New master’s combines forensic psychology, neuroscience, and legal psychology

Why do some people behave differently from others? How does a criminal’s brain work? How does an assassin think? These are questions they both find interesting. Not surprising that Sanne van Dongen (37) and Isabel de Graaf (23) know each other from the master in Forensic and Legal Psychology. Sanne as associate professor and Isabel as a student.

The master’s degree in Forensic and Legal Psychology first started in 2020. The new master programme turns out to be a hit. Although Sanne had aimed for 20 to 25 students, the master’s programme received no less than 74 applications. This makes it one of the top 5 largest master’s specialisations of Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB).

Forensic psychology, neuroscience and legal psychology

The master’s programme will give students insight into why people misbehave, why people commit crimes, what the concept of insanity is and how to treat forensic patients. “The uniqueness of this programme is that in addition to these forensic subjects, we also zoom in on neuroscience and legal psychology. In this way, students will learn how neuroscientific insights contribute to a more effective risk assessment and treatment of forensic patients. The advantage of this is that you can go a step further,” says Sanne. “Moreover, the master’s programme is interdisciplinary, cross-faculty, and international. Students learn to look more broadly, and that means they can use it in more ways in the work field. Isabel recognises herself in this. “It’s the combination of themes that makes it so interesting for me. Because I’m getting to know several sides in this programme, my options for the future are broader than if I were to follow a master’s programme specifically on one of the themes.”

Detective Psychologist

Before starting her master’s, Isabel followed two bachelor’s programmes: criminology and psychology. Once she has completed the master’s programme, she would like to start working as a detective psychologist or investigative psychologist. Although such a job is not easy to find (these specific functions are thin on the ground), it is her dream. And if Isabel has something on her mind, then she’ll go for it. “Yes, my friends and family say the same to me: that I am ambitious and goal-oriented. That’s right. I work hard; I am a go-getter. If I have a goal, I go straight for it.” So she can imagine herself having a job with the police. “I like some dynamism and get satisfaction from contributing to society.” Sanne visibly enjoys Isabel’s drive. “I think that’s the best thing to see: students who have ambition, who want to achieve something and who realise that they are in control. As a teacher I want to convey knowledge, but I also want to inspire — to be an example. I’m able to give students something. If that contributes to their motivation to bring out the best in themselves, then that makes me very happy.”

Good Connection

All beginnings are difficult. The same goes for the start of a new master’s programme. Teaching with the limitations of corona and to many more students than previously thought; Sanne wants to do well. This is sometimes a good thing, she says. “We expect creativity and independence from students, but every student is different. An international student has a completely different background than an EUR student. Together with my colleagues, I’m looking for the right form that fits the high quality you can expect from EUR.” If it’s up to Isabel, that’s fine. For her, this is the best master’s programme in preparation for her future profession. What’s more, she can see that the master’s programme fits in well with her bachelor’s programmes. “Everything we’ve dealt with in terms of theory in the bachelors, that’s well developed in this master’s programme. I have only followed part of the master’s programme, but I can already say that I have learned a lot. I am glad that I have chosen this master’s programme!”