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2 PhDs for project about the causes and consequences of societal threat perceptions

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University of Amsterdam

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2 PhDs for project about the causes and consequences of societal threat perceptions

Faculteit/Dienst:  Faculteit der Maatschappij- & Gedragswetenschappen
Opleidingsniveau:  Master
Functie type:  Promotieplaats
Sluitingsdatum:  17 April 2023
Vacaturenummer:  11360

We are looking for 2 PhD candidates to join a new research project lead by Dr. Bert N. Bakker (PI), supported by an NWO VIDI grant. The project is embedded in the Hot Politics Lab (an interdisciplinary research group focusing on political psychology) and the Amsterdam School of Communication Research at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
This project starts with the observations that with a pandemic, the war in Ukriane, climate change, terrorist attacks, and financial meltdowns, we have in the last twenty years experienced multiple threats that potentially could have (or will in the future) fundamentally alter our way of life. Threats have adverse effects when they erode democratic stability by sparking violence and fuelling support for anti-democratic politics. However, threats might benefit society when they trigger desired behaviour, such as reducing the eco-footprint or getting a vaccination. Given the complex role of threat in society, it is crucial to understand better the processes underlying people’s threat perceptions and develop strategies for mitigating the adverse effects and stimulating the beneficial effects of threat perceptions on democracy and society. This project bridges theories from communication science, psychology, and neuroscience by the overarching research question: How do people perceive and regulate threats and adopt political attitudes and behaviours to counter these threats.

In this project, we will be studying the explicit (self-reported) and implicit (psychophysiological) instantiations of threats and their interplay. To do this, the project will use an innovative mixed-methods design: in-depth interviews, cross-country surveys, survey experiments, and laboratory experiments, as well as intensive experience sampling studies that track threats over multiple days. The project description can be found here.

What are you going to do

The basic plans for the PhD projects are stated below. These will be adapted to the interest and expertise of the hired candidates.
PhD 1  focuses on the causes and consequences of societal threats. Research in political communication suggests elite cues cause people to see issues and events as threatening or not. Drawing upon appraisal theory (Scherer & Moors, 2019), one might expect that controllability and distance to the threat are causing threat perceptions. Step 1 in this project is to study the causes (elite cues, framing) that elicit perceptions of societal threats among citizens. In step 2, we will be exploring the causes of these societal threat perceptions to answer the question whether citizens adopt political attitudes and behaviours to counter the threat. The empirical approach of this project consists of survey-experiments, laboratory-based experiments using physiological measures (skin conductance, facial EMG) as well as eye-tracking, and computer-assisted content analysis.
PhD 2  focuses on the question to what extent citizens regulate societal threats, and to what extent does the regulation of threat condition the effects of threats on politics? In this project, we will be analysing the common threat regulation strategies in response to societal threats and their effect on political attitudes and behaviours to tackle the threat. In response to a threat, people could, for instance, engage in: cognitive reappraisal and reframe situations to change the emotional impact (e.g., climate change is threatening, but there is hope as climate change offers opportunities to recreate a better society); down-regulation and lower the intensity of the threat (about, for instance, climate change); or distraction and direct attention away from the threat (e.g., shifting attention from climate change to other (non-)political topics that are not threatening). PhD 2 will be exploring why, when and how people regulate societal and imagined threats and the consequences this has for the effects of threats on politics. The empirical approach consists of in-depth interviews, surveys, experience sampling (or diary) studies, and experiments.

What do you have to offer

You are:

  • eager to contribute to the scientific field;
  • curious to combine insights from communication science, political science and psychology, both theoretically and methodologically;
  • motivated to share your knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences;
  • strongly committed to methodological rigor and scientific integrity;
  • curious and eager to learn new skills, theoretical perspectives and practical issues;
  • motivated to contribute to the Hot Politics Lab and Amsterdam School of Communication Research.

Your experience and profile:

You have:

  • a (Research) Master’s degree in Communication Science, Political Science, Psychology or a related field;
  • experience with physiological or eye-tracking data acquisition and data analysis is highly desired (especially in case of PhD 1);
  • a firm basis in and ideally experience with research methods and data analysis, in particular: experimentation (survey & laboratory), computer-assisted content analysis ( in case of PhD 1), and experience sampling studies (in case of PhD 2);
  • experience in and commitment to engage work following open science principles such as replication and preregistration (including power analyses);
  • basic programming skills (in R or Python) or high motivation to learn scientific computing;
  • an excellent written and spoken command of English,
  • being able to speak and write in Dutch is desirable but not necessary;
  • excellent social and organizational skills.

What can we offer you

The planned start date is September 1st, 2023 but there is some flexibility about the starting date. The position concerns temporary employment of 1.0 fte (38 hours per week) for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. In consultation with the supervision team, the successful candidate will design a custom curriculum which will also include the opportunity to attend training courses and both national and international events. Teaching can be part of the tasks.

Your salary will be €2541 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3247 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education

What else do we offer

  • a position in which initiative and input are highly valued
  • an enthusiastic, uniquely interdisciplinary, and warm team that is open to new colleagues.
  • an inspiring academic and international working environment in the heart of Amsterdam.

About us

The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 39,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.
About the faculty

A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

Job application

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by April 17, 2023. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications in .pdf should include:

  • a curriculum vitae;
  • a letter of motivation in which you also specify your preferences for PhD1, PhD2 or both (max 2 pages);
  • the contact details of two academic references;
  • Proof of your Master’s degree, including grade transcripts. If you have not completed your degree at the time of application, include grade transcripts plus a statement regarding the expected date of completion of your degree.
  • a research proposal of max 500 words in which you design a study that would fit within the scope of PhD1 or PhD2. See for more information about the project here. Try to be as explicit as possible. In general: make sure that the proposal is clear, concise and coherent. What might help: try to write the proposal for someone else. This person should be able to conduct the study based on your proposal only.

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

If you encounter Error GBB451/ GBC451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.

No agencies please.

To apply for this job please visit

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