PhD Candidate: Computational Cognitive Science at the Donders Centre for Cognition

Research / Academic

The Donders Centre for Cognition is looking for a PhD candidate in Computational Cognitive Science to work on a meta-theoretical research project spanning cognitive science and artificial intelligence (AI). Are you excited to advance our scientific understanding of what a cognitive capacity is? Do you question the AI hype on the so-called human-like capacities of machines? Do you enjoy thinking deeply and critically? If so, this position may be for you.

In this PhD project, titled ’Cognitive capacities and machines: Why do calculators exist, if AGI cannot?’, you will adopt various theoretical and meta-theoretical methodologies (including literature review, conceptual engineering and formal analysis) to study and characterise: 1. What are cognitive capacities? 2. What kinds of cognitive capacities, if any, can exist in sociotechnical artefacts and/or is there always a human in the loop? 3. And which epistemologies provide a way out of the conundrum of hyperempiricism, such that we can have a sound and coherent science of cognitive capacities?

We are living in a time of AI hype. Many believe that artificial general intelligence (AGI) is around the corner, and that we already have systems with genuinely human-like cognitive capacities (van Rooij, Guest, et al., 2023). However, exactly what cognitive capacities are is never formally or coherently pinned down, leaving AI vulnerable to hype. Using conceptual, formal, historical, and meta-theoretic analyses, this project aims to build a protective belt.

A small part of the position (0.1FTE) will involve contributions to education, for example in the form of thesis supervision and teaching assistantships for courses (such as AI as a Science, Theoretical Modelling for Cognitive Science).

Other relevant work by the team:


  • You should have a Master’s degree in Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociotechnical Studies, or a similar field.
  • You have strong conceptual skills and an interdisciplinary mindset.
  • You have a passion for conceptual and formal theoretical research.
  • You are excited to develop computational thinking and to master the meta-theoretical skills needed for this research project.
  • You are committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), including the decolonisation of teaching and research.

Salary Benefits:

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (0.8 FTE 5- year contract - 1.0 FTE 4- year contract) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract) or 3.5 years (5-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


Houtlaan 4