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Currently available PhD Positions

The application period for the following projects has ended as of August 28th. There are currently no available positions.

Find general information on the PhD position fb04-0026-wmz-2020 within the RTG here.

Project 1: ADHD in the classroom

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Hanna Christiansen (Clinical Children and Adolescent Psychology)

The subproject “ADHD in the classroom“ of the RTG focuses on teachers’ expectation about children with ADHD (What expectations do they have? Which ones are hard to change? How do teachers’ expectations influence academic achievement of students with ADHD). After assessing those assumptions, the goal for the second stage of the project is to develop a virtual reality classroom as well as an intervention based on the findings gained. The project is thus located at the interface of clinical child and adolescent as well as educational psychology and will be jointly supervised by  (clinical child and adolescent psychology) and  (educational psychology).

The planned PhD project should be completed with a cumulative dissertation. We expect an excellent diploma or master in psychology (or equivalent) as well as excellent methodological and communication skills, experience in research projects as well as the willingness to start the training in clinical child and adolescent psychotherapy. Experiences with children, adolescents and teachers are of benefit.

 

Project 2: Can Bayesian and Resource-Rational Learning Models Explain Individual Differences in the Processing and Prediction of Aversive Stimuli?

Supervision: Prof. Dominik Endres (Theoretical Neuroscience)

In these two sub-projects, we will investigate whether individual humans are Bayesian or resource-rational learners under naturalistic conditions where possible (virtual reality), and in online experiments. Specifically, we will compare the learning dynamics of these models and their dealing with expectation violations to human behavior. For this purpose, we will model chronic and acute pain perception and prediction. The project requires a keen interest in the computational and mathematical modeling of human experimental data. Interest in designing and carrying out such experiments is a plus.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology, or computer science, or cognitive science, or engineering, or physics (Master, Diploma, or comparable) as well as
  • demonstrable programming experience in a high-level language, e.g. Python or Matlab.

We expect you to be interested in:

  • the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • quantitative modeling
  • developing virtual-reality scenarios and technology for research purposes

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • prior exposure to machine learning, associative, Bayesian or other mathematical learning models and Bayesian statistics
  • willing to learn basic German language skills

For further information, please contact Prof. Dominik Endres (dominik.endres@uni-marburg.de).

Project 3: Acquisition, maintenance, and change of threat expectancy

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Christiane Pané-Farré (Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy)

Due to excessive safety and avoidance behavior patients with anxiety disorders or somatic complaints often suffer from significant constraints in their daily functioning. Safety and avoidance behaviors are motivated by expectation of threat or harm. In this project we will study the acquisition, maintenance, and change of threat expectancy via various learning pathways (associative and vicarious learning) in different risk and patient populations in an experimental research setting applying primarily psychophysiological methods.

If requirements are met, the candidate may apply for clinical training in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy (“Marburg Model”) which is offered by the department-associated outpatient psychotherapeutic clinic and the clinical training institute (IPAM).

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master, Diploma, or comparable)
  • excellent knowledge of methods and theories used in clinical and/or experimental psychology research

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • very good English skills (understanding, speaking, reading, writing)
  • willing to learn basic German language skills
  • interest in and enthusiasm for an application of an experimental approach using psychophysiological methods for clinically relevant research questions
  • willingness to learn and apply psychophysiological methods (including handling of relevant hard- and software) and to independently implement such studies

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • practical skills in the planning and implementation of experimental research: i.e., experience in data acquisition and/or data processing and analysis
  • practical experience with acquisition and scoring/analysis of psychophysiological measures (EEG, peripheral physiology, respiration, eyetracking)
  • programming skills (e.g., Presentation, Python or Matlab)

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Christiane Pané-Farré ().

Project 4: Cognitive and Statistical Modeling of Subjective Expectations

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Daniel Heck (Psychological Methods)

This project focuses on cognitive and statistical modeling of subjective expectations in areas such as judgment and decision making and social cognition. The project aims at developing a model for the measurement of interindividual differences in expectations about the truth of factual statements. The model will be tested empirically in web studies to investigate which people tend to belief false statements (e.g., “alternative facts”) and why expectations about the truth of such statements are not revised in the light of contradictory evidence.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology, cognitive science or statistics (Master, Diploma, or comparable)

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • to have excellent grades in courses related to psychological methods and statistics as well as practical skills in statistical data analysis and quantitative modelling
  • Practical skills in R, Python or Matlab

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • prior exposure to cognitive modeling, Bayesian statistics or psychometrics
  • experience in programming and carrying out psychological online studies
  • willing to learn basic German language skills

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Daniel Heck ().

 

Project 5: Expectation violation by eye movements: attribution and compensation

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Alexander Schütz (Sensomotoric Learning)

Eye movements directly change the incoming visual information on the retina. In this project, we plan to investigate how expectations are generated based on information from the peripheral visual field and then compared to information from the central visual field after an eye movement has been executed. We plan to induce expectation violations by manipulating the visual information during the eye movement and to measure the subjective confidence of participants. This will allow us to investigate to which external or internals causes expectation violations are attributed and under which circumstances expectations or movement plans are modified.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree (Master, Diploma, or comparable) in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience or a related field

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • Experience in experimental research on humans

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • Knowledge of visual perception and eye movement control
  • Experience in psychophysical methods and eye tracking
  • Experience in programming and data analysis (e.g. Matlab, Python, R)

For further information, please address to Alexander Schütz ().

 

Project 6: Violations of negative expectations in individuals with high and low anxiety

Supervision: Prof Dr. Erik Mueller (Differential Psychology and Personality Research)

This project investigates how individuals with high vs. low levels of self-reported anxiety respond across cognitive, behavioral and neurophysiological levels when specific worries do not become true, i.e. when negative expectations are violated.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology or, alternatively, in neuroscience or cognitive science (Master, Diploma, or comparable).

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • very good English skills (understanding, speaking, reading, writing)

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • Practical skills in psychophysiological assessment (EEG, peripheral physiology, or fMRI) as acquired in internships, BSc or MSc theses.
  • Background in personality psychology or related discipline
  • Willing to learn basic German language skills

For further information, please address to Erik Mueller ()

 

Project 7: Influences on the use of assimilation, accommodation, and immunization after expectation violation

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Martin Pinquart (Developmental Psychology)

This sub-project will investigate conditions that promote the use of assimilation (attempts to receive future expectation-confirming information), immunization (ignoring or discounting disconfirming information) and accommodation (expectation change) after the receipt of expectation-disconfirming information. The project will consider characteristics of the expectation (e.g., perceived importance), of the discrepant information (e.g., whether the information is better or worse than expected) and of the person (e.g., dispositional tendencies to use the before mentioned three coping styles). Contents of the expectations will relate aspects of human development.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master, Diploma, or comparable)

We expect:

  • interest in the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences related to the project content or developmental psychology in general, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • very good English and German skills (comprehension, speech, reading, writing)
  • good knowledge in quantitative statistics

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Martin Pinquart ().

 

Project 8

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief (Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy)

This project will investigate the role of expectations and their modification in psychological treatments (including psychotherapy motivation). Patient expectations are supposed to play a major role as disorder-maintaining factor, and new approaches of modifying patient’s expectations with psychological interventions should be developed.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master, Diploma, or comparable), including clinical psychological modules.

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, relevant internships, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • to have basic German language skills
  • to have special experience in fields of clinical psychology and psychotherapy, and psychological methods as well as documented practical skills in statistical data analysis

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • interest in a postgraduate psychotherapy training
  • interest in collaborating in large teams

We offer the opportunity to work in dynamic teams with an outstanding sense for collaborative support. We also offer an excellent synergistic approach to link scientific developments with practical psychotherapy trainings, resulting in psychotherapy license (CBT), due to our outpatient clinic facilities. 

For further information, please address to Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief () and Dr. Pia von Blanckenburg ()

 

Project 9: Expectation and selective attention

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Anna Schubö (Cognitive Neuroscience of Perception & Action)

This project examines how humans use selective visual attention to sample visual scenes for information. We assume that humans use prior knowledge acquired in former encounters with similar scenes to predict the most promising parts to attend. This project will examine this assumption by using various visual search tasks. As human observers are usually not aware of the attentional mechanisms they are using, visual attention will be measured by means of behavioral performance, eye tracking and EEG/ERP parameters known to reflect attention deployment.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree (Master, Diploma, or comparable) in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, or a related field
  • a strong theoretical and methodological background in Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

We expect you to be interested in:

  • the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max] specifying your prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, an internship, work as student research assistant, etc.)
  • experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience
  • writing scientific journal papers and presenting scientific work at international conferences

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • experience in cognitive neuroscience methodologies (e.g., EEG, Eye Tracking, Motion Tracking, Modelling)
  • experience in computer programming (e.g., Matlab)
  • presentations of scientific work at international conferences (talk or poster) and / or publications in international scientific journals

For further information, please contact Anna Schubö ().

 

Project 10: Expectation maintenance vs. change in animal models: serotonin – orchestrating associative learning and neuronal plasticity processes

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Markus Wöhr and Prof. Dr. Rainer Schwarting (Behavioral Neuroscience)

We plan to investigate neurobiological mechanisms underlying psychological processes involved in expectation maintenance vs. change after expectation violations by means of a translational approach in rats. The serotonergic (5-HT) system has been repeatedly implicated in cognitive flexibility, with alterations in its components resulting in exaggerated persistence of expectations, as reflected by impairments in extinction and/or reversal learning. Brain 5-HT synthesis depends on the rate limiting enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (gene: TPH2), with extracellular levels of 5-HT being primarily regulated by reuptake through the 5-HT transporter (SERT; gene: SLC6A4). SERT is the target of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a widely used class of antidepressants. SSRIs increase the extracellular levels of serotonin by limiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell through blocking the serotonin transporter. However, as antidepressant effects are only detected after prolonged treatment for several weeks, it is unlikely that the acute increase in extracellular serotonin is responsible for their mood enhancing properties. The delayed onset rather indicates that relatively slow changes in neuronal plasticity processes are crucial candidates to ensure antidepressant effects, most notably adult hippocampal neurogenesis. In fact, a recent series of studies found that the antidepressant effects of SSRIs depend on the treatment context and that adult hippocampal neurogenesis driving these effects is strongly regulated by environmental factors, such as environmental enrichment and juvenile social isolation. Here, we therefore plan to study the interplay between serotonin and environmental factors in expectation maintenance vs. change after expectation violations through an integration of genetic, pharmacological, and neurobiological approaches with behavioral studies in rats.

Further reading:

Braun MD, Kisko TM, Witt SH, RietscheI M, Schwarting RKW & Wöhr M (2019). Long-term environmental impact on object recognition, spatial memory, and reversal learning capabilities in Cacna1c haploinsufficient rats. Human Molecular Genetics, 28, 4113-4131.

Brenes JC,  Lackinger M, Höglinger GU, Schratt G, Schwarting RKW & Wöhr M (2016). Differential effects of social and physical environmental enrichment on brain plasticity, cognition, and ultrasonic communication in rats. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 524, 1586-1607.

Houwing DJ, Staal L, Swart JM, Ramsteijn AS, Wöhr M, de Boer SF, Olivier JDA (2019). Subjecting dams to early life stress and perinatal fluoxetine treatment differentially alters social behavior in young and adult rat offspring. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, e229.

Lukas M & Wöhr M (2015). Endogenous vasopressin, innate anxiety, and the emission of pro-social 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations during social play behavior in juvenile rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 56, 35-44.

Rief W, Barsky AJ, Bingel U, Döring B, Schwarting RKW, Wöhr M & Schweiger U (2016). Rethinking psychopharmacotherapy: The role of treatment context and brain plasticity in antidepressant and antipsychotic interventions. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 60, 51-64.

Valluy J, Bicker S, Aksoy-Aksel A, Lackinger M, Sumer S, Fiore R, Wüst T, Seffer D, Metge F, Dietrich C, Wöhr M, Schwarting RKW & Schratt G (2015). A coding-independent function of an alternative Ube3a transcript during neuronal development. Nature Neuroscience, 18, 666-673.

Wöhr M, Orduz D, Gregory P, Moreno H, Khan U, Vörckel KJ, Wolfer DP, Welzl H, Gall D, Schiffmann S & Schwaller B (2015). Lack of parvalbumin in mice leads to behavioral deficits relevant to all human autism core symptoms and related neural morpho-functional abnormalities. Translational Psychiatry, 5, 525.

Wöhr M, Rippberger H, Schwarting RKW & van Gaalen M (2015). Critical involvement of 5-HT2C receptor function in amphetamine-induced 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in rats. Psychopharmacology, 232, 1817-1829.

Yee N, Schwarting RKW, Fuchs E & Wöhr M (2012). Enhanced production of affective ultrasonic vocalizations during fear learning in adult male rats exposed to maternal immune activation. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 46, 1199-1205.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology, biology, neuroscience or other relevant areas (Master, Diploma, or comparable) as well as
  • demonstrable experience in the research area behavioral neuroscience, particularly in conducting behavioral experiments in rodents.

We expect you to be interested in:

  • the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.),
  • very good English language skills (comprehension, speaking, reading, writing), and
  • laboratory animal training (FELASA or comparable).

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • experience in the research areas neurobiology, psychopharmacology, associate learning and statistics, and
  • willingness to learn basic German language skills.

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Markus Wöhr () or Prof. Dr. Rainer Schwarting ().

 

Project 11: Social-cognitive processes underlying stereotypical expectations and expectation change

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Sarah Teige-Mocigemba (Psychological Diagnostics)

This project will investigate whether stereotypical attitudes – for instance, in the domain of prejudice against minorities – can be reduced using expectation violations. The focus of this project is on the social-cognitive processes underlying the development, persistence, and change of expectations. Most studies will be computerized lab experiments using different diagnostic approaches (e.g., experimental reaction time paradigms, self-report measures, behavioral observations).

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master, Diploma, or comparable).

We expect you:

  • to be interested the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • to have basic German language skills
  • to have excellent grades in courses related to social psychology and psychological methods as well as documented practical skills in statistical data analysis.

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • experience with software applications for psychological lab studies
  • programming skills

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Sarah Teige-Mocigemba ().

 

Project 12: Does the strength of expectancy violation influence whether expectations are maintained or changed?

Supervision: Dr. Metin Uengoer (Associative Learning)

Expectations are based on associations, internal representations of relations between outside events. Associations allow for predictions, and associative learning theories deal with how to use prediction errors to modify associative strengths in order to minimize errors in future predictions. Our aim in this project is to investigate whether the strength of prediction error influences whether acquired expectations are maintained or modified.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree Master, Diploma, or comparable) in Psychology, or Biology, or Cognitive Neuroscience as well as
  • enthusiasm for experimental research, particularly experience in designing and conducting experiments. Preconditions are practical skills in programing experimental control (e.g., with Presentation) and/or data processing (e.g., with MatLab)

We expect you to be interested in:

  • Interested in the topic of the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • to have very good command in English (understanding, speaking, reading, and writing)
  • quantitative modelling

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • prior exposure to associative learning theory
  • willing to learn basic German language skills

For further information, please contact Metin Uengoer () or Harald Lachnit ().

 

Project 13: Allowing expectation violations: Moderators of dealing constructively with disagreements

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Christopher Cohrs (Social Psychology)

Contexts of political polarization are often characterized by negative stereotypes and enemy images about “opinion-based outgroup members”, which even in light of inconsistent information are maintained through selective and biased information processing. The aim of this project is to investigate what enables people to allow violations of expectations, to broaden their own perspective and to deal with each other in more constructive ways. Possible moderators include epistemic beliefs, subjective theories about the field of debate and the degree of exploration of one's own opinion-based identity.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master’s or equivalent)

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (as documented in a 1-page motivation letter in which you may refer to prior experiences related to the project’s topic area)
  • very good skills and experiences in quantitative research methods
  • very good English skills

It is advantageous:

  • to demonstrate experiences related to intergroup research, political psychology, or social psychological peace and conflict research

For further information, please contact Christopher Cohrs ()

 

Project 14

Supervision: Dr. Pia von Blanckenburg (Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy)

This project will investigate the effect of expectations on the readiness for end-of-life conversations with cancer patients, caregivers and healthy adults. In addition, this project will elucidate to what extent these expectations can be modified.

Formal requirements are:

  • a qualified degree in psychology (Master, Diploma, or comparable) 

We expect:

  • your interest in the project (to be documented in a motivation letter [1 page max], in which you may refer to prior experiences, for instance, a thematically pertinent thesis, student research assistant positions, etc.)
  • to have basic German language skills
  • to have excellent grades in courses related to clinical psychology, and psychological methods as well as documented practical skills in statistical data analysis
  • interest in clinical training

Advantageous qualifications are:

  • Practical skills in psychooncology

We offer the opportunity to work in dynamic teams with an outstanding sense for collaborative support. We also offer an excellent synergistic approach to link scientific developments with practical psychotherapy trainings, resulting in psychotherapy license (CBT), due to our outpatient clinic facilities. 

For further information, please address to Dr. Pia von Blanckenburg () or Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief ().