PhD position on capturing relations among psychological constructs and comparing

PhD position on capturing relations among psychological constructs and comparing

Published Deadline Location
10 May 3 Jun Leuven

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Job description

You will be part of the research group Quantitative Psychology and Individual Differences under the supervision of professor Kim De Roover. Professor Jeroen Vermunt (Tilburg University) will be the co-promotor of the PhD project. The research group is an international, collaborative and productive research environment with 6 professors and 25 PhD students and postdocs, from diverse backgrounds (besides psychologists, for example, statisticians, physicists and engineers). It includes top-level researchers in emotion, relationships, work, and culture, working with cutting edge data collection and statistical methods. See https://ppw. for more information and for relevant publications.

The KU Leuven is a research-oriented institution and is consistently ranked among the top research universities in Europe. Leuven is one of the oldest university towns in Europe, about 30 km from Brussels. It has a rich history and a unique friendly atmosphere.

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Many important research questions in psychology seek to uncover relations among psychological constructs that are not directly observable or ‘latent’ – that is, they can only be measured indirectly via questionnaires. For example, does social pressure to be happy increase or decrease wellbeing? And how does experiencing negative affect relate to satisfaction with life? Structural equation modeling (SEM) is the state-of-the-art to model these relations. When comparing such ‘latent relations’ across many groups (e.g., countries in a cross-national study), they likely differ among the groups (e.g., they may be culturally dependent) and/or within the groups (e.g., they may differ across subsets of a nation’s inhabitants determined by a combination of demographics that are unknown or unmeasured). This PhD-project aims to develop novel mixture SEM methods for finding clusters of subjects within groups that have the same latent relations. In this way, one can study how the groups differ in terms of these relations and how they differ within the group. For instance, it may be that, in one country, all inhabitants are homogenous in terms of what determines life satisfaction, whereas, in another country, the inhabitants strongly differ in this respect. For finding such clusters, differences in how the psychological constructs are measured by questionnaire items – for example, differences in item interpretation or translation – should be unraveled from the differences in the psychological relations of interest. An important challenge is that these ‘measurement differences’ may exist between the groups even when the differences of interest exist within the groups. This project focuses on mixture SEM methods that tackle such challenges by optimizing the comparability of the psychological constructs’ relations both within and between groups while, at the same time, capturing clusters of subjects within the groups with equivalent relations. These novel methods will give psychologists the tools to answer their important research questions, even when comparability is difficult. The project includes substantive applications of the novel methods and the development of user-friendly, open-source software.


KU Leuven



  • You have a master's degree, preferably in (quantitative) psychology, or another master’s degree that implies a profound knowledge of statistics, data analysis and programming.
  • You have a good knowledge of statistics, data analysis and programming.
  • You have affinity with psychology.
  • You are precise, creative, highly motivated and enthusiastic about performing meticulous research.
  • You have excellent English reporting skills (both oral and written).
  • You can work on your own, but also enjoy working in an interdisciplinary and interuniversity team.
  • Familiarity with structural equation modeling and/or mixture modeling is an asset.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.


  • a fully funded PhD position for four years, starting on October 1st, 2024.
  • an initial contract of one year that can be extended to four years.
  • an enthusiastic and supportive supervision team.
  • excellent research facilities, conference/travel budget, and a competitive salary with various additional benefits (in terms of holidays, health insurance, transport costs).


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Behaviour and society; Economics; Health
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • AT KULEUVEN 20240510


Oude Markt 13, 3000, Leuven

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