mardi 27 décembre 2016

3 Funded PhD positions

Cross cultural and cross species investigation into joint attention and infant development

I have three related PhD positions to work on a large-scale 5 year project starting in October 2017.

Humans frequently coordinate and share attention about objects and events. Our basic ability to engage in joint attention (JA) is thought to underpin our uniquely complex cooperation skills and language, raising the possibility that the emergence of JA was a ‘small change that made a big difference’ in the evolution of human cognition. Despite the theoretical importance of JA for understanding human social cognition, we know surprisingly little about JA across species and cultures. 

Aims of the project
This project will collect longitudinal data on mother-infant dyads over the first 2 years of the infant’s life, across four different study groups: Ugandan and British humans; wild chimpanzees and wild crested macaque monkeys. The project will develop novel tasks and measures that allow the same set of data to be collected in directly comparable ways across species to test of whether engagement in JA is a uniquely human trait. Data from the two human groups will test how different elements of JA are related and whether JA develops in a uniform way across cultures. Longitudinal data on mother-infant interactions and the infant’s environment will be related to performance on JA tasks across all four groups, enabling us to identify conditions that are likely necessary for JA to emerge. Performance on JA and cooperative tasks will be compared to assess whether engagement in JA predicts the later emergence of cooperation.

PhD positions
Three PhD students will work on this project alongside two post-doctoral researchers and focus on the chimpanzee and Ugandan and British human study groups. Each PhD student will work a ‘primary’ group for 2 years and a ‘secondary’ group for one year (Positions (i) Chimpanzees and British humans; (ii) British and Ugandan humans, and (iii) Ugandan humans and chimpanzees). As this is a longitudinal study each PhD student can expect to spend substantial lengths of time in Uganda living and working in challenging and basic field conditions:  for (i) 20 months over 2 years; (ii) 10 months over 1 year and (iii) 30 months over 3 years).

All positions: Good BSc degree in Psychology or Biology with excellent project mark (completed or expected by October 2017); Experience of fieldwork in remote third world conditions; Experience of interacting with young human infants (0-2 years old), excellent communication skills, evidence of effective working in a team
Positions (i) and (iii): experience of conducting behavioural research with animals
Positions (i) and (ii): driving license to enable home visits to participants

All positions: Relevant Masters degree; experience of conducting child/infant research
Position (ii): Experience of cross cultural research
Positions (ii) and (iii): Proficiency in learning new languages or familiarity with Swahili
Positions (i) and (iii): Experience of working with chimpanzees

I expect PhD students to suggest additional, complementary research questions that could be answered with data collected on their study groups, alongside the core project work (e.g. infant development or behavior of the mother).

I expect to be able to offer full funding (home/EU fees and stipend of ~£14,000/year) for four years: Due to the longitudinal nature of this study requiring a prolonged period of data collection, full funding will be available for 3 years +writing-up year (4 years total), but the PhD must still be completed within the 4-year period. Fieldwork travel costs will be paid for. Further details will be confirmed in March 2017.

Interested candidates should apply by emailing me ( the following documents:
1.      CV
2.      Cover letter indicating how you meet the essential and desirable requirements for the position you are most interested in.
3.      Research proposal consisting of:
a.       An outline of how could we test joint attention in a comparable way in your study groups (Maximum 300 words)
b.      An outline of complementary research questions that could be answered with data collected on your study groups, alongside the core project work. Please state the research question(s), say why its important and novel (in comparison to what has already been discovered in that area) and how you might tackle it (e.g. outline methodology). Maximum 500 words.

The deadline for applications is 1200 (midday) Wednesday 25th January 2017. I will invite the top candidates for interview (in person, or skype)in early February 2017, with a view to offering positions by mid-February 2017.

Katie Slocombe
Dept of Psychology
University of York