PhD position “The power of goal-directed processes in the causation of emotional and unhealthy behavior"

The Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the University of Leuven, Belgium, seeks a motivated PhD candidate on the project "The power of goal-directed processes in the causation of emotional and unhealthy behavior" under the supervision of Agnes Moors  (at the University of Leuven), and co-supervisors Jan De Houwer and Marcel Brass (at Ghent University).

Project: People often engage in behavior that is not in their best interest. For instance, they become aggressive even when they risk a high cost (e.g., retaliation or ruining a relationship) and they engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking. Traditional theories have attributed these so-called suboptimal behaviors to a stimulus-driven process in which a stimulus activates a response based on the person’s prior learning history or innate wiring. This response can be regulated by a goal-directed process, which compares the values and likelihoods of the outcomes of different action options, but only when the person has ample opportunity to engage in his process. We propose an alternative theory in which goal-directed processes do not merely play a regulatory role, but are also at the heart of the emotional and unhealthy behaviors themselves. This deviates from the tenacious view that emotions and unhealthy behaviors are irrational. The project challenges the traditional theory by testing whether seemingly stimulus-driven behavior might be due to goal-directed processes after all. We do so by using state-of-the-art behavioral (reaction time) and neuroscientific (TMS/MEP) methods. Support for the alternative theory has important implications for behavior change in clinical practice and society.

Environment: The successful candidate will work in the research groups of Quantitative Psychology and Individual Differences ( and of Social and Cultural Psychology ( at the University of Leuven. These groups offer an international, productive, collaborative, and interactive environment.

The University of Leuven is a research-oriented institution and is consistently ranked among the top research universities in Europe. Leuven is one of the oldest university towns in Europe, about 30 km from Brussels. It has a rich history and culture, and a unique and friendly atmosphere.

Profile: Candidates should have a Master degree in psychology, experience with conducting experimental research, experience with or a willingness to learn neuroscientific methods (TMS), a deep interest in theory, and good English reporting skills.

Offer: The PhD position extends over a period of 4 years.  We offer a competitive salary with various additional benefits (in terms of holidays, health insurance, transport costs), excellent research facilities, and conference and travel budget. The preferred starting date is September 1, 2017 (but this is negotiable).

Interested? For more information please contact Prof. dr. Agnes Moors (  

Applications should include a motivation letter, a full CV (including a transcript of university study results), and the names and contact information of 2 reference persons.

You can apply for this job no later than June 30, 2017 via the online application tool: