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The PhD project will investigate the role of empathy in human-animal relations. Empathy is perhaps the most robust and extensively studied psychological predictor of prosocial behavior. However, recent work also points to potential limitations of empathy in inspiring prosociality. For example, people feel less empathy for individuals outside of their ingroup (“parochial empathy”), people avoid situations that could trigger empathy because they do not want to help certain individuals (“motivated empathy”), and more suffering does not necessarily inspire a stronger empathic response (“scope insensitivity”). Although we know a lot about the role of empathy in interpersonal relations, relatively little is known about the role of empathy in human-animal relations.
Empathic people tend to care more about the welfare of other humans. However, most animals are very dissimilar to humans, making it difficult to empathize with them in some ways (imagining the perspective of an animal), but not others (valuing the well-being of an animal). It is therefore unclear how important different facets of empathy actually are in shaping responses to animal suffering. This project will analyze relations between different facets of empathy and attitudes towards animals, and empirically test how effective different empathic processes are in changing these attitudes. Finally, we will translate these theoretical insights into practice by creating and testing an intervention aimed at reducing meat consumption.
The position is for four years and is hosted by the Department of Social Psychology of Tilburg University (Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences). The PhD candidate is supervised by a team consisting of dr. Bastian Jaeger (co-promotor), dr. Thorsten Erle (co-promotor), and dr. Seger Breugelmans (promotor).
The PhD candidate both meta-analyze existing data and collect and analyze new (experimental) data. Findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed scientific publications, presentations at (inter)national conferences, and workshops.
We are looking for a highly motivated and curious PhD student. Candidates must have a relevant master’s or research master’s degree in (social) psychology or a related discipline. Prior experience with research on empathy and compassion or human-animal relations is a plus. We are looking for candidates who have:
Fixed-term contract: 4 years.
This is a fully funded, four-year PhD position. The PhD candidate is employed by Tilburg University, which is among the top of the Dutch employers and has an excellent policy concerning terms of employment. The appointments are intended to lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The PhD appointment begins with a period of 12 months. Continuation of the appointment with another 36 months will be based on performance evaluation. The gross salary for the PhD position amounts to € 2541,- per month in the first year, rising to € 3247,- per month in the fourth year, based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week).
Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (TSB) is a modern, specialized university. The teaching and research of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences are organized around the themes of Adaptive societies, organizations, and workers, Healthy life span, Personalized prevention and care. The School's inspiring working environment challenges its workers to realize their ambitions; involvement and cooperation are essential to achieve this.
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