Professor at Leiden University

Vacancy for PhD student in Cognitive Neuroscience

Research Project “Emotional expressions beyond facial muscle actions.”

Humans are well adapted to quickly recognize and adequately respond to another’s emotions. Different theories propose that mimicry of emotional expressions (facial or otherwise) mechanistically underlies, or at least facilitates, these swift adaptive reactions. When people unconsciously mimic their interaction partner’s expressions of emotion, they come to feel reflections of those companions’ emotions, which in turn influence the observer’s own emotional and empathic behavior. The majority of research has focused on facial actions as expressions of emotion. However, the fact that emotions are not just expressed by facial muscles alone is often still ignored in emotion perception research. The goal of the present project is to revisit this literature and try to understand emotion signals from sources beyond the face muscles that are more automatic and difficult to control such as pupil-dilation, eyeblinks and blushing. These signals are subtle yet visible to observers and because they can hardly be controlled or regulated by the sender, provide important “veridical” information. Recently, more research is emerging about the mimicry of these subtle affective signals such as for example pupil-mimicry. In the current project, the PhD student will investigate the relative importance of these subtle signals and the synchronization therewith in comparison to more obvious signals that are exchanged during natural interactions (such as facial expressions) and how the brain integrates information from these different sources.

The project will run in parallel with a VENI project “Role of Pupil-synchronization in Trust”, funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and a comparative project with great apes in de Apenheul, funded by The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Dobberke Stichting for Comparative Psychology. Both projects are led by Dr. Mariska Kret. For recent publications, see Publications. The research group participates in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), an interfaculty center for interdisciplinary research on brain and cognition (


Key Responsibilities

  • Literature study, hypothesis-driven development and execution of experimental studies;
  • Report results at conferences and in at least four international peer-reviewed journals;
  • Supervise BSc and MSc thesis projects;
  • Participate in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC).


Selection Criteria

  • PhD in experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience or closely related field;
  • Experience with neuroimaging techniques and experience or affinity with psychophysiological measures;
  • Programming experience (e.g., Matlab, R);
  • Excellent research and writing skills;
  • Excellent command of English.


Our faculty/Institute

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. The Faculty is home to 5,000 students and 600 members of staff. Our teaching and research programmes cover diverse topics varying from adoption to political behaviour. For more information, click here.

The Institute of Psychology comprises six units for teaching and research: Health, Medical and Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental and Educational
Psychology, Social and Organizational Psychology, and Methodology and Statistics. The Institute of Psychology offers a stimulating environment that promotes collaboration within and between units. For more information, click here.


Terms and condition

We offer a full-time position for 1,0 fte (38 hours per week), the preferred starting date is between September and December 2015. The appointment as a PhD student will be for a period of four years (initially for a period of one year with an extension of three years after positive evaluation of progress and skills development) leading to the successful completion of a PhD thesis and its publication within these four years. The appointment will be under the terms of the cao (Collective Labour Agreement) of Dutch Universities.

The gross monthly salary is set on € 2.125,- in the first year, increasing to € 2.717,- gross per month in the final year.



Enquiries can be made to Dr. Mariska Kret, email:



Applications can be sent here under vacancy number 261, a CV and a full publication list can be submitted – before August 17th.

Receipt of your application will be confirmed by e-mail. If you have not received a confirmation within three days after submission, please contact us at +31 – 71 – 527 3427

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