PhD Position in Neuropsychological Mechanisms of Polarization
University of Amsterdam Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Netherlands

PhD Position: Neuropsychological Mechanisms of Polarization

Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Educational level:  Master
Function type:  PhD position
Closing date:  31 January 2023
Vacancy number:  11023

We are seeking applications for an interdisciplinary PhD project aiming to understand neuropsychological and social mechanisms that drive polarization in individuals and groups. This project will be part of the Research Priority Area (RPA) Polarization at the UvA’s Faculty of Social and Behavioral Science which aims to support solutions to the societal challenge of polarization through rigorous scientific research. Are you motivated by the opportunity and challenge of interdisciplinary research and do you have strong research methodology and analysis skills? We are looking forward to your application.

Project description

Polarization is the development or existence of a persisting, extreme, multi-modal divide in attitudes, identities, affect, and behavior and manifests across all levels of social life, including, but not limited to, individual cognitive biases, social group dynamics and larger educational, cultural, and political structures. Currently, we lack understanding of how polarizing processes that have been observed at each level are connected to one another (e.g. how biases in individual cognition relate to group-level conflicts). Interdependencies and feedback loops between different levels are crucial puzzle pieces to gain a full understanding of polarization and predict the impact of interventions on society as a whole. This PhD project aims to uncover interconnections between individual- and group-level polarization, and interface with other projects within the RPA which are focused on other levels.

Specifically, this project focuses on biases in information processing and handling as a core feature that is both a cause and a consequence of polarization in individuals and groups. To study cross-level feedback loops, we examine the specific behavior of information sharing as a natural bridge between the (un)biased ways in which individuals process information and the ways in which groups handle information that becomes available to them. Objective 1 of the project is to examine effects of perceptions of group norms on biases in individual-level information processing and sharing behavior. Objective 2 is to examine effects of individual-level sharing behavior on group-level information handling and group norms. Based on Objectives 1-2, we will develop a mechanistic model of how sharing is linked to cross-level polarization. Finally, Objective 3 is to experimentally compare interventions that are informed by this mechanistic model and aim to shift key polarizing mechanisms within ecologically valid contexts.

Objective 1-2 will be addressed with a series of behavioral studies and an fMRI study. Objective 3 will be addressed through an experiment comparing effects of multiple interventions in a diverse sample. All academic activities will be guided by rigorous open science principles including pre-registration, the publication of a registered report, as well as data and material sharing.

The project will be supervised by Dr. Christin Scholz, Dr. Marte Otten, Dr. Gijs Schumacher, and Dr. Bert Bakker. You will be part of the Amsterdam School for Communication Research and complete a PhD in communication science. In addition, the Phd candidate is expected to be an active member of the RPA community, which includes the Hot Politics Lab.

What are you going to do

You will/tasks:

  • conduct research as outlined above, adopting multiple methodologies including behavioral and fMRI laboratory experiments, and online experiments;
  • execute complex data management and analysis tasks integrating neuroimaging and self-report data;
  • implement rigorous open science methodologies including, among others, pre-registration, registered reports, and data sharing;
  • produce academic publications in leading international journals, accumulating in a PhD thesis;
  • present your work at (inter)national conferences;
  • contribute to the vibrant academic life in Amsterdam by attending workshops, meetings, and lectures;
  • disseminate your findings to the general public;
  • engage in activities or committees in the department, the program group and/or the RPA;

What do we require

Your experience and profile;

You have:

  • a (Research) Master’s degree in Social/Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience, Communication Science, Political Science, Psychology or a related field
  • a strong interest in and preferably knowledge of interdisciplinary research and mechanisms of polarization;  
  • knowledge of and/or experience with MRI acquisition and data analysis is highly desired;
  • a firm basis in and ideally experience with research methods and data analysis, in particular: experimentation, multi-level modelling, and/or open science principles;
  • basic programming skills (in R, Python or Matlab),
  • an excellent written and spoken command of English;
  • excellent social and organizational skills.

You are:

  • eager to contribute to the scientific field of polarization research within the broader community of the RPA Polarization and to building scientifically grounded solutions to the societal challenge of polarization;
  • ready to meet the challenge of interdisciplinary work, both theoretically and methodologically;
  • willing to learn and think across and integrate knowledge from multiple academic disciplines including neuroscience, communication science, psychology, and political science;
  • motivated to share your knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences;
  • strongly committed to methodological rigor and scientific integrity;
  • curious and eager to learn new skills, theoretical perspectives and practical issues;
  • able to work in a team

Our offer

The planned start date is April 1st, 2023. The position concerns temporary employment of 1.0 fte (38 hours per week) for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. In consultation with the supervision team, the successful candidate will design a custom curriculum which will also include the opportunity to attend training courses and both national and international events. You will also be tasked with teaching students.

Your salary will be €2451 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3247 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.

What else do we offer

  • a position in which initiative and input are highly valued
  • an enthusiastic, uniquely interdisciplinary, and warm team that is open to new colleagues
  • an inspiring academic and international working environment in the heart of Amsterdam.

About the faculty

A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.

Questions

Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 31 January 2023. You may apply online by using the link below. A small number of applicants will be invited for interviews, which will likely be scheduled in February 2023.

Applications in one bundled .pdf file should include:

  • a curriculum vitae (including contact information for one or two people willing to provide a letter of reference if requested at a later stage);
  • a letter of motivation;
  • Proof of your Master's degree, including grade transcripts. If you have not completed your degree at the time of application, include grade transcripts plus a statement regarding the expected date of completion of your degree.
  • An academic writing sample in English (e.g., journal article, Master's thesis, class paper).

You can upload the PDF file on the next page in the ‘CV/Resume’ box.

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

If you encounter Error GBB451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application. 

No agencies please.


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