PhD Position: Touch-Color Cross-Modal Correspondences in the Blind

Research / Academic

We are seeking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate for our NWO-funded project on touch-color cross-modal correspondences in the visually impaired. You will be working in an interdisciplinary and international team (Dr Romke Rouw, Brain & Cognition, UvA; Prof. Dr Edward de Haan, Transdisciplinary Neuropsychology, Radboud University/UvA, Dr Nicholas Root, Post-doc, Brain & Cognition, UvA; Prof. Dr Darren Lipomi, Dept of NanoEngineering, University of California, San Diego). You will be working in the Psychology research institute at the University of Amsterdam in the Brain & Cognition group, where talented and internationally renowned scholars work on gaining a better understanding of the nature of human cognition and its neural basis. The Psychology institute has consistently high scores on international rankings, with top-tier facilities equipment and infrastructure, and a long history of commitment to post-doctoral education.

The project

In this project, we examine the cross-modal 'translation' of visual features into tactile surface properties. We examine naturally occurring tactile-visual associations (e.g., "rough surfaces feel bluish-green") in both synesthetes and non-synesthetes. A unique collaboration with a nanoengineering lab will allow us to create bespoke haptic materials with precise variations along orthogonal physical dimensions, and explore their tactile (perceptual) responses. We thus systematically vary physical material properties, to map out corresponding tactile perception, which in turn may elicit color-associations. This approach allows us to address fundamental questions about the mechanisms and brain structures involved in cross-sensory representations. In particular, are there innate mechanisms driving cross-modal associations, and what are the (cognitive and neurological) characteristics of touch-color associations? The project has societal implications; an open-access 'translator' from physical surface properties, to tactile experiences, to color associations. A proof-of-concept of the application of tactile representations of color images will be tested; tactile visual-art for the blind.

Please find here a hyperlink to the detailed project description.

What are you going to do?
In the PhD project, your task will be to study the behavioral and neural mechanisms involved in vision-to-touch cross-modal correspondences (CMCs) in blind participants.

Your project will address exciting research questions such as: To what degree are visual-to-tactile cross-modal correspondences comparable in blind individuals and in sighted individuals? Can we find evidence to support a neonatal hypothesis for cross-modal correspondences? How can we use obtained fundamental scientific knowledge to advise on a new means of sensory substitution: i.e., an application to employ different surface properties (tacky, wet, smooth) to convey colors?

You will/tasks:

  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years;
  • gain knowledge of the field through literature survey, discussion with team members, and internal lab meetings;
  • design and run behavioural and (functional & structural) neuroimaging experiments, in both sighted and visually impaired individuals;
  • design and run in-depth single case studies;
  • perform data-analyses, visualisation and dissemination of the experimental results;
  • present data at local, national and international scientific meetings;
  • perform the logistics of the project, (e.g., participant recruitment & scheduling, ethics approval, data-storage, etc.);
  • assist in teaching (5% of your time), co-supervising junior scientists (MSc/BSc students).


You successfully completed a (research) Master's diploma in a relevant field (e.g., Experimental Psychology, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, etc.) You are passionate about fundamental empirical research. You enjoy working in a diverse setting, and skilled at contributing to an interdisciplinary, collaborative project. You are good at planning and adhering to deadlines, are self-sufficient and hard-working, and know how to ask for help/support. You are a team player and a nice colleague with good communication skills.

Your experience and profile:

  • You have a (preferably research) master's degree in a relevant field;
  • Strong quantitative background;
  • Good analytical, writing, and presenting skills;
  • Good project and time management skills enabling you to meet the projects’ deadlines for finishing analyses, reports and other deliverables;
  • Eager to learn new things, high conscientiousness, flexibility, and a collaborative attitude;
  • Fluency in English, both written and spoken;
  • Fluency in Dutch, both written and spoken.

Experiences that are not necessarily required but will make an application more successful:

  • in-depth knowledge about one or more of the core topics of the project: multi-sensory integration, sensory substitution for the blind, neurological mechanisms involved in (cross-modal) sensory processes;
  • Experience in neuroimaging data-analyses;
  • Experience in working with clinical populations;
  • Programming skills of Python and/or R.

Salary Benefits:

The position concerns temporary employment of 38 per week for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. The preferred starting date is 14 November 2023. We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and both national and international events. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. For this position the University Job Classification profile Promovendus applies.

Your salary will range between €2770 in the first year to €3539 gross per month in the last year of employment, on the basis of a full working week of 38 hours. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8.3% year-end allowance. A favourable tax agreement, the 30% ruling, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) is applicable.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education. Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging research environment at the Psychology department, we offer you multiple fringe benefits (232 holiday hours per year, based on fulltime employment; a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution).

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.
Work Hours:

38 hours per week


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