28 young researchers to receive Research Talent funding

23 May 2017

From research into the effect on young people of posting ‘selfies’ to crashes in the financial markets and the neural basis of anticipation in language processing: 28 up-and-coming researchers are to conduct PhD research into a wide range of topics with NWO funding under the Research Talent programme.

Image of the NWO programme Research Talent. Source: Shutterstock.Image: Shutterstock

28 of the 68 full proposals submitted have been accepted in the 2017 round. The board of the NWO domain Social Sciences and Humanities decided last week which proposals will receive funding.

Research Talent

Research Talent offers excellent students in the social and behavioural sciences the opportunity to do PhD research. Students demonstrate their ambition based on educational background, subjects taken, results achieved and scientific activities pursued. PhD candidates are put forward by a supervising professor. Candidates have a free choice of topic for their PhD but it must fit within the social and behavioural sciences. 6.25 million euros were available in this round.

The proposals awarded funding are listed below, ordered by main applicant’s surname.

Proposals awarded funding

Identifying group differences in large-scale multi-block data
'To measure is to know' and today we measure just about everything: not only our income, education, age and weight – but also when and where we are, which webpages we visit, our own genome, etc. We can learn a great deal about behaviour and society by supplementing traditional data sources with this new kind of Big Data. Existing statistical methods are insufficient for an integrated analysis of such data. We are therefore developing new methods to provide insight into areas such as the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in obesity, and to find possible differences between individuals in this link between genetic constitution and environment.

Main applicant: Dr K. van Deun (Tilburg University)
Discipline: Sociology
PhD candidate: Shuai Yuan
Co-applicant: Prof. J.K. Vermunt (Tilburg University)

A transforming public sphere: the effect of blogs on climate change communication and individual risk perceptions
The emergence of new media is transforming the public sphere: journalistic norms and practices of traditional media organisations are giving way to more horizontal communication strategies, leading to target group segmentation and fragmentation. The research focuses on blogs, investigating how the above trends are influencing the communication about and perception of climate change. Content analysis will be used to identify polarising and segmenting framing strategies in climate change blogs from four countries. With the aid of in-depth interviews and an experiment, the research will then examine how the frames identified affect individual perceptions of climate change. The Moral Politics Scale and climate change risk perception models will be used.

Main applicant: Prof. P.H. Feindt (Wageningen University & Research)
Discipline: Communication Sciences
PhD candidate: Christel van Eck

Effects of attention on multi-sensory entrainment in auditory cortical columns
Our brains are highly sensitive to rhythmic information. When we listen to music, for example, the activity of our brain cells is 'entrained' or carried along with it, so that the music and the brain cells activity share the same rhythm. Within a rhythm, however, we can also pay attention to one of several instruments playing in time, in the same way that we can choose which voice to focus on at a crowded party. This project uses high-resolution fMRI to investigate how attention extracts key information from entraining rhythms.

Main applicant: Prof. E. Formisano (Maastricht University)
Discipline: Biological and Medical Psychology
PhD candidate: Miriam Heynckes
Co-applicant: Prof. P. de Weerd (Maastricht University)

Extending consciousness: how do fluctuations in conscious state influence our subjective phenomenal experience?
As we read these words, something strange happens – something that we do not yet fully understand. The electrochemical activity of billions of brain cells provides a conscious experience of these words. But how? We are attempting to understand consciousness better by studying how conscious experiences depend on the state of the brain. For example, does the process work differently when we are falling asleep, sitting still or riding a bicycle? This research should shed new light on what happens when we lose consciousness, such as when we fall into a coma, go to sleep or undergo anaesthesia.

Main applicant: Dr S. van Gaal (University of Amsterdam)
Discipline: Psychonomics and Cognitive Psychology
PhD candidate: Lola Beerendonk
Co-applicant: Prof. V.A.F. Lamme (University of Amsterdam)

Worker adjustment in the digital age
Together with globalisation, automation and robotisation are having a major impact on the labour market and modern society. Many people believe that economists see only the benefits of innovation and globalisation. However, recent economic theories and empirical research show that there are winners and losers as a result of technological progress and globalisation. Therefore the aim of this PhD research is to investigate how today’s digital technologies influence vulnerable groups and to identify these. It will focus specifically on how workers look for new jobs and how vulnerable groups can be supported.

Main applicant: Prof. M. Goos (Utrecht University)
Discipline: Macroeconomics
PhD candidate: Ronja Röttger

Does reputation management work? On the efforts of EU agencies to increase regulatees’ trust
Agencies are becoming an increasingly important part of the institutional landscape of the European Union. These independent bodies are responsible for providing information on or regulating a specific sector of the European internal market. A good understanding between the sector being regulated and the agency itself is crucial because it ensures that companies provide agencies with the information they need to carry out their remit. This research will look at whether and how these agencies maintain their reputation among regulatees, and whether this approach generates trust.

Main applicant: Prof. M. Haverland (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Discipline: Management
PhD candidate: Rik Joosen

A new optimisation framework to solve hard decision problems under uncertainty
Many business problems involve difficult decisions. The difficulty often lies in the fact that the numerous options available make it impossible to determine the optimum choice within a limited time frame. In addition, problems of this type are often fraught with uncertainty. One such problem is the planning of journeys for trucks with uncertain travel times. To date, we know very little about the best approach to take when the number of potential solutions is huge and the situation is complicated by uncertainty. This project attempts to develop a robust approach that can identify good solutions to these difficult decision-making problems.

Main applicant: Prof. D. den Hertog (Tilburg University)
Discipline: Econometrics
PhD candidate: Ernst Roos
Co-applicant: Prof. A. Ben-Tal (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)

Insider witnesses’ credibility and reliability: an empirical legal framework for international criminal justice
Evidence problems often hinder the prosecution of those who commit serious international crimes. This study uses legal and social science methods to investigate how evidence from insiders, who often have key information, can be collected in such a way that it is suitable for use in criminal proceedings.

Main applicant: Dr B. Hola LLM (VU Amsterdam)
Discipline: Criminal Law and Criminology
PhD candidate: Gabriele Chlevickaite
Co-applicant: Prof. C.C.J.H. Bijleveld LLM (NSCR/VU Amsterdam)

The rise and fall of emotional memory distortions
Our identity is largely determined by our emotional memories. When our personal memories become distorted, this has major consequences not only for the way in which we remember the past and experience the present, but also for how we behave in the future. What are the exact circumstances under which these personal memories change in quality and content? And what causes the emotional charge of a memory to, or indeed decrease, over time? What consequences does this have for our mood? This project seeks answers to these questions.

Main applicant: Prof. M. Kindt (University of Amsterdam)
Discipline: Clinical Psychology
PhD candidate: Sascha Duken
Co-applicant: Dr V.A. van Ast (University of Amsterdam)

Organised crime involvement across generations: continuity, resilience and interventions
Organised crime is on the rise and dominates public debate. A previous pilot study showed that children of people who commit serious crimes such as large-scale drug trafficking and human trafficking stand a much greater chance of following in their parents’ footsteps than children of 'ordinary' criminals. In this follow-up study I plan to investigate what causes this. How strong is the intergenerational transmission of organised crime at a national level? What mechanisms are at play in these families and what are the roles of the various family members? I will also examine possible interventions that might prevent children of organised criminals from taking after their parents.

Main applicant: Prof. E.R. Kleemans (VU Amsterdam)
Discipline: Criminal Law and Criminology
PhD candidate: Meintje van Dijk
Co-applicant: Dr V.I. Eichelsheim (NSCR)

‘Protean powers' to empower the self? A cross-cultural comparison and Influences of Idealised online self(ie)-presentations
Millions of selfies are posted on social media every day. But what influence does this have? Our knowledge is currently limited. Researchers differ in their opinion on the extent to which such 'self-presentations online' have a positive or negative influence. This research aims to chart the circumstances in which selfies are taken, for whom they are intended, and how the taking, editing, posting and viewing of selfies can positively or negatively affect the 'offline' well-being of young people. We will also look at the differences in Eastern and Western cultures and the dynamics of online-offline influences over time. The results will enhance the debate around social media effects.

Main applicant: Prof. E.A. Konijn (VU Amsterdam)
Discipline: Communication Sciences
PhD candidate: Nadia bij de Vaate
Co-applicant: Prof. J.B. Walther (Nanyang Technological University Singapore)

Adverse youth experiences and educational and occupational success: Resources and resilience
Large numbers of children face negative experiences during their youth, such as neglect, abuse, alcohol misuse, divorce and health problems. Previous research has focused on the consequences for the health and well-being of these children. However, we still have relatively little information about the long-term consequences of negative youth experiences for their education and careers as they progress into adulthood. This study aims to investigate the extent to which parents – using their social, cultural and financial resources – can help children to cope with negative experiences and, moreover, how national policies can facilitate this.

Main applicant: Prof. G.L.M. Kraaykamp (Radboud University)
Discipline: Sociology
PhD candidate: Carlijn Bussemakers

Great expectations: can predictive coding account for language processing?
When we understand something we say we can 'follow' it. But language processing itself is not easy to follow. People anticipate words based on their context ('salt and […]') and are surprised when these predictions prove incorrect ('salt and cheese'). This project investigates the neural basis of anticipation in language processing. These cognitive processes are compared with theoretical predictions about the role of anticipation in the brain. Until now, these theoretical principles have been studied only in the context of perception. Here I will use language as a test for their supposed general validity.

Main applicant: Dr F.P. de Lange (Radboud University)
Discipline: Psychonomics and Cognitive Psychology
PhD candidate: Micha Heilbron
Co-applicant: Prof. P. Hagoort (Radboud University)

Social costs and benefits of financial technology (FinTech)
Financial Technology or 'FinTech' has fundamentally changed how financial institutions provide services to their clients. In some cases, computers have replaced people entirely (e.g. stock markets and traders). These drastic changes pose significant challenges for everyone: end users (clients), intermediaries and academics are all looking for the most efficient and 'fairest' market structure. In this project, Shihao is focusing on one phenomenon in particular, namely 'crashes'. These appear to be occurring with greater frequency in the current electronic markets. He will also study the causes and above all the social costs of crashes. Shihao will focus especially on the Central Counterparties (CCPs) which have been created to prevent another major financial crash.

Main applicant: Prof. A.J. Menkveld (VU Amsterdam)
Discipline: Microeconomics
PhD candidate: Shihao Yu

New dimensions in social science: Extending structural equation models to accommodate novel data Sources
With the advent of new forms of data collection, new challenges for data analysis are also emerging. For example, researchers can now measure detailed time series using sensors, map our entire genome with microarrays, and gauge our online preferences by collecting public data. This project develops and tests extensions of methods which are known to and trusted by social scientists. We will integrate new and traditional forms of data to answer social science questions in novel multidisciplinary ways.

Main applicant: Dr D.L. Oberski (Utrecht University)
Discipline: Psychometrics
PhD candidate: Erik Jan van Kesteren
Co-applicant: Prof. I.G. Klugkist (Utrecht University)

Diabetes at the margins: Knowing diabetes through global health and local practice
Diabetes is a problem that mainly affects disadvantaged population groups. Information campaigns to reach them have proved unsuccessful. This study investigates how medical information can be better tailored to these groups by exploring how Aboriginal Australians understand and cope with diabetes. The research will be conducted using methods from anthropology, namely participatory observation and interviews. It will provide a better theoretical understanding of how people use medical information in their daily lives, together with practical recommendations for aligning professional care more closely with the everyday routines of living with diabetes.

Main applicant: Prof. A.J. Pols (University of Amsterdam)
Discipline: Cultural Anthropology
PhD candidate: Maja de Langen
Co-applicant: Dr K. Krause (University of Amsterdam)

Making the Bayesian approach to criminal evidence work: from problems to practice
Cases such as Lucia de B. and the Schiedam Park Murder have shown that serious mistakes are sometimes made in establishing the facts in criminal law. Bayesian probability theory offers a promising mathematical framework for legal evidence and for preventing errors of reasoning, but we sometimes forget that legal evidence involves not only applied mathematics but also applied philosophy, and that it is bound by legal procedures. In this research project, Bayesian methods for legal evidence will be developed based on insights from the philosophy of science and in line with principles of criminal law, notably the presumption of innocence and the right to remain silent.

Main applicant: Prof. H. Prakken LLM (University of Groningen)
Discipline: Criminal Law and Criminology
PhD candidate: Hylke Jellema
Co-applicant: Prof. A.R. Mackor (University of Groningen)

A Neuroeconomic Investigation into the Cognitive and Affective Processes Underlying Strategic Reasoning
Strategic situations are situations in which our well-being depends not only on our own decisions but also on the decisions of others. In situations like this, it is important we can empathise with others so that we can predict their decisions and make the best decision for ourselves. This reasoning process, also known as strategic reasoning, is not particularly well understood at present. In this PhD project, economic, psychological and neuroscience research methods will be combined to enhance our understanding of the cognitive and affective processes at play during strategic reasoning.

Main applicant: Prof. A.M. Riedl (Maastricht University)
Discipline: Microeconomics
PhD candidate: Eveline Vandewal
Co-applicant: Dr T. Schuhmann (Maastricht University)

Understanding between- and within-person differences in experience sampling measurements using mixture factor analysis
Experience sampling, where participants are repeatedly interviewed in their daily lives via smartphone apps, is widely used to measure psychological constructs (e.g. well-being, depression) for certain individuals over time. The validity of these studies, for example in terms of the allocation and adaptation of treatments over time, may be impaired by distortions of the measurements of the relevant constructs, such as response styles or differing interpretations of questionnaire items. This project develops a new approach to distinguish distortions from actual construct measurements, while taking into account the specific characteristics of experience sampling studies. This will be implemented in user-friendly software.

Main applicant: Dr K. de Roover (Tilburg University)
Discipline: Psychometrics
PhD candidate: Leonie Vogelsmeier
Co-applicant: Prof. J. Vermunt (Tilburg University)

Follow the honey. Real-world experiments among cybercrime offenders
How do criminals choose their goals and methods? What role do the costs and benefits of different alternatives play? Existing theories assume that offenders make rational decisions, but these theories have rarely been tested experimentally. This project uses 'honey accounts', online Google accounts that have deliberately been rendered vulnerable to hacking, to allow an experimental investigation of cybercriminals’ behaviour. The research offers unique opportunities for conducting a stringent test of existing criminology theories on offenders’ decision-making behaviour. This study of offender behaviour will broaden our understanding of cybercrime, as previous research has tended to focus on victims and security.

Main applicant: Prof. S. Ruiter (NSCR, Utrecht University)
Discipline: Criminal Law and Criminology
PhD candidate: Renushka Madarie
Co-applicant: Dr W. Steenbeek (NSCR)

In control of attention: teasing apart the brain’s top-down mechanisms of attention allocation
By focusing our attention on specific locations in the environment, our brains make sure we do not become over-stimulated. To do this, different regions of the brain need to communicate in a complex way and sometimes this goes wrong: for example, after a brain injury or during ageing (healthy or otherwise). I use innovative neuroscience methods to study how this communication works. The results can be used to develop new treatments for attention problems. Understanding brain communication with respect to attention can also help with other topics, because the brain often uses similar mechanisms for different functions.

Main applicant: Prof. A.T. Sack (Maastricht University)
Discipline: Biological and Medical Psychology
PhD candidate: Shanice Janssens
Co-applicant: Dr T.A. de Graaf MSc (Maastricht University)

The Mediterranean rescue spectacle: The eeconfiguration of the border as a humanitarian space
Since 2011, record numbers of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea. While the European Union tightened its border control policy, groups of European citizens carried out rescue operations using their own boats. This project looks at the everyday work of these new humanitarian organisations in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the first study to focus on this 'civilian rescue fleet'. Using participative observation on board the rescue ships, interviews with rescue workers and migrants, and an analysis of their online activities, this project investigates how humanitarian interventions are becoming involved in the European border regime. This will provide new insights for policymakers and public debate.

Main applicant: Prof. W. Schinkel (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Discipline: Sociology
PhD candidate: Eva van Gemert

Integrating insights from psychology, neuroscience and artificial intelligence to mechanistically understand visual attention
The ability to focus on key information is crucial in everyday life, from paying attention at school to navigating in traffic. In this project the researchers are developing a computer model with cognitive properties, which ensure that relevant information is selected for processing and irrelevant information is disregarded. The model predicts attention performance and can also be used to characterise attention problems more accurately, to manage traffic situations as safely as possible, or to improve information processing in computer models.

Main applicant: Dr H.S. Scholte (University of Amsterdam)
Discipline: Psychonomics and Cognitive Psychology
PhD candidate: Lynn Sörensen
Co-applicant: Prof. J.M. Murre (University of Amsterdam)

Silenced, heard or represented? Child participation in family law disputes
Children in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe are often involved in family law cases such as divorces and child protection proceedings. Even though their interests and futures are decided in such cases, the children themselves are often not heard. Children’s rights require that child participation is taken seriously. Research shows that child participation in legal cases has significant benefits. The question of how to enable children to participate in such disputes in an appropriate and child-friendly manner remains unanswered. This research will provide an answer by creating a European child participation model that will strengthen the rights of children in the Netherlands and beyond.

Main applicant: Prof. W.M. Schrama LLM (Utrecht University)
Discipline: Private Law
PhD candidate: Charlotte Mol

The Broad Autism Spectrum: Not in a Box, but on a Line.
In recent years, autism has increasingly being viewed less as a distinct entity and more as a broad spectrum on which some people show almost no autistic characteristics and others very many. This study will first of all look at improvements in the measurement instruments that are frequently used to determine how many autistic characteristics people have. In addition, we will try to answer specific questions in the area of how people with many autistic characteristics can best be taught in the education system and how the treatment of some symptoms can be improved. This will be done by using these improved measurement instruments, by observing behaviour and by examining the brain.

Main applicant: prof. dr. J.W. van Strien (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Discipline: Biologische en medische psychologie
PhD candidate: Kristel de Groot

Dynamic clustering: Classifying people through ecological momentary assessment
To understand the origins and development of mental illness, data needs to be collected from individuals at multiple successive time points. The existing methods used to analyse such data have the shortcoming that they only map one aspect. They focus either on the unique characteristics of each individual studied, or on the group of individuals as a whole. The purpose of this research is to develop new analytical methods to provide a clear understanding of both the unique characteristics of each individual as well as what connects the individuals in the group.

Main applicant: Prof. M.E. Timmerman (University of Groningen)
Discipline: Psychometrics
PhD candidate: Anja F. Ernst
Co-applicant: Dr C.J. Albers (University of Groningen)

Blinded analysis as a cure for the crisis of confidence
The empirical sciences have recently been plunged into a crisis of confidence. This crisis is characterised by a worryingly low percentage of findings that can be successfully replicated. As a cure, this project explores an alternative analytical method: blinded analysis. Blinded analysis permits data-based analytical choices but prevents the pursuing of implicit or explicit forms of significance. This project encompasses the development of various techniques for blinding analysis, the empirical testing of these techniques, and their implementation in user-friendly open source software.

Main applicant: Prof. E.J. Wagenmakers (University of Amsterdam)
Discipline: Psychometrics
PhD candidate: Alexandra Sarafoglou

Opening the 'black box’ of Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM): revealing how participation in VOM reduces the risk of reoffending
Victim-offender mediation is becoming increasingly important in criminal cases in Europe. Mediation contributes to the well-being of victims, as they can express emotions, ask questions and seek satisfaction from their offender. In addition, research shows that mediation leads to lower reoffending rates than criminal cases settled in the normal manner. However, there has been no research into the question as to how and why mediation reduces the risk of reoffending. This research seeks to answer that question and will therefore develop an innovative theoretical model incorporating factors before, during and after mediation. The model will be tested against existing mediation practice in Dutch and Belgian Limburg.

Main applicant: Dr S. Zebel (University of Twente)
Discipline: Criminal Law and Criminology
PhD candidate: Jiska Jonas-van Dijk
Co-applicant: Prof. J.M. Nelen LLM (Maastricht University)

Source: NWO