Simon Columbus

simon columbusHi! I’m Simon, a doctoral student at the Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology at the VU Amsterdam. Previously, I worked as a journalist and studied psychology, economics, and biology at Amsterdam University College (BA Social Sciences, 2013) and methodology and statistics and organisational psychology at the University of Amsterdam (MSc Psychology, 2016).

I discovered evolutionary psychology and social dilemma research during my undergraduate studies, while trying to understand how new technologies such as the Web shape human cooperation. I applied these perspectives in my BA thesis, which studied leadership and sanctions in a social dilemma. For my MSc, I did research on cooperation, sanctions, and leadership in intergroup conflict. During this time, I also honed my methodological skills, and developed a strong commitment to open science.

I joined the Cooperation Lab in 2016 to work on a PhD on interdependence and cooperation, under Daniel Balliet. My work will focus on a) “the games people play” in their daily lives, b) the mechanisms by which people infer outcome interdependence from cues in their social environment, and c) how this subjectively experienced interdependence shapes cooperative behavior.

Research Interests and Projects

Situational Interdependence in Romantic Couples (with Daniel Balliet and Francesca Righetti)

This project aims to map out the day-to-day experience of interdependence across situations by studying romantic couples. It serves to elucidate patterns of interdependence in the field and cues associated with these patterns and tests various hypotheses about interdependence in close relationships.

In-group Favouritism in Talent Attribution (with Noah Millman)

In-group favouritism is pervasive across various domains. Here we investigate whether individuals are biased in their evaluation of context-relevant and -irrelevant traits, especially focusing on attributions of talent.

Cooperation in Social and Non-social Asymmetric Intergroup Conflict (with Carsten de Dreu and Daniel Balliet)

Expanding on our previous work on asymmetric intergroup conflict, here we investigate to what extent asymmetries in cooperation are specific to intergroup conflict, and what proximal mechanisms give rise to this asymmetry.

In-Group Defense, Out-Group Aggression, and Coordination Failures in Intergroup Conflict (with Carsten de Dreu, Jörg Gross, Jonathan Krikeb, and others)

In this project, we investigated asymmetries in cooperation between out-group aggression aimed at expansion and appropriation and in-group defense aimed at survival and preservation of the status quo. Through experiments and historical analyses, we show that cooperation during defense is high and does not require encouragement, but fails during attacks. Out-group aggression, in contrast, fails without encouragement, but gains efficiency from coordinating leadership.

Selected Publications

de Dreu, C. K. W., Gross, J., Méder, Z. Z., Giffin, M. R., Krikeb, J., Prochazkova, E., & Columbus, S. (In press). In-Group Defense, Out-Group Aggression, and Coordination Failures in Intergroup Conflict. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science. Science, 349(6251), aac4716-1-8.

Mutsvairo, B., Columbus, S., & Leijendekker, I. (2014). Reconnoitering the role of (citizen) journalism ethics in the emerging networked public sphere. Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, 35(3), 4-22.

Mutsvairo, B. & Columbus, S. (2012). Emerging Patterns and Trends in Citizen Journalism in Africa: The Case of Zimbabwe. Central European Journal of Communication, 5(1), 121-35.

Columbus, S. (2010). Prisons and Persecution: The New Casualties. In M. Joyce (ed.), Digital Activism Decoded: The New Mechanics of Change (pp. 165-80). New York, NY: IDEBATE Press.

Other Information

Personal Webpage:

Email: simon(at)