What makes authorities legitimate in the eyes of citizens?

I had the pleasure of serving on Honorata Mazepus' dissertation committee and receiving the answer to this question first-hand. In her dissertation, Honorata investigated which factors contribute to perceptions of political authorities as legitimate by individuals socialized in different political regimes. She found that citizens care about the outcomes they derive from governing (e.g., material welfare and stability), but are even more so are concerned with the fairness in which goods and services are distributed across society. Results were surprisingly consistent across regimes, thus challenging the notion that there may be something unique about the expectations about political authorities that citizens in non-democratic regimes have.

Honorata did a fabulous job at her defense and very deservedly goes by Dr. Mazepus now!

Exciting new collaboration

This summer I had the pleasure of welcoming Efraín García-Sánchez to our lab. He is a PhD student at the University of Granada, supervised by Profs. Rosa Rodríguez-Bailón and Guillermo Willis. Efraín has an interest in understanding the legitimization of economic inequality and researches how people map their perceptions of the ideal level of inequality in society to their perceptions of the existing level of inequality (naturalistic fallacy). During his research stay, Efraín and I analyzed and interpreted studies that he had conducted earlier this year and outlined several research papers. In addition, we worked on a large-scale multi-level analysis including publicly available data from over forty countries to replicate previous research findings from the Spanish context. I was impressed by how quickly he acquired this new technique and was able to put it to use. Efraín's research is novel and exciting and I couldn't have wished for a more fun and productive collaboration! Looking forward to continuing our work together

See this paper for earlier work on this topic: Willis, G. B., Rodríguez-Bailón, R., López-Rodríguez, L., & García-Sánchez, E. (2015). Legitimacy moderates the relationship between perceived and ideal inequalities. Social Justice Research, 28, 493-508.

Another successful PhD defense!

Today, Marlon Mooijman successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled "On the determinants and consequences of punishment goals: The role of power, distrust, and rule compliance" at Leiden University. My intelligent and critical questioning as opponent on his committee didn't throw him off one bit!


This dissertation focuses on the determinants and consequences of leaders’ punishment goals. I investigate how and why leaders rely on certain punishment goals, and how and why leaders’ reliance on such punishment goals affects punishment effectiveness. Specifically, in this dissertation I demonstrate that—with increasing power over others—leaders rely more on punishment goals that are actually suboptimal in promoting rule compliance. I demonstrate that power fosters a distrustful mindset towards people, which increases reliance on deterrence—but not just deserts as a punishment goal. Using deterrence—as opposed to just deserts—as a justification for punishments, in turn, decreases people’s willingness to comply with rules because they feel distrusted by the leader. Finally, leaders' reliance on suboptimal punishment goals can be explained by their motivation to maintain power over others. Although power may thus increase leaders’ reliance on punishments to deter rule-breaking behavior, paradoxically, this may at times decrease the effectiveness of the punishment.

Doing Gender in the Netherlands

I attended the annual research day of The Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies (NOG), which was themed ‘Doing Gender in The Netherlands: TRANS* approaches, methods & concepts.’ The conference showcased the work of junior and senior researchers of Dutch universities on the topics of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity. All in all, a very inspiring day with a really interesting mix of scholars, artists and activists.

Aspasia Travel Grant

I was awarded a competitive Aspasia Travel Grant by Leiden University to initiate and enhance collaborative research projects abroad!

This subsidy is a by-product of the Aspasia Grant from the The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), which is aimed at furthering the careers of young female scientists.

With the help of this travel grant, I will be visiting the lab of Prof. Dr. Betsy Paluck at Princeton University later this year.

Social Psychology in Organizations

I am teaching workgroups on Social Psychology in Organizations, a course where the students form groups and prepare each week’s meetings themselves. First they discuss the contents and connection between two research articles and then illustrate the central concepts with an interactive exercise. By more actively engaging with the material this way, students hopefully process the material more thoroughly and learn additional skills.


Wilco van Dijk inaugurated as professor with much song and dance

Wilco van Dijk gave his inaugural lecture "Understanding Mental Budget" yesterday as he officiallycommenced as Professor by Special Appointment of the Psychological Determinants of Economic Decision Making. The Professorship is a collaboration between Leiden University and the National Institute for Budget counseling (Nibud). Wilco presented a psychological perspective on financial behavior discussing what we can do to gain a healthier approach to managing our finances.

After the ceremony, we moved to a bar for drinks and dinner where a big surprise awaited Wilco: A band made up of his musical colleagues performing a "Money Medley" that was especially arranged for this occasion. The band included Eric de Kwaadsteniet on base, Lotte van Dillen on synthesizer, Daan Scheepers on drums, and Edwin Boezeman on guitar. Marijke van Putten, Said Shafa, Pascalle Tamis and myself provided the vocals. Songs included in the medley: Money for Nothing (Dire Straits), I Need a Dollar (Aloe Blacc), Material Girl (Madonna), and Money Money Money (Abba).

It sounded pretty good but was most of all extremely fun to do! And Wilco's surprised face was worth millions (or a thousand to be precise)...