Universiteit Leiden

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Junior Research Assistant in Psychology

Vacancy number
Function type
Non-academic staff
Hours (in fte)
0.75 FTE
External/ internal
Contract type
Placed on
12 December 2017
Closing date
01 February 2018

13 more days to apply

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Institute of Psychology, the Cognitive Psychology and Developmental and Educational Psychology Units has a position available as Junior Research Assistant in Psychology (0.75 FTE).


Key Responsibilities

About the Research Project "Mimicry in high and low socially anxious individuals. An evolutionary perspective”:
During social interactions, people communicate their emotions and intentions through signals such as smiles and yawns but oftentimes also express their state of mind unconsciously, through cues such as pupil dilation or blushing. Whether communicated intentionally or not, interaction partners perceive and oftentimes mimic these emotional messages and consequently emotionally converge with the sender, which smoothens the bond (Preston & de Waal, 2002). In people suffering from social anxiety this process may be disrupted. These people are extremely anxious in situations in which they may be scrutinized by others (APA, 2013), such as social interaction, and their social performance tends to suffer (e.g. Clark & Wells, 1995). One particularity of the behavior of socially anxious individuals is that they show less mimicry of the behavior of others (e.g., Vrijsen, Lange, Becker & Rinck, 2010). However, it is as yet unclear whether this is a conscious, motivational strategy or a more basic difference in social information processing. Virtual Reality (VR) provides an excellent opportunity to study individual differences in mimicry as avatars can be programmed to mimic their observers or not. In order to examine the use of mimicry from an evolutionary perspective, this project will also compare human mimicry with that of our closest living relatives, the highly social bonobo, and another closely related great ape species that leads a semi-solitary living, the orangutan.

This pilot project aims to study mimicry of two autonomic behaviors that cannot be consciously controlled, being pupil size and blushing, and two behaviors that can be consciously controlled in principle, namely, head movements and smiling. The RA will be responsible for creating a virtual environment and an avatar whose behavior can be fully controlled. That is, by preprogramming and by making behavior contingent upon participants’ behavior, which opens up possibilities to rigorously study behavior of socially anxious individuals during social interaction as well as mimicry of autonomic behaviors in humans and apes.
The project will run in parallel with ongoing projects in the CoPAN lab, directed by Dr. Mariska Kret and the Social Anxiety lab, of which Dr. Esther van den Bos is a member. The research groups participate in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), an interfaculty center for interdisciplinary research on brain and cognition.

  • Creating a virtual environment and virtual agents;
  • Setting up a study;
  • Testing participants;
  • Analysing data.

Selection Criteria

  • Minimal a BS.c. in psychology, neuroscience or computer science/artificial intelligence;
  • Experience with Unity or other VR programs;
  • Knowledge of experimental software (e.g. e-prime);
  • Knowledge of programming (e.g., Matlab, R, C, Python);
  • Knowledge of acquiring and analysing psychophysiological data;
  • Strong research motivation;
  • Excellent technical skills;
  • Excellent command of English;
  • Willingness to write an NWO Talent application for extending this into a PhD project.

Our Faculty/Institute

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. The Faculty is home to 5,000 students and 600 members of staff.
The Institute of Psychology comprises six units for teaching and research: Health, Medical and Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental and Educational Psychology, Social and Organizational Psychology, and Methodology and Statistics. The Institute of Psychology offers a stimulating environment that promotes collaboration within and between units.

Terms and condition

We offer a fixed-term post for 7 months, starting from March, which can possibly be expanded to 1.0 FTE with some teaching duties. Salary range for a full-time working week from €2,465 to €3,292 gross per month (pay scale 8, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).


Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries can be made to Dr. Mariska Kret.

More vacancies and information via https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/vacancies.


Please submit online your application via our application system by using the blue button at the top of this text. Applicants should submit online a letter of interest accompanied by a detailed CV.