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The Society for Mathematical Psychology promotes the advancement and communication of research in mathematical psychology and related disciplines. Mathematical psychology is broadly defined to include work of a theoretical character that uses mathematical methods, formal logic, or computer simulation. The Society journal is the Journal of Mathematical Psychology.

PhD position in Quantitative Psychology
Thursday, 12 May 2016 20:42

A PhD position is available in the research group on Quantitative Psychology and Individual Differences at the KU Leuven, University of Leuven, Belgium. The topic of the research is Computational models for emotions and emotion-related disorders.

You will work under the supervision of Francis Tuerlinckx. The research group offers an international, productive, collaborative, and interactive environment with about 6 faculty and 25 graduate and postdoc researchers. On a daily basis, you will collaborate with researchers with diverse backgrounds: psychologists, physicists, and engineers. See for relevant publications.

The KU Leuven-University of Leuven is a research oriented institution and is consistently ranked among the top research universities in Europe. Leuven is one of the oldest university towns in Europe, about 30 km from Brussels. It has a rich history, culture and night life, and a unique friendly atmosphere.

The project

Feelings are an important aspect of people's lives. As a result, affect has been an important topic of research in both psychology and the neurosciences. However, despite the progress in both areas, there remains a large explanatory gap between neurobiological findings and findings on (functional and dysfunctional) human affective behavior. In this project, we propose a biologically inspired, mathematically well-understood, and numerically tractable computational model to close this gap. Our model is a multiple attractor network containing stochastic binary neurons that compute the key affective features of a stimulus such as pleasantness, unpleasantness and intensity. This is consistent with recent neurobiological research that has identified neurons coding for affective features. The model is able to explain in a unified way several major empirical findings from multiple time series at the behavioral level. In this PhD research, the mathematical properties of  the model will be studied, and a sound Bayesian methodology for statistical inference will be developed. The statistical methods will further be implemented efficiently in user-friendly software so that substantive affect researchers can fit the model to their data. It is our aim to test the model for a number of prototypical data sets. The data are collected both in the lab and in daily life, from both normal persons and individuals with an emotional disorder.

Your profile

Candidates eligible for this project have a Master's degree with a solid background in mathematics and scientific computing. Knowledge of (statistical) physics and/or statistics is an asset. Typically, eligible candidates have a Master's degree in Physics, (Mathematical) Engineering, Statistics, Quantitative Psychology, or a related discipline. In addition, excellent English reporting skills are required.

What do we offer?

We offer a 4-year PhD position (starting on October 1, 2016), an encouraging daily guidance, a stimulating research environment in which creativity is rewarded, facilities for taking advanced courses with immediate relevance for the research project and for presenting research results at international conferences, and a net grant of approx. 1850 euro per month. You will be asked to do some teaching, but that will be minimal.


For more information please contact Francis Tuerlinckx ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). You can apply for this job no later than May 22, 2016 via the online application tool.