Tim van Timmeren defended his PhD thesis at the Agnietenkapel in Amsterdam.

On Friday July 5th (’19) Tim was promoted to Dr. Tim after successfully defending his PhD thesis, entitled: “Addiction: a striatal roller-coaster. On the neural and associative-learning mechanisms underlying gambling and alcohol use disorder” (available here)! Congratulations to Tim and his supervisors Anneke Goudriaan and Ruth Holst!


Sanne gives a presentation at ICANA-4, Yale 2019

Sanne presents our research into novel (real life and lab) models of habit formation at the 4th International Conference on Applications of Neuroimaging to Alcoholism
ICANA-4, July 19-21, 2019. ICANA-4 is part of the NIAAA Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA) based at the Yale University Department of Psychiatry.

Sanne will present in Madrid

On 28 May 2019, Sanne visits the Centro Integral de Neurociencias A.C. (CINAC) at Madrid, where she will give a presentation on obstacles and promises in habit research.

Sanne invited for presentation in Vienna

On 13 May 2019, Sanne visited Dr. Sabine Tebbich at the University of Vienna, and gave a presentation about translation of animal models to human habit formation at the Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution.

Irene presents at Aging & Cognition 2019

At Aging & Cognition 2019 in Zürich (24-26 April), Irene presented a poster on a study in which we investigate how age-related and individual differences in cognition and personality affect the ability to learn a new pill-taking habit in real life, in the context of medication adherence (picture: Frank Brüderli).

Sanne and Irene participate in ‘Health, Behaviour and Society’, UvA FMG conference 18 May 2019

Parallel sessions, afternoon

Understanding and Optimising Health Interventions
If we want to optimize intervention strategies to enhance human health, we need to understand how they work. This panel brings together researchers committed to understanding and optimizing health interventions, from four different departments (3 FMG; 1 Amsterdam UMC). They will integrate their theoretical and methodological expertise on health interventions to enhance our shared knowledge, and to explore and encourage future within- and between-faculty collaborations.  

  • Hilde Huizenga (Psychology)
  • Julia van Weert / Annemiek Linn (Communication Sciences)
  • Kim Oostrom / Linde Scholten (Pediatric Psychology; Amsterdam UMC)
  • Irene van de Vijver (Psychology)
  • Patty Leijten (Child Development)

Urban dynamics and health
The urban environment comes with specific impacts on people’s health: green spaces under pressure, (un) healthy food choices around every corner, recreational drug use. How do we deal with these? What role can policies play?

  • Socio-spatial analysis of health in cities, by Els Veldhuizen, Urban Planning
  • (Urban) environments, eating habits and health, by Sanne de Wit, Psychology
  • ‘Hassle-free’ highs in the city, by Mishra Swasti, Medical Anthropology


Discussion panel ‘Food, Health, and Sustainability’

Recent international reports like the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems but also the Global Environment Outlook Report ‘Healthy planet, healthy people’,  reconfirm the negative impacts of human consumption on both the planet and on human health. Both reports call for drastic changes in current and future consumption patterns and state that when we make healthy food choices – like less meat and dairy, more vegetables, sustainable food systems – this will not only benefit our own personal health but also our planet. There is a risk that such dietary and behavioural advice by scientific experts encounter public backlash. So, how can we motivate people to make other choices? How can we make sure that worldwide people will have equal access to sustainable food systems? What role can policies play?

Participants panel

Ron Dahl

Ron Dahl is director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor in the School of Public Health and the Joint Medical Program and Chief Science Officer at the Center for the Developing Adolescent.
Profile page Ron Dahl

Joyeeta Gupta

Joyeeta Gupta is full professor of environment and development in the global south at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam and IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft. She is presently co-chair of UN Environment’s Global Environmental Outlook-6 (2016-2019) which will be presented to 195 governments participating in the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019.
Profile page Joyeeta Gupta

Jaap Seidell

Jaap Seidell is Professor of nutrition and health (‘voeding en gezondheid’) and director of the Health Sciences Department at VU Amsterdam. He is also director of Sarphati Amsterdam (‘Research for Healthy Living’).
Profile page Jaap Seidell

Sanne de Wit

Sanne de Wit is Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. Her area of research and expertise concerns psychological and neural mechanisms underlying habitual behavior, associative learning and behavioral modification (see www.habitlab.nl).
Profile page Sanne de Wit 

Jonathan Zeitlin

Jonathan Zeitlin will chair this discussion panel. He is Professor of Public Policy and Governance, and Distinguished Faculty Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (FMG) at the University of Amsterdam. He is also Scientific Director of the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES).
Profile page Jonathan Zeitlin


The panel takes place at the plenary venue of the conference, REC C 1.03. The  second panel is followed by a reception at De Brug.


Conference website and registration


Irene presents at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society

During the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in San Francisco (23-26 March), Irene presented a poster on a current study in which we relate individual differences in habit tendency in the lab as well as habit formation in real life to the presence and quality of structural (white-matter) connections in the brain. The study was also selected for a Data Blitz presentation.

Sanne presents at the International Convention for Psychological Science 2019

At the ICPS Convention in Paris (7th-9th of March 2019), Sanne participated in a symposium on habits organized by Jan de Houwer – together with Eike Buabang, Helen Tibboel and Andreas Eder. She presented recent work with a newly developed experimental paradigm (‘the Sneaky Skate Game’), which can be used to assess the balance between goal-directed and habitual control in humans.

New paper on goal-directed behaviour in smokers

A study that was led by Maartje Luijten (Radboud University, Nijmegen) has been published in the journal: Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

We used the computerized slips-of-action task to study the balance between goal-directed and habitual control in smokers. We found no differences overall between the smokers and a nonsmoking control group in task performance. However, individual differences in smoking severity were significantly and negatively correlated with performance, pointing at impaired goal-directed control in more severe smokers.

Luijten, M., Gillan, C.M., de Wit, S., Franken, I.H.A., Robbins, T.W., Ersche, K.D. (2019). Goal-Directed and Habitual Control in Smokers. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntz001

New paper in press: Social Media and Depression Symptoms: A Network Perspective

A new paper by George Aalbers, Richard McNally, Alexandre Heeren, Sanne de Wit and Eiko Fried will soon appear in Journal of Experimental Psychology – General. In this study, the authors investigated the relation between Passive social media use – e.g., scrolling through social media News Feeds – and depression symptoms.

Aalbers, G., McNally, R., Heeren, A., de Wit, S., & Fried, E.I. (in press). Social Media and Depression Symptoms: A Network Perspective. Journal of Experimental Psychology – General

Chapter in The Psychology of Habit

The Psychology of Habit was edited by Prof. Verplanken and was recently published by Springer. Sanne contributed a chapter on the role of habits in maladaptive behaviour and in therapeutic interventions, focusing specifically on the use of implementation intentions to break unwanted habits and form new, more desirable habits.

From the publisher’s site: This unique reference explores the processes and nuances of human habits through social psychology and behavioral lenses. It provides a robust definition and theoretical framework for habit as well as up-to-date information on habit measurement, addressing such questions as which mechanisms are involved in habitual action and whether people can report accurately on their own habits. Specialized chapters pay close attention to how habits can be modified, as well as widely varying manifestations of habitual thoughts and behaviors, including the mechanisms of drug addiction and recovery, the repetitive characteristics of autism, and the unwitting habits of health professionals that may impede patient care. And across these pages, contributors show the potential for using the processes of maladaptive habits to replace them with positive and health-promoting ones. Throughout this volume attention is also paid to the practice of conducting habit research.

For more information, visit the Springer site

Reference: Verhoeven, A.A.C. & de Wit, S. (2018). The role of habits in maladaptive behaviour and therapeutic interventions. In Verplanken, B. (Ed.), The psychology of habit: Theory, mechanisms, change, and contexts. Cham: Springer

Chapter in ‘Understanding goal-directed decision making: computations and neural circuits‘

In this recently published book by Elsevier (Editors: Morris, Bornstein, & Shenhav), Sanne de Wit contributed a chapter on habits and goal-directed action control in disorders of compulsivity, including substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

From the publisher’s site: Goal-Directed Decision Making: Computations and Neural Circuits examines the role of goal-directed choice. It begins with an examination of the computations performed by associated circuits, but then moves on to in-depth examinations on how goal-directed learning interacts with other forms of choice and response selection. This is the only book that embraces the multidisciplinary nature of this area of decision-making, integrating our knowledge of goal-directed decision-making from basic, computational, clinical, and ethology research into a single resource that is invaluable for neuroscientists, psychologists and computer scientists alike.

For more information, visit the Elsevier site

Reference: de Wit (2018). Goal-Directed Action in Disorders of Compulsivity. In Morris, Bornstein, & Shenhav (Eds), Understanding Goal-Directed Decision Making: Computations and Neural Circuits. Elsevier

New paper in press: an fMRI investigation of the conflict between goal-directed and habitual control

“Conflicted between goal-directed and habitual control – an fMRI investigation” by Poppy Watson, Guido van Wingen, and Sanne de Wit will soon appear in eNeuro.

In this functional MRI study we investigated the neural basis of performance on the slips-of-action paradigm -a task that has been used in previous studies to assess the balance between goal-directed and habitual control.


Meer dan 100 vwo-leerlingen op bezoek bij de FMG

Meer dan 100 vwo-leerlingen van het Berlage Lyceum bezochten woensdag 13 juni de FMG. Zij volgden een multidisciplinair FMG-college over junkfood; ook kregen zij profielwerkstukbegeleiding aangeboden. Dit alles gebeurde in het kader van het outreach-project dat de bekendheid van en het enthousiasme voor maatschappij- en gedragswetenschappen onder vwo-scholieren moet vergroten.
De 4-vwo-scholieren bezochten interactieve presentaties van studenten Denise van de Wetering (Communicatiewetenschap) en Emiel Schoneveld (Universitaire Pabo van Amsterdam) en docent Sanne de Wit (Psychologie) over het thema junkfood. Zo was er onder meer aandacht voor de beïnvloeding van eetgedrag door social media influencers en de manier waarop ongezond eetgedrag is vastgelegd in onze hersenen. Ook werd belicht hoe leerkrachten junkfood kunnen behandelen in de klas, bijvoorbeeld door te onderzoeken waar ingrediënten vandaan komen en het bespreken van de invloed van reclames.

Profielwerkstukbegeleiding voor 5 vwo’ers
Ondertussen kregen de 5-vwo-scholieren een profielwerkstukbegeleiding van Marijke Metz, onderzoeker en docent Pedagogische en Onderwijswetenschappen, om de leerlingen alvast op gang te helpen bij het schrijven van hun profielwerkstuk in het zesde jaar.

Evaluatie van de pilot
Het outreach-project, waarvan de pilot in april startte, is een initiatief van de domeinen Psychologie, Pedagogische en Onderwijswetenschappen, Sociale Wetenschappen en Communicatiewetenschap en het Faculteitsbureau. In april werd de pilot afgetrapt met een thematische sessie over sociale media. De eerste sessies worden op dit moment geëvalueerd, om te beslissen hoe het outreach-project in september kan worden vervolgd.

Gepubliceerd door Faculteit der Maatschappij- en Gedragswetenschappen

Paula Ibáñez de Aldecoa is visiting us from the University of Vienna

Paula Ibáñez de Aldecoa is visiting us from the University of Vienna for research into mental fixation and automaticity, as part of her PhD Project under supervisión of Dr. Sabine Tebbich.

After obtaining a BSc degree in Biology (2010) and a MSc degree in Neuroscience (2016) at the Autonomous University of Madrid, I started my PhD at the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna under supervision of Dr. Sabine Tebbich, where I am working on the mechanisms, components and promoters of innovation in humans and animals. Currently I am visiting the Habit Lab during three months as part of a research project on the relationship of habit proneness and mental fixation on innovativeness and problem solving skills in young human adults, in collaboration with Dr. Sanne de Wit and her team at the University of Amsterdam.

New publication on individual differences in habitual performance in experimental and real-life settings

The authors investigated whether people differ in their propensity to form habits, by relating individual differences on a computer task measuring habitual behavior to habit formation tendencies in real life. Habit formation in real life was measured by covering the key to the participant’s home with a new cover. This cover was later switched to a different key and changes in the key-selection process were measured. Participants that performed better on the computer task also seemed to require less attention to adjust to the switching key situation.

Read the article here!

Linnebank, F.E., Kindt, M. & de Wit, S. (2018). Investigating the balance between goal-directed and habitual control in experimental and real-life settings. Learning & Behavior. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-018-0313-6

NEMO Kennislink Live op dinsdag 13 februari: Controle over onze wil

NEMO Kennislink Live over goede voornemens, doorzettingsvermogen en de illusie van (zelf)beheersing

Controle over onze wil
Waarom kan jij wat ik niet kan? Met de jaarwisseling waren onze voornemens zó oprecht, maar inmiddels hebben velen moeten constateren dat gewoontes sterker zijn dan onze wil. Toch lukt het sommigen wél om zichzelf te veranderen. Hoe doen zij dat? En: wat maakt het allemaal zo moeilijk om te doen wat we eigenlijk willen? Kunnen we onze wil niet wat beter beheersen? Op dinsdagavond 13 februari praten drie experts onder leiding van Desiree Hoving tijdens NEMO Kennislink Live met het publiek over de vraag of we onze wil onder controle kunnen krijgen. Toegang is gratis.

Experts aan het woord
Tijdens deze editie van NEMO Kennislink Live spreken we met wetenschappers die vanuit verschillende perspectieven nadenken over goede voornemens, doorzettingsvermogen en (zelf)beheersing. Dit keer: Wouter de Jong, Sanne de Wit en Vana Hutter.

Wouter de Jong publiceerde dit jaar het boek Mindgym, sportschool voor je geest. Deze van oorsprong jurist en acteur begon in 2013 met het volgen van mindfulness-trainingen, onder meer aan de Vrije Universiteit. Sindsdien geeft hij mentale trainingen om jezelf beter te laten doen wat je echt belangrijk vindt en die ook nog eens wetenschappelijk onderbouwd zijn.

Sanne de Wit werkt als psycholoog aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam en is daar hoofdonderzoeker bij het Habit Lab. Daar onderzoekt ze onder meer hoe we onze goede voornemens het beste kunnen laten slagen. Zo ontdekte ze dat de ene mens zijn oude gewoontes makkelijker vervangt door nieuwe gewoontes dan de andere.

Vana Hutter is als docent en onderzoeker in de sportpsychologie verbonden aan de Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Ze begeleidde zowel top- als breedtesporters bij de mentale kant van trainen en presteren. Volgens haar is zelfregulatie, het vermogen om acties, emoties en gedachten te sturen, essentieel om je doelen te bereiken. Niet alleen voor sporters, maar voor ieder mens.

19.30 – 20.00 uur: Ontvangst
20.00 – 22.00 uur: Gesprek met wetenschappers en publiek
22.00 – 22.30 uur: Borrel

Toegang is gratis en aanmelden kan via dit formulier.


New article on impaired goal-directed control in adolescent OCD

In this article, Julia Gottwald, Sanne de Wit, and colleagues investigated performance of teenagers with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) on critical cognitive domains for daily functioning and academic success, including goal-directed behavioral control, cognitive flexibility, learning, and memory. Patients demonstrated a significant learning and memory impairment compared to healthy control subjects, as well as impairments in goal-directed goal and cognitive plasticity. These results add to our understanding of  juvenile OCD.

Read the article here!

Gottwald, J., De Wit, S., Apergis-Schoute, A., Morein-Zamir, S., Kaser, M., Cormack, F., . . . Sahakian, B. (2018). Impaired cognitive plasticity and goal-directed control in adolescent obsessive–compulsive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 1-9.