Carolien Rieffe


Carolien Rieffe is a full professor at the Human Media Interaction group at the University of Twente. Research in the Chair of Social Interaction Technology is focused on the use of technology for the enhancement social interaction. New technologies such as smart sensing, VR/AR can improve upon existing methods in the behavioral sciences, by objectively and unobtrusively measuring and helping to train social interaction, thereby contributing to the enhancement of social inclusion. Here, social inclusion means individuals can be different while being accepted and respected. Social inclusion implies creating a social environment in which diversity is an asset, and individuals are supported in reaching their full potential. This Chair supports important declarations by the United Nations, such as the Child’s Right to Play (1977) and the Rights for Persons with Disabilities act (2016).

Social interactions come naturally for many children, adolescents and adults. Meeting others online, offline, at school, in playgrounds, parks, markets or other places where people gather, can increase a person’s sense of belonging and social inclusion. Yet for others, these daily social interactions do not come naturally or do not enhance a sense of belonging. For example, individuals with autism, ADHD, or a disability such as hearing loss, often experience limited access to social interactions on a day to day basis for different reasons, which can hinder full social participation. Additionally, individuals might not feel represented, for example are people of color visible in a museum collection or media, also undermining the individual’s sense of belonging and social inclusion. Integrating the above technologies into the existing psychological research on individual differences merges diverse disciplines and creates new opportunities for addressing important research questions on social interactions and social inclusion.


Carolien Rieffe received her MSc Degree with Honours in Psychological Methodology from the University of Amsterdam, which included an exchange program on scholarship to Hofstra University (New York, USA); she earned her PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 1998 and worked there as an Assistant Professor. She had a tenured position at the Institute of Education University of London, UK as Assistant Professor (2001-2004), until she started at Leiden University in 2004 as an Associate Professor. From 2010-2020 the Dutch Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Child (NSDSK, Amsterdam) installed an endowed chair for Carolien at Leiden University, where she then became Professor by Special Appointment in Social and Emotional Development. Since 2015, Carolien has served as  Honorary Professor at UCL, University of London, UK. She serves as Full Professor at Twente University since September 2020.

Carolien has been awarded several grants (NWO (VIDI laureate), ZonMw) and prizes: the Most Influential Research Paper in 25 years inKind and Adolescent; Best Teacher award; and Award for Smartest City Project in the Netherlands. Carolien is Primary Investigator of the Focus on Emotions research lab at the Department of Developmental Psychology at Leiden University, chair of the Honours College advisory board at Leiden University, member of the LCDS (Leiden Center for Data Science), and member of several committees at the national level, including the Female Autism Network of the Netherlands and the Dutch National Autism Congress. She also works or has worked in longstanding close collaborations with professional organizations that include NSDSK, Kentalis, ENT-LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center), Center for Autism, INTER-PSY, the Anne Frank Foundation, and many academic institutions abroad.


For a full list of publications, ongoing research projects, key note presentations, and media outlet, see