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Positions available

Thesis (Bachelor/Master) in Developmental Psychology

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology unites scientists with various backgrounds (natural sciences and humanities) whose aim is to investigate the history of humankind from an interdisciplinary perspective with the help of comparative analyses of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages and social systems of past and present human populations as well as those of primates closely related to human beings.

Project Title: “Investigating observational learning in preverbal infants”

The Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology combines approaches from developmental, cross-cultural and comparative psychology, to study uniquely human cultural diversity and the universal cognitive mechanisms that enable and constrain it. The successful candidate is expected to work on the project described below but also has the opportunity to other activities at the department.

Project Background
Human infants use diverse ways of social learning to acquire culturally relevant knowledge about their environment. In addition to participating in direct teaching practices, they rely on strategies of observational learning. Investigating memory and learning in the first year of life requires age-appropriate paradigms and non-invasive implicit measures. Eye tracking technology provides a reliable tool to gain insights into how infants perceive, understand, and learn from others.

The current project builds up on a previous study in which we found that 9-month-old infants can learn about a novel object by merely observing two people sharing attention toward it (“joint attention”). In a follow-up experiment, we aim to examine when this capacity emerges and whether it relates to infants’ active experience with joint attention interactions. To examine these questions, we plan to combine an eye tracking task with observations of infants’ natural interaction behavior.

The selected applicant may compose his/her thesis either in English or German. Requirements to students (regarding technical skills, independent writing and analyses) will be adapted to the specific demands of the student.


  • Learning under supervision how to run an eye tracking experiment with infants
  • Helping with participant recruitment
  • Collecting data at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig)
  • Developing a coding scheme to assess active social interaction behavior in young infants
  • Coding natural interaction behavior of infants based on video recordings
  • Statistical analysis of the data


  • Student in psychology or other related disciplines
  • Fluent German skills to interact with the parenting families
  • Interest in working with complex data
  • Experience with eye tracking is desired but not required
  • Interest in working and interacting with infants and parents
  • Interest in developmental psychology

Interested students are asked to send an informal application to maleen_thiele@eva.mpg.de.

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Candidates of all nationalities are invited to apply. The Max Planck Society and the Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology are committed to equal opportunities and encourage applications from individuals with disabilities and those typically underrepresented in science fields, such as women and minorities.
Further information on the institute and the department are available at http://www.eva.mpg.de/.

We look forward to receiving your completed application.

We look forward to receiving your completed application at https://www.eva.mpg.de/ career .

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Further information on the research agenda of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is available on our website : www.eva.mpg.de.

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