Research Programme


The goal of the programme of Cognitive Psychology is to integrate insights of cognitive, affective, and motivational processes into coherent theories of intentional action.

Intentional Action

Human behaviour is intentional, driven by personal needs and goals, and is adapted to the environment. These are facts that are hardly reflected in the classical theories of behaviour; in which behaviour is regarded as the end product of a stimulus-triggered chain of information-processing stages. As an alternative, the Leiden research programme concentrates on motivated cognitive processes, grounded in the agent’s interaction with the external world. Cognitive processes are analysed in terms of their function for action control. The programme thus focuses on how actions (including communicative acts) are controlled and modulated by cognitive, motivational, and affective processes and vice versa.

Research Lines

The activities of the section follow two main research lines, which share a common theoretical theme but focus on basic research questions and more applied challenges, respectively:  

1)         Cognitive Neuroscience

This research line focuses on the neural and functional basis of cognitive abilities using imaging tools (fMRI) and psychophysiological techniques (EEG), behavioural genetics, simulations, pharmacology, neurofeedback and behavioural studies. It considers individuals across the entire lifespan with normal and deviant neurocognitive processing characteristics. Main topics are: control of attention and action, and the influence of neurotransmitters on cognition and action.  

2)         Cognitive Ergonomics and Cognitive Enhancement

Human performance is often limited by the capacity of attention, memory and control processes. When the demands of carrying out a task exceeds the person’s capacity, behaviour can become disorganised, prone to errors, and dominated by dysfunctional automatic processes. Our research focuses on optimising performance by (a) reducing the risks and task requirements (the ergonomics approach) and by (b) enhancing the individual’s cognitive capacities (the enhancement approach).

Interventions we investigate range from the improvement of traffic signs and web design to improving the way neurons communicate under challenge and creating artificial cognitive systems for user-friendly robots. Measurement of effects vary from accident analyses to measurement of functional brain connectivity.  

Most of our research is carried out within the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC) and the University Research Profile ‘Brain function and dysfunction over the lifespan’.

Last Modified: 01-12-2014