Postdoc Position ‘Do Complex Film Stories Foster Real-World Understanding?’

Postdoc Position ‘Do Complex Film Stories Foster Real-World Understanding?’

Published Deadline Location
3 Nov 30 Nov Amsterdam

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If you want to take on this challenge and be part of an exciting team working at the forefront of how people understand the world around them through narratives, please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We are curious to get to know you!

Job description

The Postdoc’s task will be to carry out and publish empirical studies that test whether complex stories in films help people to understand and deal with complexity of the real-world using experiments and field studies. This in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team (media psychology, computational methods, political psychology, and film studies), building evidenced-based models that explain viewers’ emotional and cognitive engagement with complexity in filmic storytelling and the effect thereof on opinion formation of complex issues in the real world.

Your duties
Test psychological models of information processing to answer the following research question: to what extent do complex stories in films help people to understand and deal with complexity of the real-world using experiments and field studies? Carry out your research according to international standards; make your research and experiments publicly available and reproducible, such as through publications in academic journals, conference proceedings, and brief reports accessible to the public at large. Thereby following the principles of Open Science. The postdoc is also expected to organize events, such as a symposium or round-table talks related to the topic of this project.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • PhD in Communication Science, Media & Film Studies, Psychology, or any related field;
  • Interest (and experience) in the topic and methods of the project;
  • Knowledge of and experience with empirical (field or experimental) studies and research designs;
  • Knowledge of and experience with quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis;
  • Advanced statistical and analytical skills with a willingness to learn or experience with programming in R or Python;
  • Excellent academic writing skills;
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English (IELTS score of 7 or higher);
  • Excellent organizational skills;
  • Ability and interest to work in an interdisciplinary team as well as work independently;
  • Candidates who are due to finish their PhD's thesis before 1st of March 2024 are welcome to apply.

Conditions of employment

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of € 3.226 (scale 10) and a maximum €5.090 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system (UFO) and is vacant for 0.8 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of two years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • contribution to commuting expenses,
  • discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance).


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 31,000 students. We employ over 5,000 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Social Sciences
The Faculty of Social Sciences examines the major social problems of our time from multiple perspectives. From bullying at school to dealing with transnational immigration, from the rise of populist politicians to creating a self-reliant society. Only at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam you will find all the academic disciplines needed to understand these 'wicked problems': alongside the traditional disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and politics, we also research and teach the new social sciences such as communication science and management & organization science. We do not settle for easy answers in our teaching and research. Our researchers and students are critical thinkers and doers who work together to devise surprising solutions to the problems of today.

Working at the Faculty of Social Sciences means working with colleagues from a range of academic disciplines in an inspiring and personal work and study environment with excellent research facilities. We employ more than 350 staff members, and we are home to around 3,000 students.

About the project
We live in an increasingly complex world. For example, if you aim to behave environmentally friendly, should you drink plant-based milk or is it better to drink locally produced cow milk? This is not an easy answer, and the answer brings a lot of “buts” and “ifs” to the table. This, in turn, might lead to confusion or frustration, or in other complex situations may even appear threatening. At the same time, complexity is an increasingly popular trend in mainstream film and television, manifesting in narratives presenting formal‐structural narrative complexities (multiple timelines, complicated causality of events, etc.), yet attracting wide audiences. This new trend of filmic narrative complexity provides an opportunity to build evidence‐based theories of viewers’ emotional and cognitive engagement with complexity in filmic storytelling and the effect thereof on opinion formation of complex issues in the real world. In this cross‐disciplinary project, the Postdoc will integrate theories and methods from the Humanities (film studies, cognitive narratology), Communication Science and Social Sciences (narrative engagement, media effects, public opinion formation). The current Postdoc vacancy focuses on real-world understanding through complex narratives in films in various social contexts (e.g., climate change).
The research is embedded in the department of Communication Science (Department Communication Science), in the Media Psychology and Political Communication Programs of the department. Supervisor is dr. Katalin Balint. The Postdoc will be part of an interdisciplinary team of media psychologists, film-, and political communication scholars. You will have opportunities to collaborate with many researchers in their research groups on narratives in films and public opinion formation.


Over the past decade, the scientific field of Communication Science has changed
profoundly due to the continuous emergence of new media technologies and the rise of a media-saturated digital society, new empirical research methods, and new dynamic communication routes. The department of Communication Science at the VU
Amsterdam (see our staff here) responds to these major trends with an educational
program (BA/MA) that teaches Communication Science within a “digital society”
framework, and that trains related skills (e.g., on data and computational methods) and knowledge (e.g., on digital marketing) using timely and innovative teaching methods. The department also responds to these major trends by maintaining a pointed and forward-looking research program that is strategically focusing on an examination of Communication Choices, Content and Consequences (CCCC). The department is in a strong position in the field because it has clearly focused on newly emerging communication technologies and solid empirical methods ever since its start in 2003. The department maintains particular expertise in adapting psychology and computer sciences to the study of media. Researchers within the CCCC program are currently organized into three evolving research areas crucial to the discipline of Communication Science: Political Communication (focusing on computational methods, mostly in a political communication domain), Media Psychology (including work on experience and effects of Social Robotics and Virtual Reality), and Digital Media (focusing on social media, mostly in a marketing, PR, and organizational communication context). Teachers are also organised in the theme group Teaching Excellence. The department has been ranked in 2020 at a strong #10 of all departments/universities worldwide in the prestigious Shanghai ranking, the CCCC research program received very strong review scores in the last assessment, and the teaching program was positively evaluated and accredited in the last assessment (2018/2019).


  • Postdoc
  • max. 30.4 hours per week
  • €3226—€5090 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 16407


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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