiculturalism from Psychology from Utrecht University. Her research concerns attitudes towards immigrants. Anouk also teaches at UU.

Alexis Aronowitz received her MSc and PhD in Criminal Justice from the University of Albany, New York. After moving to Europe, Alexis has worked for the Ministry of Security and Justice, and as a consultant for many international organizations. She published extensively on Human Trafficking. Alexis is a member of the tutorial board at UCU and also teaches elsewhere, a.o. at Leiden University College and Jacobs University.

Robert Dunn received his BA in Psychology from Duke University, his MSc from California State University, and has been in working in clinical practice in the US and in Netherlands for many years. His courses at UCU are among the highest rated at the college: Robert’s experience with many different patient groups captures the attention of his audience.

Judith Dubas received her PhD from Temple University and is professor in Developmental Psychology at Utrecht University and teaches courses about adolescent development. Her research concerns the psychological determinants of pro-social behavior. Judith also teaches at UU.

Christine Webb received her PhD from Columbia University. Her research concerns human and nonhuman primate conflict resolution behaviors, with a particular interest in motivation and empathy. She is also becoming increasingly involved in the growing field of animal ethics. 

Özge Bilgili received her MSc from Utrecht University, and her PHD on Migration and Development from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University. Özge is the chair of Dutch Association for Migration Research and a TJA Fellow at OECD. Her research concerns immigrant integration, transnationalism and policy. Özge also teaches at UU.

Contact person

Dr. Christel Lutz is the Psychology fellow at UCU and holds office in Locke-Hh.