FGB Open Sciences Award

In November 2020 FGB has launched a competition to stimulate open science within FGB: the Open Science Awards. The winners of the first edition of the Open Science Awards are:

  • Pim Cuijpers, Eirini Karyotaki, Clara Miguel & Marketa Ciharova: Metapsy: Meta-analytic database of randomized trials on psychotherapy for depression @www.metapsy.org
  • Josh Tybur: Preregistered direct replication of “sick body, vigilant mind: the biological immune system activates the behavioral immune system
  • Giuliana Spadaro: The cooperation databank  
  • Dirk van Moorselaar: Learning what is irrelevant or relevant: expectations facilitate distractor inhibition and target facilitation through distinct neural mechanisms
  • Ruben Laukkonen: The dark side of Eureka: artificially induced aha moments make facts and beliefs seem true

All five submissions were rewarded a prize of 200 euros and were presented at FGB's New Year's Meeting, 4 February 2021. 

In total there were 14 submissions which are a great inspiration to make research more accessible, transparent and/or reproducible. The call was open to all individual FGB researchers, PhD students and research teams. Below a showcase of all the submissions.


p.cuijpers@vu.nl; e.karyotaki@vu.nl; clara.miguelsanz@vu.nl; m.ciharova@vu.nl

The number of trials on psychotherapies for adult depression is very large and is quickly growing. Thus, it is important that the results of these studies are summarized and integrated in meta-analytic studies. We developed a meta-analytic database of randomized trials on psychotherapy for depression, which is updated yearly through systematic literature searches. We have recently made this database publicly available at: www.metapsy.org where everyone can run a meta-analysis online through an embedded meta-analytic tool (developed using the Shiny application in R).

We conducted systematic literature searches in bibliographical databases (PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials) to identify all trials on psychotherapy for adult depression (last updated 1/1/2019). After reading 16,701 records, we included 661 randomized trials. We distinguished the following categories of trials: Psychotherapy versus pharmacotherapy (65 studies), combined treatment versus pharmacotherapy alone (46), combined treatment versus psychotherapy alone (29), combined treatment versus psychotherapy plus placebo (18), psychotherapy versus control (335), psychotherapy versus another therapy (109), psychotherapy for inpatients (34), unguided self-help interventions (48), comparisons of different treatment formats (38), cognitive bias modification (14) and other comparisons (99).Over the years we have published several dozens of meta-analyses using this databases.
Conclusion: Psychotherapy for depression is definitely the best studied type of psychotherapy for any mental health problem. We have made our database publicly available and hope that it can be used as a resource for researchers who want to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses of subgroups of these studies. Download the PRISMA flow Diagram Depression database Searches unit 1-1-2019.

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Giuliana Spadaro

Research on human cooperation aims to understand why, how, and when people cooperate. The answer to this “old question” is key to many contemporary societal processes (such as tax evasion, resource conservation, and climate change). Scientists and practitioners can benefit from over sixty years of empirical research the topic and summarize the existing evidence (e.g., through meta-analyses). However, conducting a meta-analysis can take extensive time and resources, mostly because the information contained in PDFs is not machine readable.

It took six years of work for a team of 30 international researchers to build CoDa ─ the Cooperation Databank, a machine-readable, multidisciplinary, open access databank of empirical studies on human cooperation. At the Amsterdam Cooperation Lab (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), we developed a coding protocol and annotated 2,641 studies that using economic games paradigms to study human cooperation from 1958 to 2017 published in English, Chinese, and Japanese for 312 variables. To annotate this body of knowledge, we developed an ontology that represents the relations between these concepts. Then, based on this dataset, we have created a research platform that enables to perform targeted literature search and queries, in order to retrieve studies that test the relation of specific variables with cooperation and/or apply certain configurations of study characteristics. Once made a selection, such platform allows users to visualize these study results, and perform on demand meta-analyses, meta-regressions, estimates of publication bias, and statistical power analyses for future studies.

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Dirk van Moorselaar

This study presents the results of three preregistered experiments (behavioral and EEG) aimed at determining how we learn to ignore distracting information. We constantly try hard to ignore conspicuous events that distract us from our current goals. Surprisingly, and in contrast to dominant theories of attention, ignoring distracting events does not seem to be under our voluntary control but strongly rely on learning or prior experience with the distracting information. Here, we investigated how learning about upcoming distractors changes distractor processing and reduces distractor interference. We show that distractor learning was associated with a reduction in post-stimulus inhibition, but not with changes in prestimulus activity of visual regions representing the expected distractor. These results suggest that distractor learning reduces or even eliminates the need for active inhibition once the brain has learned that certain stimuli can safely be ignored.

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Beeld moorselaar

Dr. Ruben Eero Laukkonen

What is the function of ‘Eureka’ moments and feelings of insight?

In a series of preregistered experiments to test one research question, we showed that the feeling of ‘Aha!’ can be artificially induced to make facts and beliefs seem true. We replicated and extended the original experiment with 8500(!) participants under different conditions and across four different laboratories, showing that artificially induced aha moments could even shift fundamental worldviews (e.g., the belief that “free will is an illusion”). These experiments were also fundamentally theory driven, based on an account of the insight experience that we developed called the “Eureka Heuristic”. According to this model, sudden feelings of insight make an idea feel more true or valuable in order to aid quick and efficient decision-making, akin to a heuristic. In other words, the feeling of aha is a way to draw our attention towards good ideas and ‘select’ them from the manifold thoughts appearing in our stream of consciousness. Of course, what makes a good idea is often subjective, and therefore it is one’s implicit knowledge that drives which ideas appearing in one’s mind are worth paying attention to. Our series of experiments appear strongly in favor of the ‘Eureka Heuristic’ notion by showing that Aha! moments elicited in one context could make facts and beliefs in another context seem more believable through a process of misattribution. These findings have implications for fake news, false beliefs, and the development and recursive reinforcement of delusions.

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Afbeelding Ruben

The left illustration provides an intuitive sense for the theory that ‘insight experiences function to highlight which ideas in our stream of consciousness we should pay attention to’. Consistent with this idea, the right figure shows how artificially induced Aha moments (using an anagram) can shift a core belief such as “Free will is an illusion”.

Josh Tybur

Over the past two decades, researchers have aimed to better understand the aspects of human perception, attention, memory, emotion, and behavior that have evolved to neutralize infectious disease. That is, they have sought to better understand the behavioral immune system. There is some disagreement in this literature regarding the connection between the classical immune system (and, hence, ability to resist pathogens upon infection) and this behavioral immune system, with some work suggesting that more-immunologically-vulnerable individuals invest more in avoiding pathogens than less-immunologically-vulnerable individuals, and other work failing to find a relation between immunological vulnerability and pathogen avoidance. The current study contributed to this debate by directly replicating one well-cited study interpreted as detecting a relation between immunological vulnerability and pathogen avoidance. The original study assessed whether research participants were currently/recently ill or not, and it assessed their attention to images of individuals with features indicative of potential infectiousness. The current direct replication did detect the effect reported in the original study. Further, using equivalence testing – an approach in which the null hypothesis is a non-zero parameter – the replication rejected the null that the population effect size is as large as what the original study had 33% power to detect. In sum, the relation between immunological vulnerability remains unclear. However, the current study pointed out multiple methodological shortcomings in the original study (shortcomings shared in the direct replication), and it offered suggestions for future, methodologically-improved research.

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Prof. Dr. Hein Daanen and Dr. Nicola Gerrett

During the first corona wave in March, policy makers started to wonder what to do when the corona coincided with a heat wave. Three problems came up: 1) conflicting recommendations: stay home for corona and move to cool places during heat waves 2) how to separate fever from increased core temperatures due to heat 3) how to alleviate heat strain of workers in protective clothing. Using the Global Heat Health Information Network (https://ghhin.org/) we invited scientists to bring in expertise on this item and discussed the progress on a weekly basis. Scientists were allocated to working groups to address societal issues and provide evidence-based advice on how to manage both stressors. The work was consolidated into technical briefs, a Q&A document, easy to use checklist and YouTube video. These are all freely available online for a globally outreach. The language and structure of these technical briefs was aimed for front line staff, policy makers and interested non-experts. We also published the results in open access in the journal Temperature. The paper has over 2100 views per Nov 11, 2020. 

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Foto Daanen

Marije verhagen en carlo schuengel

In its core, the CATS project developed a solution for secure, transparent, collaborative work on shared, privacy-sensitive data to increase replicability of research findings.

The CATS project started in 2015, and it was set up as a collaborative, open project in all steps. To credit original authors for their work on collecting the data, we invited them to become ‘collaborators’ on the project, making them part of the whole study process. Currently, the CATS project consists of over 70 collaborators. We arranged a Collaborators Meeting as a preconference to a key conference in our field, during which we discussed which research questions to study and how we would pursue them. Writing articles is also a collaborative effort: anyone can pitch a research question, pitches of articles are circulated across the entire CATS group, and everyone can indicate interest to be actively involved in writing the article.

Privacy Protection
Collaborating in a responsible manner with so many authors was challenging, because we had to protect the privacy of participants while also receiving the data from across the globe. For this, we had endless discussions with the privacy officers to come up with GDPR-compliant data sharing agreements. Together with the Research IT team, we used VU’s unique SciCloud-solution to build a data commons for storage and analysis, which is a secured, remote-access information-technology infrastructure holding the pooled data set, syntax codes, and various analysis software packages. Pseudonymized data are shared through the secure environment of Surfdrive, after which the data cleaning takes place on SciCloud’s virtual machine. Finally, the merged dataset is placed on the data commons. The carefully crafted data sharing agreements in combination with the data commons on SciCloud made our vision for robust, collaborative work in this field a reality.

Expanding the project
After the first years of the project and the first presentations of the study methods at conferences, other researchers approached us telling us they had ‘caught the bug’ and that they wanted to set up IPD meta-analyses in related areas of our field. The CATS project was broadened to CARS to encompass the new spin-off projects. Together with several collaborators, IPD efforts into Attachment Interventions (CAPIS) and Attachment with Multiple Parents (CAMPOS) were started. These spin-offs are also running on our Data Commons platform.

Sharing our approach
We recently published our experiences with this way of data pooling and large-group collaboration in Current Directions in Psychological Science (Verhage et al., 2020). We were also invited for international key note talks on this topic. More practically, we’ve shared our research protocols, presentations, and data templates on our OSF page, as part of a reproducible workflow. We are still learning to work more ‘open’ as well. For CATS, we placed the protocol of the study on the OSF, but with later projects, we routinely pre-register study hypotheses and protocols.
Our next step will be to develop the data commons as an open data facility, where researchers can run analyses through an interface that keeps the data itself hidden.

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Perline Demange

Parents and children tend to have similar educational outcomes. Given the ties between education, social mobility and health, understanding how parents shape their children’s educational trajectories is a socially important research goal. Relatively few studies have considered the effects of parents' non-cognitive skills (also known as ‘soft skills’ or ‘socio-emotional competencies’) as well as cognitive skills. And evidence on the effects of parents’ cognitive and non-cognitive skills on offspring education is weakened by poor assessments of non-cognitive skills and inadequate accounting for genetic inheritance. 

In this preregistered study, we used genetics to assess non-cognitive skills and to index environmental effects of parents, controlling for direct effects of inherited genetic variation. We defined genetic influences on non-cognitive skills as the genetic variation in educational attainment that was not explained by cognitive skills, using a GWAS-by-subtraction. We constructed non-cognitive and cognitive skills polygenic scores (individual-level indices of genetic endowment) in three UK and Dutch cohorts (including the Netherlands Twin Register, hosted here at FGB). We estimated environmentally mediated effects of polygenic scores (indirect genetic effects) on educational achievement and attainment with three analytical designs (total N > 55,000).

We found that both heritable non-cognitive and cognitive skills are involved in how parents provide environments influencing their offspring education. Across cohorts, outcomes, and designs, we observed indirect genetic effects such that ∼37% of the total genetic signal was mediated by the parental environment.
Overall, our findings stress the importance of both non-cognitive and cognitive aspects of the home environment.

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Foto Demange


This project aims to understand how people from different cultures evaluate high-status norm violators when they fail to practice the very norms they preach to others. The work was inspired by a recent article (Effron et al., 2018) suggesting that independent cultures judge word-deed contradictions more harshly than interdependent cultures. Our objective was thus to conceptually replicate their findings while expanding it to examine the role of the targets’ social status.

We reasoned that (1) high- (vs. low-) status holders are valued more for their efforts on moral preaching and norm enforcement, and (2) status has distinct social foundations in independent (agentic) versus interdependent (communal) cultures. Therefore, we posited that word-deed contradictory (vs. non-contradictory) transgressions should be interpreted more negatively in independent than interdependent cultures, and the above cultural difference should be more pronounced when the transgressors possess high rather than low social status. We conducted two pre-registered studies to test these hypotheses, and explored different cultural mechanisms (holistic thinking, selfish motive attribution, and power distance beliefs).

Both studies revealed that high (vs. low) status exacerbated negative judgments of word-deed contradictory (vs. non-contradictory) transgressions in the US, but heightened positive perceptions of contradictory (vs. non-contradictory) transgressions in China. And the above effect was only accounted for by the cultural difference on selfish motive attribution, such that Americans attributed more, but Chinese attributed less, selfish motives to higher-status targets’ word-deed contradictions. The work has been submitted to a prestigious social psychology journal (IF = 4.3) and received a second-round revision.

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The topic of my PhD project under supervision of dr. Sjoerd Bruijn, is the active control of (mediolateral) gait stability. We intend to unravel what movement strategies one employs to remain stable during walking, and how these strategies are controlled. An understanding of such mechanisms in healthy adults can help us to understand and possibly to design interventions for those whose gait stability is impaired. For my first paper we focused on foot placement control. As a stability mechanism, we place our feet in relation to the center of mass kinematic state. We found this control strategy to be driven by gluteus medius activity. Furthermore, we constrained ankle moment and foot placement control to investigate the relationship between these two center of pressure control strategies. We saw that wider steps and increased stride frequencies were adopted to compensate for constrained ankle moments (see illustration). Additionally, differential effectiveness of the foot placement constraints for different speeds, underscored earlier findings that the need for tight foot placement control is speed-dependent. Fundamental insights obtained from this paper will help us to further our research in the fundamental direction. In a future experiment we will investigate whether the cortex is involved in enacting these strategies. In another experiment with a more practical perspective, we will investigate whether walking with ankle moment constraints can be used to train foot placement control to enhance gait stability.

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Foto leeuwen

Kinematic data obtained during walking with experimental, ankle-moment-constraining shoe (Left) and compensatory strategies adopted (wider steps, Top Right & increased stride frequency, Bottom Right).


k.m.van.meeteren@vu.nl / n.j.s.patty@vu.nl

Parents of children with complex care needs (CCN) are faced with tremendous demands and challenges (Lindström et al. 2010; Woodgate et al. 2015), in addition to the normative tasks of parenting. Parenting-related strain due to caring for a child with CCN may have negative physical and psychological effects on wellbeing. Parents of children with CCN have been reported to experience increased stress, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and/or depression (Woodgate et al. 2015; van Oers et al. 2014; Miodrag et al. 2015).

To contribute to the understanding of the nature and origins of parenting-related strain, some in the field have referred to the concept of ‘parental burnout’, described as a three dimensional syndrome characterised by (1) emotional exhaustion related to one’s parental role, (2) emotional distancing from one’s child, (3) and lack of personal accomplishment in the parental role (Roskam, Raes & Mikolajczak 2017). Parental burnout has been associated with an increase in escape and suicidal ideations, addiction, partner estrangement and conflicts (Mikolajczak et al. 2018), sleep problems, somatic complaints (Mikolajczak et al. 2018; Sarrionandia-Pena 2019), and neglectful and violent behaviour towards the child (Hubert et al. 2018; Mikolajczak et al. 2018).

Considering the challenges that parents of children with CCN face, these parents are particularly vulnerable to parental burnout. Due to the detrimental consequences of parental burnout, it is important to investigate to what extent research has addressed burnout among these parents as well as the social validity of the concept, before identifying and developing strategies for alleviation and prevention.

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Staff members Social Psychology

A recently-drafted guideline for pre-registering studies on the Open Science Framework. Rather than describing an individual project, it is a “team-proposal” that involves a concrete outline for Research Master students, Ph.D. students, and staff members conducting research within the tradition of (social) psychology. 

We hope the committee is open to evaluating an (admittedly) unusual proposal, but one that we believe should be impactful in communicating norms and concrete guidelines for practicing open science to the current and future generation of scientists.

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Social psychology


Lisa Schreuders

Adolescence is marked by significant social changes, and social decision-making skills become especially important for establishing social ties. For instance, showing trust (in the form of a favor or sharing resources) in others is fundamental for building positive social ties. Trust creates opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit. However, trust also conveys a risk as reciprocation is not guaranteed. As such, to protect oneself from wasting resources, it is crucial for adolescents to detect signs of uncooperative intentions. Previous studies suggest that across adolescence, adolescents improve in adjusting their behavior toward uncooperative others and that this may underlie functional recruitment of specific brain regions implicated in social cognitive processes, including mentalizing (i.e., understanding others’ mind), behavior monitoring, and outcome processing. Therefore, with the current study, my colleagues and I examine trust behavior involving an uncooperative other and its neural correlates across early adolescence. This study entails three waves of data collection separated by one year. Participants (n=84, and age=~12 years at the first wave) played the “Trust Game” in which they could invest money in an uncooperative other while functional images of their brain were acquired. We hypothesized that adolescents become increasingly responsive to uncooperative behavior, and expected that participants would decrease their investments in uncooperative others with wave. Furthermore, we hypothesized longitudinal involvement of selected brain regions of interest, and explored longitudinal changes in involvement of these brain regions with wave. Before looking at the data, we preregistered our hypotheses and analytic plan. The manuscript is still in preparation.

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Mohammadreza Mahaki and Sjoerd Bruijn

It is still unclear how humans control mediolateral (ML) stability in walking and even more so for running. Here, foot placement strategy as a main mechanism to control ML stability was compared between walking and running. Moreover, to verify the role of foot placement as a means to control ML stability in both modes of locomotion, this study investigated the effect of external lateral stabilization on foot placement control. Ten young adults participated in this study. Kinematic data of the trunk (T6) and feet were recorded during walking and running on a treadmill in normal and stabilized conditions. Correlation between ML trunk CoM state and subsequent ML foot placement, step width, and step width variability were assessed. Paired t-tests (either SPM1d or normal) were used to compare aforementioned parameters between normal walking and running. Two-way repeated measures ANOVAs (either SPM1d or normal) were used to test for effects of walking vs. running and of normal vs. stabilized condition. We found a stronger correlation between ML trunk CoM state and ML foot placement and significantly higher step width variability in walking than in running. The correlation between ML trunk CoM state and ML foot placement, step width, and step width variability were significantly decreased by external lateral stabilization in walking and running, and this reduction was stronger in walking than in running. We conclude that ML foot placement is coordinated to ML trunk CoM state to stabilize both walking and running and this coordination is stronger in walking than in running.

Beeld MahakiExperimental set-up and main results. A. shows the stabilization device in which subjects walked/ran. B. During both walking (blue) and running (green), subjects had a high (i.e. more than 50%) percentage of explained variance (R2) when not walking/running with the lateral stabilization device (solid lines), indicating that ML foot placement is coordinated to ML trunk CoM state to control ML stability at the end of gait cycle in walking and running. Subjects also had a lower R2 when walking/running with lateral stabilization device (dotted lines as compared to solid lines), indicating that external lateral stabilization decreased ML foot placement in both modes of locomotion. Moreover, when comparing walking to running, ML foot placement is more critical in walking than in running.

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