PHD position: Cooperation and helping between groups among children

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PHD position: Cooperation and helping between groups among children
  • University Graduate
Are you interested in how prosocial behavior develops and how we can promote social solidary from a young age onward? A full-time PhD studentship on the development of prosocial mindsets and cooperation in children is available at the section of Social Psychology, in collaboration with Developmental Psychology, at the VU Amsterdam. The project is embedded within a larger, interdisciplinary project and funded by the Ammodo Science Award 2020.

FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

Human cooperation often occurs in contexts that are characterized by conflicts between individual- and collective interests. With a focus on young children (4-12 year old), this project examines the early development of prosocial mindsets and cooperation. These abilities are crucial in light of pressing societal issues that necessitate broad scale cooperation (e.g., refugee-, climate- and the corona crisis). But how can we enhance a prosocial mindset and cooperation at a young age? And how can we combat distrust and discrimination and increase social solidarity across group boundaries early in life? We tackle these questions by combining insights and methods from social, developmental, cognitive, and educational psychology, social neuroscience, as well as sociology (e.g., networks) and experimental economics (e.g., economic games). 
In six experimental studies, we aim to develop and administer a variety of child-friendly tasks, including basic social judgment tasks, social mindfulness tasks, social decision making tasks, and economic games. We also aim to include cognitive (e.g., eye tracking), neuroimaging (portable EEG) and/or physiological (e.g., heart rate variability) measures to complement behavioral measures of prosociality and cooperation. Data collection will take place online, at our VU-laboratory or by visiting schools, after school daycares and museums (e.g. NEMO).
As a PhD candidate, you will work in close cooperation with the Social Educational Neuroscience Amsterdam (SENSA) team. Within the SENSA team, you will be part of a multidisciplinary group, including senior and more junior faculty members. Your project will be supervised by Dr. Jellie Sierksma, Dr. Nikki Lee, and Prof. Dr. Paul van Lange. More information on SENSA can be found here:

Your duties
Your main tasks and responsibilities include:
  • Developing and programming of the tasks
  • Data collection: recruitment and participant testing
  • Data analysis
  • Manuscript preparation
  • Presentation of results at national and international conferences


  •  A completed MSc degree in the field of psychology, preferably social psychology or developmental psychology
  • Experience with cognitive and/or physiological methods is desired
  • Interest in social development in children
  • Good knowledge of statistical data analysis
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Fluent in Dutch, writing and speaking (i.e., data collection will be in Dutch)
  • Good command of English
  • Good communication skills and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences
The Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences focuses on the broad domain of behaviour and health. Our teaching and research programmes are devoted to current developments in society, from healthy aging to e-health, from juvenile crime to dealing with depression, from training for top athletes to social media as a teaching tool. We are unique in that we combine three academic disciplines: psychology, movement sciences and education.

Working at Behavioural and Movement Sciences means working in an ambitious organization that is characterized by an informal atmosphere and short lines of communication. Our faculty offers tremendous scope for personal development. We employ more than 600 staff members, and we are home to around 3,400 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter (max 2 pages) and provide the contact details of two referees before November 1, 2020.  

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

See also our other PhD positions on this project: 
  • PhD position: development of social cognition in adolescence
  • PhD position: portable EEG research on social dynamics in schools

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Paul van Lange
Position: Hoogleraar

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