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Social and Emotional Development



All first-year courses must have been successfully completed. Students doing a minor do not need to meet the requirements mentioned but do have to make sure they are well prepared, and know the the basics of Statistics (relevant literature will be provided).


In this in-depth course we will study the experience and development of emotions and social decisions during childhood and adolescence from two different perspectives, which together form a complementary perspective of social and emotional development. Part A will focus on the functionality of emotions, and the process of emotion-socialisation. Part B will explore the development of those brain areas that lie at the basis of changes in social-emotional behaviour. Note: parts A and B cannot be taken separately.

Part A (Lectures 1-5) focuses primarily on the question of what emotions are and what function they serve, and the related question of how they can maintain, strengthen, or terminate social relationships. Then, the question arises how children actually become “emotionally competent”, or whether this is more a matter of congenital patterns. To this end we will study the process of emotion-socialisation, from the nursery until late adolescence, with special attention paid to cultural differences. Aspects of emotional competence to be discussed include:

  • Emotion expression and communication

  • Emotional awareness and emotion regulation

  • Understanding of other people’s emotions and empathy.

Part B (lectures 6-10) covers the biological basis of social-emotional development, with a special focus on the changes that occur in late childhood and adolescence. The following fundamental questions will be discussed:

  • What is ‘the social brain’? What brain areas are involved in social and emotional functioning?

  • What changes take place in the ‘social brain’ during adolescence?

  • What brain areas are instrumental in making us more sensitive to affective and social influences in late childhood and adolescence?

  • How can we explain changes in social behaviour during adolescence (such as prosocial behaviour and risk taking) on the basis of brain development during this period?

Course objectives

  • Students will be able to critically read and discuss the recent development and neuroscientific literature based on scientific articles. These articles cover 1. current emotion theories, especially those which focus on development during infancy, childhood and adolescence (part A); 2. the influence of various interpersonal and intrapersonal factors on emotion-socialisation( e.g., cultural differences) (Part A); 3. the most recent developments in social-neuroscientific literature (part B); and 4. current models of social-emotional development, and the role of the brain in this process during adolescence (part B).

  • Students will be able to explore a given topic in-depth and critically think about the operationalization of the topics discussed into an assessment tool. Students will gain experience in conducting assessments of children, data analysis and presenting the results during a work group session (Part A).

  • Students will be able to explore in detail and to think critically about neuro-scientific studies. How and when can neuroscientific data be generalized to a broader question, and how do you recognize neuro myths (Part B)?


Social and Emotional Development (2014-2015):



Students need to enroll for lectures and work group sessions. Please consult the Instructions registration

Elective students

You have to enroll for each course separately.


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date; students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

Mode of instruction

The course comprises 10 lectures and eight work group sessions. For the work group sessions in Part A (5 meetings) students will be asked to explore a topic from the lectures in more detail and develop an assessment tool. This tool will be used for the assessment of a small number of children, after which the data obtained will be analysed by students (independently) in SPSS. The last two work group sessions will be used to present the findings to members of the work group. In addition, during work group sessions, students will discuss issues based on exam questions and statements that are related to the scientific articles that have been studied. These discussions must be prepared by the students individually, prior to the work group meeting.
In the three work group sessions in Part B the theories and research data presented in the lectures will be explored in more detail via discussion of the main theories from the lectures, and evaluations of applications. Research results presented in the lectures will be subjected to critical evaluation. Special attention will be paid to the interpretation of neuro-scientific results. In addition, in the work group sessions, students will debate exam questions linked to articles they have read. These exam questions must be handed in by the students individually, prior to the work group meeting through Blackboard. During the final work group session the students will present a research proposal in small groups. Topics and group allocations will be announced during the first work group session.
Lectures and work group sessions will take up to a total of 80 hours, including the research and preparation of the assignments. In addition, students are expected to spend 200 hours preparing for the examination.


To receive a grade for the Social and Emotional Development course, attendance at the work group sessions and active participation are mandatory and the work group grade should be sufficient. If the work group grade is insufficient, students will not be allowed to take the exam. The grade is based on the examination plus a 0.5 addition if the work group part has been passed. The exam will consist of eight open questions, four of which will be on part A and four on part B. Note: it is not possible to take the examination on only one of the two parts.


Information on


The following reading list is provisional:

Part A

Lecture 1: Emotion Theories

  • Scherer, K.R. (2000). Emotion. In M. Hewstone & W. Stroebe (Eds.). Introduction to Social Psychology: A European perspective (3rd. ed., pp. 151-191). Oxford: Blackwell.

Lecture 2: Emotion Expression

  • Jenkins, J.M. & Ball, S. (2000). Distinguishing between negative emotions: Children’s understanding of the social-regulatory aspects of emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 261-282.

  • Kerr, M.A. & Schneider, B.H. (2008). Anger expression in children and adolescents: A review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 559-577.

  • Messinger, D. (2008). Smiling. In: M. M. Haith & J. B. Benson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development, Vol. 3, pp. 186-198. Oxford: Elsevier.

  • Wiefferink, C.H., Rieffe, C., Ketelaar, L., De Raeve, L., & Frijns, J.H.M. (2013). Emotion understanding in deaf children with a cochlear implant. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 18, 175-186.

Lecture 3: Emotion Regulation

  • Fields, L. & Prinz, R.J. (1997). Coping and adjustment during childhood and adolescence. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 937-976.

  • Rieffe, C., Meerum Terwogt, M., & Kotronopoulou, K. (2007). Awareness of single and multiple emotions in high-functioning children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 455-465.

  • Buss, K.A., & Kiel, E.J. (2004). Comparison of sadness, anger, and fear facial expressions when toddlers look at their mothers. Child development, 75, 1761-1773

Lecture 4: Empathy

  • McDonald, N., & Messinger, D.S. (2011). The development of empathy: How, when, and why. In A. Acerbi, J.A. Lombo, & J.J. Sanguineti (Eds.), Free will, emotions and moral actions: Philosophy and neuroscience in dialogue. IF-Press

  • Pouw, L.B.C., Rieffe, C., Oosterveld, P., Huskens, B., & Stockmann, L. (2013). Reactive/proactive aggression and affective/cognitive empathy in children with ASD. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 1256-1266

Lecture 5: Culture and Moral emotions

  • Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 665-697.

  • Furukawa, E., Tangey, J., & Higashibara, F. (2012). Cross-cultural Continuities and Discontinuities in Shame, Guilt, and Pride: A Study of Children Residing in Japan, Korea and the USA , Self and Identity, 11, 90-113.

  • Oyserman, D. & Arbor, A. (2011). Culture as situated cognition: Cultural mindsets, culturalfluency, and meaning making. European
    Review of Social Psychology, 22, 162-214

Part B

Lecture 6: Introduction: Social Developmental Neuroscience

  • Nelson, E. E., Leibenluft, E., McClure, E. B., & Pine, D. S. (2005). The social re-orientation of adolescence: a neuroscience perspective on the process and its relation to psychopathology. Psychological Medicine, 35, 163-174.

  • Blakemore, S-J. (2008). The social brain in adolescence. Nature Reviews, 9, 267-277.

Lecture 7: Emotion Regulation and Motivation

  • Braams, B.R., Van Leijenhorst, L., & Crone, E.A. (in press). Risks, rewards and the adolescent brain. In V.F. Reyna & V. Zayas (Eds.) The neuroscience of risky decision making. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

  • Casey, B.J., Jones, R. M. & Hare, T. A. (2008). The adolescent brain. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 1124, 111-126.

Lecture 8: Social Brain in Adolescence

  • Crone, E. A. (in press). Fairness considerations in the adolescent brain. Child Development Perspectives.

  • Will, G.-J., & Güroğlu, B. (in press). A Neurocognitive Perspective on the Development of Social Decision-Making. In M. Reuter, & C. Montag (Eds.), Neuroeconomics.

Lecture 9: Social Decisions in Context

  • Masten, C. L., Telzer, E. H., Fuligni, A. J., Lieberman, M. D., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2010). Time spent with friends in adolescence relates to less neural sensitivity to later peer rejection. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, doi:10.1093/scna/nsq098.

  • Chein, et al. (2010). Peers increase adolescent risk taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01035.x

Lecture 10: Brain, Empathy and Development Disorders

  • Davey, C. G. Yücel, M., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The emergence of depression in adolescence: Development of the prefrontal cortex and the representation of reward. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32, 1-19.

  • Decety, J. & Meyer, M. (2008). From emotion resonance to empathic understanding: A social developmental neuroscience account. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1053-1080.


Course content

Work groups