PhD Position: Computational Vocalisations

We are seeking a PhD student for a position using computational methods to examine nonverbal vocalisations, like laughing, screaming, and crying. The project will include the development of gamified tasks to be applied across cultures with a citizen-science approach. As well as being hosted in the supportive research atmosphere of the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, the PhD student will have the opportunity to establish research connections with international collaborators.

The PhD student will conduct their research under the supervision of Dr Disa Sauter at the University of Amsterdam, co-supervised by Dr Samuel Mehr (University of Auckland, New Zealand/ Child Study Center, Yale University). The PhD student will engage with Sauter’s research group as part of her NWO-funded Vici project Understanding nonverbal vocalisations: A computational ethology approach. The projects will also be embedded within the Amsterdam Interdisciplinary Centre for Emotion.

The position includes allowances for research expenses and travel and subsistence costs towards project-specific travel, including conferences. It also offers an opportunity to gain experience with teaching, subject to availability and qualifications.

The Department of Social Psychology is supported by approximately 15 tenured faculty members, and currently hosts more than 20 PhD and postdoctoral researchers. We offer a dynamic environment in an internationally recognized department, ranking among the best in Europe for research and teaching. This is paired with an informal and supportive atmosphere. Amsterdam is an international city, consistently ranked as one of the world’s top places to live.

The Psychology Department is situated centrally in Amsterdam, and hosts program groups focusing on social, organisational, developmental, clinical, statistical, and cognitive psychology. It offers excellent facilities for undertaking research in a broad range of areas, including behavioural testing suites and a social observation lab.

The Department of Psychology is a part of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG), which is the largest educational and research institution in the social sciences in the Netherlands. The faculty serves 7500 students in numerous Bachelor and Master programs.

What are you going to do

This project will chart nonverbal vocalisations across cultures and will test the hypothesis that cross-cultural consistencies exist in mappings between vocalisations and situations. It will address the question of whether there are nonverbal vocalisations that map systematically to contextual features in a manner that is consistent across cultures. The project will establish vocal clusters and their associations with contextual features using computational analyses.

Using a cross-cultural citizen science approach, nonverbal vocalisations and accompanying situational information will be crowdsourced. Participants will be asked to upload video or audio clips of nonverbal vocalisations from their everyday life using a purpose-built, online platform. The PhD student will help develop the setup.

You will

  • develop gamified tasks
  • run acoustic analyses
  • conduct computational analyses (e.g., machine learning)
  • write scientific articles and present

Informal inquiries can be directed to Dr Disa Sauter ( Please quote “Inquiry Vici PhD position” in the subject line.

What do you have to offer

You are

  • curious and eager to learn
  • eager to contribute to science
  • motivated to share your knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences
  • strongly committed to methodological rigor and scientific integrity

You have

  • a Research Master’s degree in Psychology, Computer/Data Science or a related field or have almost completed such a degree;
  • a general understanding of psychological theories, or are willing to learn them
  • an interest in nonverbal communication
  • some experience with designing, executing, and analysing quantitative research
  • programming skills (in R or Python) or the willingness to learn
  • experience in and/or commitment to engage in open science
  • an excellent written and spoken command of English
  • good research project management skills

What can we offer you

The planned starting date for this position is 1 March 1 2024, but there is some flexibility. The position concerns temporary employment of 38 hours for a maximum term of four years. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. We will together put together a graduate school curriculum that includes opportunities to attend training courses and both national and international events. You will also do a limited amount of teaching in the form of supervision of BA or MA theses.

For this position the University Job Classification profile “Promovendus” (PhD Candidate) applies. Your salary will be €2.770,- gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3.539,- in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.

What else do we offer

  • a position in which initiative and input are highly valued
  • an enthusiastic and warm team that is open to new colleagues
  • an inspiring academic and international working environment in the heart of Amsterdam

About us

The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programs. 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 organization? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • Do you have questions, or would you like additional information? Please contact:
  • Disa Sauter, Associate Professor,, T: +31 20 525 8719

Job application

Does this job profile fit? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 13 November 2023. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications in .pdf should include:

  • a curriculum vitae
  • a letter of motivation


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, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.

Browse postings

Share This