We are looking for 2 postdocs to join a new research project lead by Prof. dr. Han van der Maas (PI), supported by an ERC advanced grant.

The project is hosted by the Psychological Methods group of the University of Amsterdam, one of the largest and most successful research and education centres in the field of psychological methods. Its main areas of research are network analysis, Bayesian statistics, mathematical psychology, and psychometrics.

The ERC project group of van der Maas will consist of two postdocs and 4 PhD students. The core hypothesis of this ERC proposal is that main changes in scientifically important and societal relevant psycho-social systems can be characterized as cascading transitions(Dekker et al., 2018, Earth Sys. Dyn.), where transitions within persons are embedded in transitions at the between person level. For instance, one teenager may initiate a surge of smoking in her peer group, while another just follows this suddenly emerging trend. Another example is individual radicalization in a polarizing society.

The main objective is to understand how these cascading transitions work, when they occur, how they can be prevented or triggered, and how they can be predicted. An example paper of this approach is van der Maas et al. (2020, J. of. Complex systems). To meet this overall objective, we will develop a formal modelling framework and an empirical approach for the study of cascading transitions in psycho-social systems and apply this methodology to a) opinion change, b) drop-out in learning processes, c) the psycho-social dynamics of addiction and d) multistable perception. Cascading transition models will consist of social contagion ‘agent based’ models in which each agent is governed by a phase transition model. The specific phase transition models within agents and models of interactions between agents will be developed based on existing domain specific knowledge in the field of application. The empirical approach consists of reviews, reinterpretation, re-analysis of existing datasets and new experimental studies.

What are you going to do

The postdocs are responsible for the formal modelling part of the project. The basic plans are stated below. These will be adapted to the interest and expertise of the hired candidates.

One postdoc (A: dynamics within persons) focuses on psychological models of transition within a person. The postdoc will construct a toolbox for modelling transitions in psychology and the social sciences, based on a review and classification of non-linear dynamical system models in biology, chemistry and physics that give rise ‘catastrophic’ behaviour and an inventory of network models (e.g., Ising type models) that undergo phase transitions (Finneman et al., 2021, Psych). The end goal is to develop concrete mathematical models for opinions, learning, perception and addiction in collaboration with the four PhD students. Research team: PI + R. Grasman, L. Waldorp + external members

The second postdoc (B: dynamics between persons) focuses on formal models of social contagion (e.g., sociophysics, opinion dynamic models, agent-based models). The goals are to provide 1) as an integrative review of how the cascading transition model has emerged in very different research areas (e.g., neural networks, climate research), 2) to compare the cascading transition model of van der Maas (2020, Journal of complex systems) with existing models of social contagion, 3) and develop novel social models for opinions, learning, and addiction in collaboration with the PhD students. PI + R. Grasman, M. Marsman + external members.

Teaching is limited to 5% of time, assisting in courses and supervising master students. If desired by the candidate more teaching is possible.

What do we require

You have:

  • A doctorate with specialization in areas such as statistical physics, computer science or mathematical biology/psychology;
  • A good publication track record;
  • Research expertise relevant to one of the postdoc positions;
  • An interest in the formal modelling of psycho-social systems;
  • The willingness and capacity to work and interact in a multidisciplinary team;
  • Written and spoken command of English, as demonstrated by academic publications and presentations at international conferences.

You are available to start between January and July 1st 2023.

What can we offer you

The position concerns temporary employment of 38 hours per week. The initial employment is for two years. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended for two years to a total duration of 4 years. For this position the University Job Classification profile ‘onderzoeker 3’ applies.

Salary depends on past education and relevant work experience, with a minimum salary of € 3.974 and a maximum salary of € 5.439 gross per month based on a full-time appointment for a 38-hour working week (in keeping with scale 11, as per the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary employee benefits, including a generous holiday scheme and year-end bonus. Because we value your continued personal development and professionalisation, we also offer excellent opportunities for study and development.

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 Han van der Maas, Professor of Psychological Methods. E-mail: h.l.j.vandermaas@uva.nl

Job application

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 21 October 2022. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications in 1 pdf should include your CV and covering letter. Covering letter (max 500 words) should address your fit to one or both projects (see ‘what you will do, requirements and the cited papers).

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, please try using a VPN connection when outside of the European Union. You can reach out to our HR Department if the error continues. They will gladly help you with your application. 

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