Job Properties
  • Job Type
    Full-time Position
  • Category
    Research & Science
  • Languages
    English Dutch
  • Experience Required
  • Degree Required
    • Province
    • Date Posted
      August 27,2021
    • JSS
    • VISA
    • IMG_6430
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    PhD candidate 'Coping with the threat of social change: The case of sustainability and inclusiveness policies'

    At the Organizational Behaviour Group (Faculty of Social Sciences) at Utrecht University we are looking for a PhD candidate.

    Societies undergo rapid changes in the relations between social groups, for example due to migration, shifting gender roles, globalization, crises like Covid-19, and social movements like #BLM. Heated societal debates suggest that social changes are often perceived as threatening, leading to a host of negative consequences like rigidity, polarization, and hostility towards the source of the threat. This makes understanding how people cope with social change one of the major challenges of our times. However, how people regulate negative arousal stemming from societal change, and how this in turn shapes opinions, is as yet poorly understood.

    The current project aims to develop a psychophysiological threat-and-coping model of social change. Linking social, psychological, and physiological levels of analysis this novel model describes and explains the interplay between lower-level physiological responses, and higher-level information processing, to understand how people form opinions about social change. Moving beyond maladaptive physiological arousal (threat) the possibility will be examined that change can also elicit more benign arousal (challenge) and link this to sensitivity to specific types of arguments (instrumental, moral, identity) and rigidity versus open-mindedness in opinion formation.

    In a series of psychophysiological experiments, partly making use of a mobile lab (‘test-van’) to run psychophysiological experiments in the field, hypotheses derived from the model will be tested.

    In the current project the focus will be specifically on (dealing with) the threat of change due to the implementation of corporate social responsibility practices relating to sustainability and diversity within organizations. (A related PhD project on coping with threats due to migration will be run simultaneously at Leiden University.)

    The insights gained will be used to inform policy-makers about ways to approach and communicate social change in order to avoid overly rigid and hostile responses.

    The PhD-project will be supervised by Prof. Daan Scheepers, Prof. Naomi Ellemers and Dr. Félice van Nunspeet.

    The position includes the following activities:

    • conducting literature reviews;
    • designing, executing and coordinating data collection (psychophysiological experiments in both lab and field settings);
    • initiating and maintaining contact with external parties;
    • processing the collected data;
    • analyzing and interpreting the data;
    • written and oral reporting of the outcomes of the research;
    • spending 10% of your time on additional activities (e.g., teaching, outreach).

    Profiel This position requires:
    • a completed (or almost completed) (Research) Master in psychology / neuroscience, with an interest in or affinity with social and/or organizational psychology;
    • experience in and affinity with quantitative research methods (e.g., surveys, lab experiments);
    • experience with psychophysiological and/or neuroscientific methods/analysis techniques is preferred;
    • competence in statistical data analysis;
    • a keen interest in both fundamental research and the application of psychological insights to practice;
    • a professional attitude and conduct that includes organizational sensitivity, integrity, pragmatism, and good communication skills;
    • being organized and decisive;
    • able to meet tight deadlines;
    • able to work independently as well as in a team;
    • a good command of the Dutch and English language;
    • good academic writing skills.


    Starting preferably 1 November 2021, you will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a positive assessment in the first year. The gross salary ranges between €2,395 in the first year and €3,061 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.

    Over de organisatie

    A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

    The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old center and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands.

    The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is one of the leading faculties in Europe providing research and academic teaching in cultural anthropology, educational sciences, interdisciplinary social science, pedagogical sciences, psychology, and sociology. Research and teaching activities are concentrated in five areas:
    • Behaviour in Social Contexts;
    • Child and Adolescent Studies;
    • Cognitive and Clinical Psychology;
    • Education and Learning;
    • Methodology and Statistics.

    More than 5,600 students are enrolled in a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programmes. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences has some 850 faculty and staff members, all providing their individual contribution to the training and education of young talent and to the research into and finding solutions for scientific and societal issues.

    The Organisational Behaviour Group focuses on two themes in which fundamental scientific research is directly linked to applications and interventions in the field: Diversity & Inclusion, and Integrity & Ethical behaviour. In addition, the members of the research group consider it important to focus on forming interdisciplinary partnerships and insights, strengthening external visibility of scientific activities and staying connected to the organizational practice. For example, the multidisciplinary collaboration is anchored within the UU-strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies, and in the NWO Gravitation programme (SCOOP). There are also partnerships with the Netherlands Inclusiveness Monitor (NIM), the START Foundation, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) and the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). Such partnerships also generate opportunities for data collection in the field and allocation of resources or co-sponsoring to conduct scientific (PhD) research.
    Aanvullende informatie

    Additional information about the position can be obtained from Daan Scheepers (

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