PhD in “Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data”

PhD in “Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data”

Published Deadline Location
30 May 6 Jul Eindhoven

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Job description

The Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences of Eindhoven University of Technology has a PhD training position in the Human Technology Interaction (HTI) group, to work in the multidisciplinary project 'AIDE: an Affective Image Dataset of Environments for AI research', funded by the Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI).

The understanding and prediction of people's experience of their environments —for example, what makes a space pleasant, or relaxing?—  is a topic that has long been of interest for the fields of building science, architecture, and environmental psychology. Existing research studies have mainly focused on relating the occupant's experience with the physical characteristics of the scene, such as architectural design features, natural elements, or lighting conditions. However, attributes that relate to the meaning of the scene, such as the roles and activities of occupants, or the social dimensions of a scene, are rarely taken into account. In order to create built environments that are not only comfortable and energy efficient, but that also positively contribute to the satisfaction and wellbeing of their occupants, it is essential to identify the drivers of the occupants' experience, and in particular to examine the role of both physical and meaning-based characteristics of spaces.

This project aims to address a fundamental question in the field of architecture and environmental psychology: is our emotional experience of indoor environments driven by the physical characteristics of the space or by the meaning we attribute to them? Our goal is to describe the impact of both physical features (for example, the presence of a window, scene brightness, symmetry) and meaning-related dimensions (for example, the possible activities that one could do in an environment, familiarity/novelty, whether one would be there alone or in the company of loved ones or strangers) on human emotional responses to indoor spaces. Imagine, for example, a living room and a hospital waiting room with similar furniture: would the presence of a window have the same effect on an occupants' experience of each environment?

PhD position 'Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data'

To examine this question, the PhD candidate will dive into environmental psychology theories on how we perceive environments, develop a large image dataset of indoor environments, and make use of AI techniques as well as mathematical models that reflect environmental psychology theories to examine the drivers of emotional responses to these images. The outcomes of this project aim to broaden our understanding of how objective physical attributes and subjective meaning contribute to our experience of space, to improve theoretical frameworks, and to facilitate the production of AI-generated scenes that can induce specific affective responses for research, therapeutic or leisure applications.

The HTI group is seeking an enthusiastic early career researcher to work on this project with us. The tasks of the PhD student will be to collect and analyze emotional responses towards photographs of indoor environments in a large survey campaign, integrating insights from environmental psychology and artificial intelligence, to write scientific articles, and to complete a PhD dissertation within four years. The student will also participate in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly activities, and contribute to teaching (such as by acting as Teaching Assistant in courses and supervising BSc and MSc students).

You will conduct your research under the supervision of Dr. Kynthia Chamilothori, Prof. Yvonne de Kort, and Sanne Schoenmakers of the HTI group. You will be a member of the HTI group, which has a warm and welcoming PhD community, and of the EAISI institute.


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)


  • A (nearly) completed MSc in (Environmental) Psychology, Human-Technology Interaction, or a related discipline with a demonstrable interest in big data/ML/AI, or an MSc and set of interests and skills roughly equivalent to this
  • Experience in empirical research on humans
  • A strong interest in environmental psychology and its theories
  • A research-oriented attitude
  • Advanced data analysis skills
  • Experience with Machine Learning and/or neural networks is a considered a plus
  • You have strong conceptual thinking and planning skills, are creative and proactive
  • You are excited to work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Fluent in spoken and written English, and have excellent verbal as well as written communication skills.

Conditions of employment

  • A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university with the possibility to present your work at international conferences.
  • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months.
  • To develop your teaching skills, you will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will make a Training and Supervision plan and you will have free access to a personal development program for PhD students (PROOF program).
  • A gross monthly salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities.
  • Additionally, an annual holiday allowance of 8% of the yearly salary, plus a year-end allowance of 8.3% of the annual salary.
  • Should you come from abroad and comply with certain conditions, you can make use of the so-called '30% facility', which permits you not to pay tax on 30% of your salary.
  • A broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, and savings schemes.
  • Family-friendly initiatives are in place, such as an international spouse program, and excellent on-campus children day care and sports facilities.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • V39.5687


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

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