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Postdoctoral Research Associate in Cross-Cultural Developmental Psychology

Durham University - Department of Psychology

Location: Durham
Salary: £33,199 to £35,210 per annum Grade 7
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 23rd April 2019
Closes: 28th May 2019
Job Ref: 018216

Closing Date 28 May 2019 at midday

The Project: The Development of Empathy - A Comparative Cross-cultural Investigation

Empathy – sharing and understanding others’ emotions and thoughts – is a defining feature of what it means to be human. However, we lack knowledge about its developmental origins and to what extent its sub-components reflect species and cultural universals. Here, we will address this by conducting a comparative cross-cultural investigation into the development of empathy in human infants as compared to our great ape relatives, the bonobos. Combining rigorous behavioural observations, novel techniques and innovative experiments, rich datasets on human infant development from two small-scale traditional societies- Samoa and Vanuatu – will be investigated to examine evidence for the emergence of empathy. Both societies show distributed-caregiving but vary in societal structure and emotional expressivity, thus providing a precious opportunity to study cross-cultural influences on empathy while also addressing current biases towards Western societies. Within the broader project, these datasets will then be compared to those from wild infant bonobos. Using a cross-cultural and cross-species approach, EMPORIGIN project seeks to advance our understanding of the origins of empathy, one of our most remarkable capacities, and to challenge current perspectives about its human uniqueness.

This project aims to:

  1. Conduct a systematic behavioural analysis of empathy development in the first two years of life
  2. To integrate emerging technologies to create novel techniques to study empathy comparatively
  3. To investigate which features of the infant’s social environment influence empathy development

The Role

A 36-month fixed-term full time post-doctoral Research Associate position is available at the Department of Psychology at Durham University, UK. The candidate will conduct behavioural research with human infants living in small-scale societies in Samoa and Vanuatu. The research will involve a combination of quantitative approaches including eye-tracking, touchscreen experiments, psycho-physical measures, behavioural experiments and observations. Computing and programming support is provided but a background in experimental techniques would be a huge strength.

This post is fixed term for up to 36 months– funding is available for this fixed period only. The successful candidate will be employed to work on a research project (EMPORIGIN) funded by the European Research Council which will be led by the Principal Investigator Dr Zanna Clay. This research position will involve collaboration with cross-cultural developmental psychologists (Dr Tanya Broesch & Prof Philippe Rochat) as well as with the EMPORIGIN research team. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

The position is available from June 1st 2019 at the earliest, though timing is flexible.

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