PhD Candidate for the project 'Modelling Common Ground for Theory of Mind'

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: 16 Jun 2023

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The Faculty of Science and the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) are looking for a:

PhD Candidate for the project ‘Modelling Common Ground for Theory of Mind’
Vacancy number: 13727

Key responsibilities
The candidate will design agent-based models and execute lab experiments in which humans and AI agents collaborate on various tasks. The aim is to study when and to what degree ‘common ground’ (or ‘shared intentionality’) emerges, and how this is affected by various factors such as memory, analogical reasoning, communication, and cultural transmission. Understanding this informs the creation of computational ToM models for agent-human collaboration.
The project takes place within the Hybrid Intelligence Centre (see below) and is jointly supervised by dr. Max van Duijn (Leiden University) and prof. Rineke Verbrugge (University of Groningen).

Selection Criteria

  • Background in AI, Computer Science, Computational Cognitive Science, Computational Linguistics, Logic, or equivalent
  • Excellent communication skills in English
  • Intrinsic drive to engage in interdisciplinary research
  • Motivated to play an active role within the HI consortium (see below)

Preferably, candidates have demonstrable experience in agent-based modelling and/or experimental work involving human participants. Initial selection takes place on the basis of a brief motivation letter, CV, a fragment of written work (e.g. master’s thesis, article, academic paper). Selected candidates will be invited to an on-site interview including a short presentation.

Research at our faculty
The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to contribute to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.
The research carried out at the Faculty of Science is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2.300 staff and almost 5,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.
For more information, see and

Terms and conditions
We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary ranges from € 2,541,- to € 3,247,- gross per month (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).
Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and an end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), and opportunities for training, career development, and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.
All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science . Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training, and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by national research schools.

D&I statement
Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.

We aim to create hybrid intelligence for everyone, see also our Diversity Statement . To do this, we need an inclusive and diverse team of researchers. We especially encourage people from underrepresented groups to apply for this job.

About the project – If two agents collaborate on a task, they will need a shared understanding of the goal they are working towards. Implicitly or explicitly, they will negotiate about the steps that need to be taken on the way. This warrants a constant need for Theory of Mind (ToM), i.e., the ability to empathize with others and understand the situation from their perspective. It has been shown that ToM builds in part on innate capacities that develop in early infancy, go back a long way in our evolutionary history, and are shared with other species across nature. For another part, ToM relies on common ground, which can be roughly divided into two types: (i) based on learning from one’s own experiences, and (ii) based on social and cultural learning, i.e., “passed down” experience that others have made and that has accumulated in social norms and conventions. The current project studies the emergence of common ground in computational models and human-AI experiments.
About the Hybrid Intelligence Centre –The Hybrid Intelligence Centre is a large 10-year nationwide research programme funded by the Dutch Government. Hybrid Intelligence (HI) is the combination of human and machine intelligence, expanding human intellect instead of replacing it. Our goal is to design Hybrid Intelligent systems, an approach to Artificial Intelligence that puts humans at the centre, changing the course of the ongoing AI revolution. You will be part of the Hybrid Intelligence Centre that offers training and opportunities for joint research and technical support. More information about our research programme can be found here .

Enquiries can be made with Max van Duijn ( ) and Rineke Verbrugge ( ). If you have any questions about the procedure, please send an email to Anne-Marie

Please submit online your application no later than June 16, 2023, via the blue button in our application system. Please ensure that you attach the following additional documents, quoting the vacancy number. Interviews are scheduled to take place in June 2023.

  • motivation letter
  • CV
  • a fragment of written work (e.g. master’s thesis, article, academic paper)

Note that this job opening is one of several job openings on the HI page with job openings. You can apply to more than just this one. If you do so, please inform the Hybrid Intelligence Centre’s Project Manager via email of the projects you are applying to.

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