PhD researcher ‘Non-Verbal Risk and Uncertainty Communication’ (0,8 - 1,0 fte)

PhD researcher ‘Non-Verbal Risk and Uncertainty Communication’ (0,8 - 1,0 fte)

Published Deadline Location
2 Nov 5 Dec Tilburg

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Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences is looking for an enthusiastic PhD researcher in the Department of Communication and Cognition at Tilburg University. He or she will work within the project “Non-Verbal Risk and Uncertainty Communication” funded by the Dutch government.

Job description

Job description
In our daily lives, we get exposed to various risks and predictions about issues like our health, the environment, or the economy. Many of us ask for certainty in these cases. For instance, patients may wish to hear from their doctor predictions about their risks of experiencing side-effects when deciding about treatment. Similarly, citizens want to hear predictions from the government about the latest global temperatures models when thinking about actions that can be taken against climate change. While there are things we can (and do) know and predict, we must also be able to recognize when we cannot (or do not) know something. Especially risk estimates obtained from prediction models are intrinsically imperfect and inherently uncertain, arising from limitations in the reliability, accuracy, and credibility of the statistical models. Uncertainty associated with risks and probabilities is therefore an essential aspect of human life and an integral problem of domains such as medicine and climate change communication. 

Although experts and policy makers often take uncertainties into account in decisions involving risks, there is still much we do not know about the production, perception, and use of uncertainty communication. In fact, recent theoretical models on uncertainty communication are currently limited by its predominant focus on developing methods for representing uncertainty information in the written communication domain (e.g., uncertainty around risks presented in patient education materials or climate change reports). However, when speakers are uncertain about risks, they can also non-verbally signal this uncertainty in various ways by using variations in their voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language. So far, these non-verbal cues have largely been ignored by risk communication researchers. As such, evidence-based best practices for non-verbally communicating uncertainty in various risk domains (e.g., patient-doctor communication) are not only scarce, but also vague. It is therefore important to get a better understanding into efficiency of forms and frequency of non-verbal uncertainty cues, and their impact on the way such information is processed and used by addressees. 

In this fully funded, 4-year project, you will study (i) representations of non-verbal uncertainty by observing how and why people non-verbally signal different levels of uncertainty during spoken risk communication, and (ii) people’s responses to non-verbal uncertainty information by experimentally investigating how people understand and psychologically react to various non-verbal uncertainty cues when receiving spoken information about risk. In addition, you will not only investigate this issue in experimentally controlled conditions, but also in two different – yet related – real-world spoken risk communication domains: individual health risk communication (e.g., as part of doctor-patient interactions) and societal environmental risk communication (e.g., as part of severe weather forecasts). 

The goal of this interdisciplinary project is to show that a better understanding of non-verbal uncertainty cues and its effects on addressees, will help various risk communicators (e.g., scientists, experts, healthcare professionals, and journalist) communicate uncertainty associated with risks to the public in a transparent and understandable way. 

Research and education at the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences (TSHD) has a unique focus on humans in the context of the globalizing digital society, on the development of artificial intelligence and interactive technologies, on their impact on communication, culture and society, and on moral and existential challenges that arise. The School of Humanities and Digital Sciences consists of four departments: Communication and Cognition, Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, Culture Studies and Philosophy; several research institutes and a faculty office. Also the University College Tilburg is part of the School. The School has approximately 3100 students and around 270 employees.

The Department of Communication and Cognition (DCC) is responsible for the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC), where research is conducted into cognitive and social aspects of human communication through a multidisciplinary approach combining careful experimentation with survey methods, corpus analyses and computational modeling. The research group consists of about 80 researchers covering a broad range of topics relevant for cognition and communication, and this includes approximately 20 PhD students. Core research domains include communication and technology, cross-cultural communication, computational linguistics, information visualisation, marketing and business communication, language production, and non-verbal communication, with a strong emphasis on digital methods.


Tilburg University


Candidates for this position should have a (research) master’s degree in communication science, (social/cognitive) psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, or comparable. 
In addition, you:
•    have experience with (experimental) research and statistical analyses; 
•    have experience with corpus research and/or observational research and associated analyses;
•    have excellent English written and oral communication skills;
•    are collaborative and like to work in a team;  
•    have a proactive and goal-directed attitude, good organizational skills, and the ability to get things done;
•    speak Dutch fluently given the nature of the corpus data;
•    have interests that align with the project “Non-Verbal Risk and Uncertainty Communication" and particularly with (fundamental) research on non-verbal communication and (practical) applications in health and climate change risk communication.

Conditions of employment

Terms of employment  
This is a position for 0,8 fte – 1,0 fte (32 - 40 hours per week) of full working hours. Working hours can be flexible for caring responsibilities. This is a vacancy for a temporary position in accordance with Article 2.3, paragraph 5 of the CLA for Dutch Universities. You will be given a temporary employment contract for the duration of 1 year. Upon positive outcome of the first-year evaluation, you will receive a subsequent employment contract that will be extended for an additional 3 years. Tilburg University offers excellent employment conditions with attention to flexibility and (personal) development and attractive fringe benefits. 

The salary amounts to €2.770 in de first year of the PhD, and will increase to €3.539 in the fourth year of the PhD (gross per month for full-time employment), based on UFO profile PhD and salary scale PhD of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. 

You are entitled to a vacation allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% of your gross annual income. If you work 40 hours per week, you will receive 41 paid days of leave per year. 
Researchers from outside the Netherlands may qualify for a tax-free allowance of 30% of their taxable salary if they meet the relevant conditions. The university applies for this allowance on their behalf. All employees of the university are covered by the so-called General Pension Fund for Public Employers (Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP).  

We make clear agreements about career paths and offer all kinds of facilities and arrangement to maintain an optimal balance between work and private life. You can also follow numerous training courses, for example, in the areas of leadership skills, personal effectiveness, and career development. 

Tilburg University values an open and inclusive culture. We embrace diversity and encourage the mutual integration of groups of employees and students. We focus on creating equal opportunities for all our employees and students so that everyone feels at home in our university community. 

Tilburg University has a lively campus in beautiful green surroundings that is easily accessible by public transport. We are committed to a sustainable society and challenge you to make an active contribution.

Please visit working at Tilburg University for more information on our terms of employment. 


TIlburg University

Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences

Onderzoek en onderwijs aan de Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences (TSHD) heeft een unieke focus op de mens in de context van de globaliserende digitale samenleving, op de ontwikkeling van kunstmatige intelligentie en interactieve technologieën, op de impact ervan op communicatie, cultuur en maatschappij, en op morele en existentiële uitdagingen die zich voordoen. De School of Humanities and Digital Sciences bestaat uit vier departementen: Communicatie en Cognitie, Cognitieve en Kunstmatige Intelligentie, Cultuurstudies en Filosofie; verschillende onderzoeksinstituten en een faculteitsbureau. Ook het University College Tilburg is onderdeel van de School. Jaarlijks starten ongeveer 275 studenten met een Bachelor- of (Pre)Masteropleiding. De School telt ongeveer 2000 studenten en 250 medewerkers.

Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences


  • PhD
  • 21956



Warandelaan 2, 5037 AB, Tilburg

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