Reinforcement Learning and Emotional Lability in Adhd
University of Leuven Clinical Psychology & the Faculty of Medicine

Reinforcement Learning And Emotional Lability In Adhd


(ref. BAP-2019-187)


Last modification : Wednesday, April 10, 2019


We offer a 4-year full-time PhD research position in the field of ADHD at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, research group Clinical Psychology & the Faculty of Medicine, research group Psychiatry of the KU Leuven. The candidate will work in the context of our interdisciplinary research group ADHDynamic (see The candidate will be enrolled in a FWO research project on "Reinforcement learning and emotional lability in ADHD"


ADHD is very prevalent and impairing. Amongst others reinforcement learning deficits and emotional lability are considered core to ADHD. Behavioural interventions for ADHD are based on reinforcement learning mechanisms i.e. changing behaviour through manipulating reinforcement or punishment. However, three important factors have largely been ignored in ADHD treatment studies: first; the fact that daily life reinforcement is usually partial rather than continuous; second the fact that punishment may result in counterproductive effects in ADHD; and third the potential negative effect of emotional lability in ADHD on reinforcement learning and punishment [Amsel’s Frustration Theory]. According to Amsel not getting an expected reinforcer brings on negative emotional consequences and frustration that impair effective learning and may even cause elevated activity. This effect may be more pronounced in ADHD, due to their characteristic emotional lability. This project explores the interplay between reinforcement learning, punishment and emotional lability/activity in children with and without ADHD on learning tasks, and explores ways how the deficits in reinforcement learning may be overcome. Also, the relationship with response to our task manipulations and emotional lability in daily life is explored. Acquired knowledge of this project is relevant for understanding ADHD and for enhancing behavioural interventions’ effectiveness.



We are looking for highly motivated applicants who have or will get (academic year 2018-2019) a Master’s degree in Psychology (preferably Clinical Psychology-child track) or other related disciplines.


Good statistical and computer skills

Strong affinity with (experimental) psychological research in children is recommended

Candidates are expected to have a basic knowledge of Dutch, because the job includes testing of Dutch-speaking children

Clinical experience/strong affinity with working with children (preferably with ADHD)

Critical thinker, research minded and independent, but also a team player

Good speaking and academic writing skills in English and Dutch


The assignment involves a full-time position for 2 years, after positive evaluation another 2 years. The candidate is expected to prepare a PhD within these 4 years. We offer a dynamic, stimulating and supportive research environment with our interdisciplinary research group ADHDynamic and the research group Clinical Psychology. When interested the candidate can also do clinical work at the ADHD team of the faculties academic treatment center Praxis P.  Please visit & for more information.



For more information please contact Prof. dr. Saskia Van der Oord, tel.: +32 16 32 58 24, mail:


You can apply for this job no later than May 19, 2019 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Psychoneuroxy


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