26.05.2020 - 13:00
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PhD student position on early development of physical cognition in non-human great apes

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.

PhD student position on early development of physical cognition in non-human great apes
The Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig is seeking qualified applicants for a fully funded three-year doctoral project on early development of physical cognition in captive non-human great apes.


The fields of developmental and comparative psychology share the overall aim to understand the origins of the human mind. To date there has been very little research studying the intersection between the two fields: cognitive development from a comparative perspective. Thus, while we have gained extensive knowledge about the development of cognitive abilities in humans, and about the most prominent commonalities and differences between humans and their closest living relatives, we are lacking knowledge about when and how these differences arise. The aim of this project is to investigate the early development of physical cognition in non-human primates, with a special focus on object representation, numerical cognition, and causal inference. We are planning to apply cutting edge technology, such as eye tracking, pupillometry, and thermal imaging to non-invasively assess cognitive abilities of infant apes. By studying and comparing developmental trajectories of physical cognition, we will not only get insights into when differences between species emerge, but also gain a deeper understanding of the cognitive architecture of these abilities in humans and other apes.

Project Details

The selected candidate will design, implement, and analyze experimental studies with infant chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas (and perhaps human infants) using eye tracking and non-invasive physiological measures. Data collection will take place mainly at the Leipzig Zoo, but might be extended to other European Zoos and/or African sanctuaries.


We seek highly motivated candidates with a MSc degree in Psychology, Biology, Anthropology or a related subject. Applicants must have experience in designing and conducting scientific experiments, expertise in conducting statistical analyses, and excellent communication skills (in spoken and written English). Furthermore programming skills (R, Matlab, Python,… ), and experience in working with animals, in particular non-human primates, is desirable.


Please address questions and completed applications electronically to Dr. Johanna Eckert (Johanna_Eckert@eva.mpg.de). Applications should include:
1. Cover letter describing how you meet the requirements, including details of past research projects and relevant experience (not more than 2 pages)
2. Curriculum vitae, including the names of three professional references
3. Copies of relevant degree certificates

All electronic applications received by March 21st, 2020 will be considered. Start date is flexible but ideally in the first half of 2020.
Candidates of all nationalities are invited to apply. Applications from women are especially welcome.
Information on the institute is available at http://www.eva.mpg.de/.
We look forward to receiving your application.

The Max Planck Society is committed to equal opportunities and to employing individuals with disabilities and explicitly encourages them to apply.

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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