The Department of Developmental Psychology at the University of Göttingen

The Department of Developmental Psychology at the University of Göttingen

invites applications for a position of a

Research focus

The Department of Developmental Psychology investigates cognitive development in infancy and early childhood with a special focus on social cognition.  

The PhD position will be part of a collaborative project with Prof. Gil Diesendruck from Bar-Ilan University in Israel that is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Research of Lower Saxony. The project investigates, from a cross-cultural perspective, the ontogenetic roots and foundations of social group categorization and group biases with behavioral and eyetracking methodology (for details, see the project description below).

-          Excellent PhD degree in psychology or related cognitive science discipline
-          Background in experimental, developmental and/or cross-cultural psychological research
-          Experience with experimental studies with children, in particular with eye-tracking methodology is strongly desirable
-          Excellent German language skills are strongly desirable
Starting date for the 3-year-position is from August 2016 (or later).  Deadline for applications is June 15, 2016.
To apply, please send a detailed CV, research statement and the names and e-mail addresses of at least two potential referees, citing ‘Pos-Doc’ to:
For further information please Hannes Rakoczy (

Project description
--Ontogenetic roots and cultural foundations of dual representations of social groups--

Social psychologists have for long noticed the ease and robustness with which adults develop discriminatory attitudes and behaviors that favor their “in-group” (those similar to them) and undermine their “out-group” (those different from them). From a cognitive point of view, one of the key foundations of such inter-group biases is the so-called “out-group homogeneity effect” – the tendency to represent in- and out-group members in fundamentally different ways, such that the former are primarily seen as distinct individuals whereas the latter are seen as tokens of a homogeneous type.  This effect arguably serves as a catalyst for stereotyping, group-based prejudice, and de-humanization.

From an ontogenetic point of view, little is known so far about the developmental origins of these dual representations.  Are they a product of social construction and thus emerge over an extended period of time on the basis of socialization processes?  Or might they constitute more deeply rooted features of the way we represent the social world, with origins going back to infancy? The goal of the present project is to address this question by investigating the characteristic signatures associated with representations of in- vs. out-group members in infancy.

To this end, in 5 experiments we will investigate the manifestation in the context of representing group members, of general cognitive processes known to be well in place by age 1. Specifically, we will investigate individuation, identification, and category-based induction vis-à-vis agents that –in minimal group paradigms – will be introduced as members of the same group as the infant, or as members of another group.  The guiding question is whether infants individuate, identify, and inductively reason about in- vs. out-group members in systematically different ways, such that the former tend to be represented more as unique individuals and the latter as tokens of a homogeneous type. In addition, by conducting these studies in identical form with infants in Israel and Germany (where culturally, ethnic diversity and segregation is stronger in the former than in the latter), we will be able to address the cross-cultural question whether the nature and degree of such signatures of group representations are influenced by cultural and linguistic experience.

Taken together, these studies will shed new light on the ontogenetic and cognitive foundations of group thinking and biases.