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Join as a doctoral researcher

If you have a Master degree and would like to do a PhD, please take a look at how to apply to the PhD program of the Department of Cognitive Science, which offers 6 PhD stipends per year. Please note that applicants are required to submit an independent research proposal. 

Join as an intern or a visiting student

We are happy to host Master students who want to do their internship with us and doctoral researchers wishing to cooperate on a project with us.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of possible projects for interns:

Pragmatics of Graphs

Graphs are powerful means to visually convey specific types of information such as temporal changes in quantity, differences in frequencies and proportions. Since they are a means of communication they need, much as words and utterances, to be interpreted. This project uses behavioural experiments to investigate how people interpret graphs. 

In this project, the student will run one (or more) online experiment(s) with adult participants investigating how minimal differences in the graphs influence its interpretation. The pragmatic theoretical framework used to generate the predictions we propose to test is that of Relevance Theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1986/1997).

The project will include building up the experimental design, and implementing the design in a software such as Qualtrics and collect data on an online platform.

Promises and deniability

Are promises taken more seriously than assertions?

The proposed study will investigate whether implied promises are less easily deniable than implied assertions. We hypothesise that different speech act do not differ in terms of interpretation process and commitment attribution, but they often entail stronger reliance.

The project will include developing the stimuli, implementing the study on an online platform (such as Qualtrics) and analysing the data. We aim to write a short report on the basis of this study.

Commitment and memory

How do we (mis)remember social commitments? 

The proposed studies will investigate how people remember utterances that commit the speaker to a given behaviour. Our hypothesis is that listeners will retrieve utterances according to what a speaker is committed to, and will use their memories as evidence to hold the speaker accountable for a potential violation. 

The project will include developing the stimuli, implementing the study on an on-line platform (Testable or Qualtrics) and analyzing the data.

Coordination and team reasoning

There are cases where it is better to coordinate on one set of action rather than another. For instance, two people living in Vienna are both better off coordinating on a meeting place in Vienna than in a far away city. While such cases of decision making seem extremely simple and natural, the underlying psychological processes might involve mechanisms especially dedicated to group decision making.

We have designed some tasks meant to test theories of group decision making in situations where there is a need for coordination. The project will include refining the experimental protocol, running the experiment, doing the analysis and co-authoring a paper.

The pragmatics of visual communication

Take the drawing of a square in the context of a mathematical exercise requesting students to demonstrate that diagonals of squares meet in their middle. In this context, the length of the sides of the square should absolutely be ignored. They are irrelevant to the task at hand. Change the context: this same square as part of a drawing in an interior design project. The square, then, is meant to represent, say, a table to be located in a leaving room. What is relevant, now, is not so much the precise angles, but rather the relative size of the square compared to the room, and so the length of the side are especially relevant. What are the underlying cognitive processes that lead us to understand what, of a figure, is meaningful? Post-Gricean pragmatics has an answer: interpreting communicative input, images included, amounts to recovering the communicators’ communicative intention. A pragmatic account of the use of figures in mathematics is that figures are means of communication which are interpreted through making inferences about the drawer’s communicative intention.

In this project, the student will review the literature in the philosophy and cognitive science of mathematics. The student will assess to what extent this literature is compatible with a pragmatic account of the use of figures and images. The project can focus on other fields that communicate with images (e.g. architecture).

The mathematics of cultural evolution

Why are some ideas and practices successfully maintained in a community, in such a way that they constitute cultural phenomena?

According to Cultural Attraction Theory, cultural phenomena result from the existence of ‘factors of attraction’. In this study, we show how to demonstrate the existence of factors of attraction with a ‘toy example’ of cultural transmission.

The task first consists in gathering data via the Locating Game and then contribute to the mathematical analysis.

Programming skills are highly desirable for this task.