On Friday January 2015, Joop van der Pligt very unexpectedly passed away at the age of 63, while he stayed in his newly bought house in Spain. The Social Psychological community in the Netherlands is shocked about this very sad news.
After he received his Master’s degree in Psychology and Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at Utrecht University, het went to London, King’s College where he obtained his PhD in 1981. His dissertation was on language and self-description. He then moved back to become a research fellow at the VU University Amsterdam at the Institute for Environmental Studies, but was called upon again by the British, this time from the University of Exeter, who invited him for a research fellowship at the University of Exeter, where he stayed for 2 years. In 1984 he returned to the VU University Amsterdam to become Associate Professor and in 1986 he became Professor of Experimental Social Psychology at the UvA with the assignment to build a strong Social Psychology group there. He has been the leading professor of this group since then, received many research grants, supervised 25 dissertations, and hundreds of students.
Joop was not only the founder of the social psychology group in Amsterdam, but also played a major role in social psychological organizations such as the ASPO (of which he was President from 1989-2004), the KLI (chair KLI board from 1997-2003), and EASP. He served on 12 different editorial boards (e.g., British Journal of Social Psychology, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making), was Associate Editor of the European Journal of Social Psychology (1985-1989) and Editor of Health Review and the Dutch ASPO volume Fundamentale Sociale Psychologie, and served as reviewer for more than 50 journals.
Joop was a social psychologist who felt at home in both fundamental and applied science. He conducted research on a wide variety of topics, such as decision making, risk taking, risk perception, anticipated emotions (regret and disappointment), health behavior, health prevention, risk communication, attitudes and attitudinal change, false consensus, and illusory correlations, to name a couple of broad categories in which his research can be captured. In addition, he co-authored a huge number of books and reports, also on a wide range of topics: Survey research (2013 with Matthijs Blankers), the psychology of superstition (2013, with Frenk van Harreveld and Bastiaan Rutjens), polarization, radicalization and terrorism (2011, with Wim Koomen), punishment (2008, with Frenk van Harreveld and Wim Koomen), or perceived risks with regard to nuclear energy (2002, with Danker Daamen). This list of books is by no means exhaustive but serves to illustrate the breadth of his interests. His approach to these topics was characterized by the same broad scope. He could design thorough experiments but also write books including more theoretical and philosophical approaches. At the end of this career he tended more to writing books and taking a broader perspective on psychology, which was not in the last place due to his disappointment in science. The fraud by Diederik Stapel had struck him personally and deeply. It is very tragic that he will not be able to see the resilience of social psychology and our ability to move our science forward in a better way, despite these setbacks.
We will miss his wisdom and humor and his ability to put things into perspective.