PhD position in Decision Neuroscience

Updated: 21 days ago
Deadline: 15 Jan 2023

Abstract

The Erasmus Center for Neuroeconomics seeks a highly motivated PhD student looking to study decision-making using neuroscience methods (fMRI or EEG). Strong applicants typically have backgrounds in (cognitive) psychology, (cognitive) neuroscience, neuroeconomics, or data science, and are looking to pursue careers as world-class academic researchers. At our Center, students define and execute their own projects in consultation with their advisers, and thus need creativity, self-direction, and a passion for scientific research.


Keywords

neuroeconomics, consumer neuroscience, decision-making, fMRI, EEG


Topic

The Erasmus Center for Neuroeconomics is hosted by the Marketing department at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), which ranks among the best in the world. Department members publish their research in top journals in marketing as well as related fields such as psychology and neuroscience. They deeply care about open science practices (e.g., data sharing and open-source software), and frequently host seminars to encourage knowledge exchange. The group is diverse (in terms of research interests and cultural background), collaborative, and collegial.

Our PhD program seeks to train the next generation of academics. We want our students to maximize their potential and become independent scholars. We expect students to become experts in and define a research agenda around a topic of their choosing. As such, PhD positions in our group are open. During their years of study, students define and execute their own projects. They do this in consultation with their advisers, but may also work with other faculty, including those at other institutes.

Within the department, researchers at the Center for Neuroeconomics work on a wide range of topics in decision neuroscience such as understanding the neurological basis of emotions, social conformity, dishonesty, charitable giving, consumer judgments and predicting population-level outcomes from neural data.

For example, in our recent work on dishonesty we found that dishonest behavior is driven by the motivation to obtain rewards, self-referential processing and cognitive control in interaction with individual differences in the default inclination to be honest or dishonest. A combination behavioral experiments, task and resting-state fMRI and EEG was applied. This work was published in PNAS, Journal of Neuroscience, NeuroImage and in a synthesizing review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences (see (Speer et al., 2021; Speer et al., 2020, 2022a, 2022b)).

We often study naturalistic stimuli such as commercials and movietrailers to understand the processing and persuasiveness of such videos. For example, the dynamic affective responses to naturalistic videos were decoded with shared neural patterns (Chan et al., 2020)and we identified in the neural patterns driving advertising recall and advertising liking (Chan et al., 2019). Novel decoding methods were also applied to measure brand associations and brand image (Chan et al., 2018). This work was published in Neuroimage and Journal of Marketing Research.

In work on neuroforecasting we found gamma oscillations to be predictive of market-level movie box office success (Boksem & Smidts, 2015) and the nucleus accumbens to be predictive of crowd funding and microlending success (Genevsky et al., 2017; Genevsky & Knutson, 2015; Knutson & Genevsky, 2018). This work was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Marketing Research, and Psychological Science.

Projects of current PhDs in our Center focus on the role of narratives in the persuasive appeal of advertising, the fundamental processes underlying neuroforecasting, and social credit scores.

In addition to standard required course work, decision neuroscience students typically take courses in neuroscience, experimental design, advanced statistics such as multi-level models, programming, machine learning, and seminars in consumer behavior. Moreover, the department offers a workshop series that includes seminars on a variety of topics, content, skills, and method related. Examples are: How to publish successfully, how to prepare for the job market, how to analyze voice-data, how to manage your data and code. These workshops are hosted by internal and external faculty members, which enables students to get to know excellent researchers and establish their own (international) network.

Note : Applicants seeking to work at the intersection of neuroscience and another discipline (quantitative marketing and/or consumer behavior) should indicate this preference in their application and discuss their motivation for interdisciplinary research.


Approach

Experience with EEG and/or fMRI is required for this position. Experience or interest in more advanced fMRI methods, such as multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), representational similarity analysis (RSA), classification algorithms, prediction models, or multivariate approaches to EEG data analyses is a definite plus. Experience with and affinity for programming, particularly in Python (or otherwise Matlab or R) is a must.

In addition to fMRI and EEG, we make use of eye-tracking, facial coding, hormone measurement/administration and behavioral measures in our research.

Students have access to world-class research facilities:

  • The Erasmus Behavioral Lab provides facilities to conduct high-quality behavioral research, including sound-insulated cubicles, group labs, video labs, and facilities for eye tracking, EEG/ERP, facial coding, and hormone-administration studies.
  • High-performance computing is available to researchers via SURFSara (a Dutch consortium for scientific computing).
  • Researchers have access to multiple MRI scanners at the Erasmus Medical Centre.

Required profile

We seek candidates with the following qualities:

  • Intellectual curiosity, eagerness to learn, and openness to criticism and other perspectives
  • Strong commitment to methodological rigor and scientific integrity
  • Strong motivation to pursue an international career as a leading scholar
  • Excellent speaking and writing ability in fluent English, ideally with experience writing for a scientific audience
  • Willingness and motivation to independently formulate research projects and carry them through to completion
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Masters’ degree (preferably a Research Master´s or MPhil degree)
  • Background in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, neuroeconomics
  • A definite interest of applying knowledge to the field of decision-making
  • Prior experience analysing fMRI data using techniques such as MVPA, as well as neural reliability (inter-subject correlations in neural activity), or prior experience with applying multivariate techniques with EEG

Required by ERIM

All application documents required by ERIM can be found here: https://www.erim.eur.nl/doctoral-programme/phd-in-management/admissions/application/

Below are the test scores required by ERIM:

- GMAT/GRE scores above the 85th percentile, not older than 5 years

- IELTS/TOEFL test scores, not older than 2 years:

  IELTS: minimum overall band score 7.5; no band score lower than 6.5

  Internet-based TOEFL: minimum total score 100, no sub-score lower than 23

  Paper-based TOEFL: minimum score 600


Expected output

You will generate research that can be published in top-tier peer-reviewed journals in either neuroscience (Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron, Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Neuroimage), but also marketing (Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing). The marketing group at RSM has a strong record publishing in these and other top journals in related fields, including Management, Psychology, and Economics. The final results of the PhD project are published in a PhD dissertation, and most chapters in marketing PhD dissertations at RSM find their way into top journals.


Cooperation

To strengthen your international research network and complement your time at RSM, you will receive funding for a 3- to 6-month research visit at a top international university. Past visits of PhD students from our department have included Stanford, Wharton, Harvard, Chicago, Colorado, Cornell, Columbia, and UCLA. At our Center we are well connected to international groups in consumer neuroscience and neuroeconomics.


Societal relevance

Students are encouraged to pursue topics that are not only of theoretical interest, but also improve consumer or societal well-being, and thus align closely with the school’s mission to be a force for positive change in the world.


Scientific relevance

PhD research should be of the highest quality, carried out with scientific rigor and the utmost integrity. The department values openness and encourages students to embrace the principles and tools of open science (e.g., making code and data available to others and pre-registering experiments). The marketing group conducts research in our core field of marketing, as well as related disciplines such as management, psychology, judgment and decision making, neuroscience, economics, and statistics. Our diversity and interdisciplinarity make the department a lively, creative, and intellectually stimulating place to conduct research.


Literature references & data sources

Please visit the website for the Center for Neuroeconomics (https://www.erim.eur.nl/neuroeconomics/ ) for more information on current research projects and to check out the profiles of the researchers affiliated with the Center (https://www.erim.eur.nl/neuroeconomics/researchers/ ).

References

Boksem, M. A. S., & Smidts, A. (2015). Brain Responses to Movie Trailers Predict Individual Preferences for Movies and Their Population-Wide Commercial Success. Journal of Marketing Research, 52(4), 482–492. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.13.0572

Chan, H.-Y., Boksem, M., & Smidts, A. (2018). Neural Profiling of Brands: Mapping Brand Image in Consumers’ Brains with Visual Templates. Journal of Marketing Research, 55(4), 600–615. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.17.0019

Chan, H.-Y., Smidts, A., Schoots, V. C., Dietvorst, R. C., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2019). Neural similarity at temporal lobe and cerebellum predicts out-of-sample preference and recall for video stimuli. NeuroImage, 197, 391–401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.076

Chan, H.-Y., Smidts, A., Schoots, V. C., Sanfey, A. G., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2020). Decoding dynamic affective responses to naturalistic videos with shared neural patterns. NeuroImage, 216, 116618. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116618

Genevsky, A., & Knutson, B. (2015). Neural Affective Mechanisms Predict Market-Level Microlending. Psychological Science, 26(9), 1411–1422. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615588467

Genevsky, A., Yoon, C., & Knutson, B. (2017). When Brain Beats Behavior: Neuroforecasting Crowdfunding Outcomes. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(36), 8625–8634. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.1633-16.2017

Knutson, B., & Genevsky, A. (2018). Neuroforecasting Aggregate Choice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(2), 110–115. doi.org/10.1177/0963721417737877

Speer, S. P. H., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2020). Cognitive control increases honesty in cheaters but cheating in those who are honest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(32), 202003480. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2003480117

Speer, S. P. H., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2022a). Cognitive control and dishonesty. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 26(9), 796–808. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2022.06.005

Speer, S. P. H., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2022b). Individual differences in (dis)honesty are represented in the brain’s functional connectivity at rest. NeuroImage, 246, 118761. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118761

Speer, S. P., Smidts, A., & Boksem, M. A. S. (2021). Cognitive Control Promotes Either Honesty or Dishonesty, Depending on One’s Moral Default. The Journal of Neuroscience, 41(42), 8815–8825. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.0666-21.2021

Further Information

If you have any questions regarding our PhD programme, you may join the “open office hour” hosted by our PhD programme coordinator, Anne-Kathrin Klesse (klesse@rsm.nl )  on November 25 at 3pm – 4:30 pm (CET) hosted on Zoom. You do not need to sign up. Just log in if you have any questions.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://eur-nl.zoom.us/j/6963613052?pwd=VVpLKzVVM1p3TlFlYzkzU1VLR2lsdz09

Meeting ID: 696 361 3052

Passcode: 25112022


Employment conditions

ERIM offers fully-funded and salaried PhD positions, which means that accepted PhD candidates become employees (promovendi) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO) .


Contact Information

For questions regarding the PhD application and selection procedure, please check the Admissions or send us an e-mail via phdadmissions@erim.eur.nl .


Erasmus Research Institute of Management

ERIM is the research institute of management at Erasmus University Rotterdam, founded by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), both of which excel in their research and teaching programmes. The level and international character of their research and teaching programmes has put both schools at the forefront of academic excellence. They offer a diversified portfolio of accredited teaching and research programmes, ranging from pre-experience MSc to postgraduate Masters and executive development, and from fundamental research to applied research and business support, which are renowned throughout the world. RSM is one of the few schools worldwide that holds a triple accreditation from the AMBAs, EQUIS and the AASCB, and is positioned among the top European business schools. The scientific staff of both schools plays a major role in the schools’ interaction with the international business community.

ERIM distinguishes itself by the high-level and international character of its research and has repeatedly been ranked among top 3 research institutes in Europe. ERIM’s key aims are top-quality academic research with impact both on academia and managerial practice, and the advancement of international academic careers and high-level support for both research and doctoral education. For more information about ERIM please visit [link:https://www.erim.eur.nl].


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