Vacant PhD position in social psychology at UCLouvain/IPSY



“Interpersonal self-regulatory similarity and complementarity”


Professor Karl-Andrew Woltin is looking for a talented and motivated PhD-student for a full-time PhD position at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY), UCLouvain. The project seeks to investigate conditions under which similarity (fit) and complementarity (misfit) of people’s self-regulatory inclinations results in beneficial outcomes.

The institute

The Psychological Sciences Research Institute (IPSY) of the UCLouvain is composed of approx. 300 members. It enjoys an outstanding national and international reputation and maintains fruitful scientific collaborations with leading universities around the world. The Institute provides researchers with personalized assistance and support in editing, statistics, ethics, access to a participant pool, budget and project management. Testing and experimental facilities include laboratories for individual and group testing, a Psychophysiology Laboratory, an EEG-ERP Laboratory, an Immersive Virtual Environment Laboratory, a Motion and Eye-tracking Laboratory, and a Crossmodal Perception and Plasticity Laboratory. More information about the institute is given here:

The project

Working together on task or trying to reach joint goals might be smooth if people use similar strategies, but some tasks or to-be-reached goals might require a variety of strategies. Self-regulation theories pertain to the different ways in which people aim to reach their goals. Whilst regulatory focus theory posits that people differ in being eager and risky (in a promotion focus) or vigilant and cautious (in a prevention focus), regulatory mode theory posits that they differ in being concerned about progress and moving on (“doing it fast” in a locomotion mode) or about evaluation and reflection (“doing it right” in an assessment mode). Two people can thus be similar or complementary in their self-regulatory goal pursuit. At present, there is evidence for positive interpersonal effects stemming both from similarity (“birds of feather flock together”) and complementarity (“opposites attract”). However, to date research has mostly focussed on broad conceptualisations of goals, behaviours or contexts. The current project aims to apply a more fine-grained analysis to understand when specific aspects are or are not advantageous. To illustrate, for leaders and followers it may be helpful to be similar for task-oriented behaviour, but to be complementary for people-oriented behaviour. At the same time, some tasks might benefit from doing things together in a similar fashion, whilst others might benefit from doing things for each other in a complementary fashion.

Key responsibilities

  • Literature search & review
  • Hypothesis-driven development & execution of quantitative research
  • Communication at conferences & in international peer-reviewed journals
  • Potentially also supervision of master thesis projects

Person specifications / Selection criteria

  • Master’s degree in (preferably social, motivational, or cognitive) psychology; obtained by September 2019 the latest
  • Excellent written & spoken English & French communication skills
  • Proficiency in standard software of the social sciences (e.g., SPSS, Stata, R) and excellent quantitative data analyses skills
  • A strong interest in interpersonal social psychological phenomena
  • Strong organizational & planning skills as well as initiative
  • The ability to efficiently work autonomously & in teams
  • Strong intrinsic motivation & perseverance in the face of adversity
  • Desirable also:
    • Experience with experimental psychological research
    • Knowledge of advanced statistical techniques & software (e.g., multi-level or longitudinal, meta-analysis, structural equation modelling)
    • Publication experience

Terms and conditions

  • Fulltime employment for 12 month with extension (if evaluated positively) for 3 additional years. The post must lead to completing a PhD thesis in 4 years.
  • Stimulating work and learning environment in which you acquire relevant expertise as a researcher
  • Starting date is flexible between 1st October 2019 & 1st January 2020
  • Salary is according to standard Belgian regulations for PhD students (starting at around 1950€ per month net salary)


Interested candidates can email Karl-Andrew Woltin,  with potential questions or informal inquires. They are asked to send him by June 30th in one single PDF file via email (subject line “UCL SR PhD application”):

  • A motivation letter (incl. reasons for applying to this position; research interests, skills & experience)
  • A CV (incl. personal contact details, previous jobs, education details, relevant proof of language skills, potential publication)
  • The name and contact details (incl. email addresses) of two referees

The selection process will involve a short presentation and an interview, most likely to take place beginning of July.