SCOOP - PhD position at the (Sub)Department of Social Psychology (1.0 FTE)

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 08 Jul 2022

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences is a centre of knowledge focusing on individuals and society. The faculty studies issues relating to human behaviour, and the relationships between people and society as a whole. This includes the study of how people function under normal circumstances, but also of the problems encountered by individuals or groups, and how these can be resolved or prevented. The Department of Social Psychology is part of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences.

“Online pain or online gain? Can the exposure of disagreement paradoxically render online communication a medium suited to sustainable cooperation?”

Function description
Online communication is often regarded as promoting conflict rather than cooperation: people are disinhibited (Suler, 2004), disagreements escalate very easily (Roos et al., 2020), and bipolarization seems inevitable (Kiesler et al., 1984). In these studies, however, it is often very difficult to disentangle which factor causes this: structural and strategic factors are intertwined with conversational factors, both of which can be related to the affordances and limitations of the medium. Features of online communication (e.g., isolation, anonymity) can result in reduced accountability and more direct and disinhibited communication (strategic factors; see the SIDE model; Spears & Lea, 1994; Spears, Lea & Postmes, 2001) with deleterious consequences (disinhibition, flaming, trolling, etc.). At the same time aspects of the online medium, even when virtual rather than text-based, can disrupt conversational flow (e.g., due to time lags), undermining the normal nuances of FtF communication (Koudenburg et al., 2013; 2017; Roos et al., 2020). There is now much research demonstrating the downside of online communication for all these reasons. However, most of this research is focused on short time perspectives and much less is known about how such factors might affect cooperation emerging through such communication in the long run. Paradoxically there may be reasons to be more optimistic: our central thesis is that the very same factors that may cause online communication to undermine short-term cooperation may actually rebound in positive ways in the longer term (a virtuous cycle or feedback loop). The central aim is therefore to examine whether the very same factors that can undermine communication and cooperation online compared to in offline/face-to-face communication (FtF), notably 1) impaired conversation flow and 2) strategic concerns associated with features of the medium, may actually facilitate cooperation in the longer term, paradoxically enhancing the prospects of sustainable cooperation.

This project will be based in the Department of Social Psychology (the main discipline; supervisors: Dr Namkje Koudenburg and Prof Russell Spears) but is part of an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Philosophy Department (supervisor: Dr Leah Henderson) within the SCOOP zwaartekracht project.

See the link below for a more detailed description of the project:

The project is part of the transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research programme SCOOP: Roadmaps to Resilient Societies (see: ). SCOOP is a research and training centre dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of sustainable cooperation as a key feature of resilient societies. SCOOP brings together researchers of the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, VU Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Radboud University Nijmegen. The PhD student will participate in the SCOOP PhD training program, see:

Ideal candidates should have:

  • (almost) finished a (research) master's degree in the domain of Social Psychology, or a related discipline
  • a solid training in social psychology, quantitative methods and statistics
  • eagerness to learn to work in an interdisciplinary research team and to conduct interdisciplinary research in the SCOOP programme
  • an excellent academic record
  • eagerness to publish international articles and write a dissertation
  • demonstrable competences as conceptual capacity, presenting, monitoring, planning and organizing
  • good social and communication skills
  • excellent command of English and academic writing skills
  • motivation and ability to teach in undergraduate sociology courses.

In accordance with the collective labor agreement for Dutch Universities, we offer:

  • a gross salary of € 2,443 gross per month in the first year to a maximum of € 3,122 gross per month in the final year (salary scale PhD), based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% year-end bonus on the annual gross income
  • attractive secondary and market terms of employment
  • job classification in the UFO job profile of PhD
  • a position for four years (fulltime). The successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected
  • a PhD training program is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty (the Kurt Lewin Institute)
  • PhD students in Social Psychology are expected to contribute to the department's undergraduate teaching program.

The planned start date is January 1 2023.

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