PhD Position: Emotional Memory, Latent, Absent or Integrated in Symptom Networks of Psychopathology

 Do you have a strong interest, and preferably experience, in the network approach to psychopathology? We are looking for a PhD candidate for the NWO gravitation Project ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’.


The project ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’ studies a new theoretical and methodological framework to explain the existence, development, and maintenance of mental disorders: the network approach. This approach moves away from traditional disorder-based models by conceptualizing mental disorders as an idiographic and complex system of dynamically interacting symptoms, which may bridge diagnostic boundaries. The network approach has the potential for evolving into a paradigm shift in clinical psychology: it may offer new ways to diagnose and treat mental disorders. The ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’ project is financially supported by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO gravitation grant). In the NWO Gravitation Project ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’, a consortium of researchers from Dutch universities will further develop and critically test this network approach.


A central assumption in the network approach to mental disorders is that symptom covariance is not caused by a common underlying latent variable. Rather, symptom covariance emerges from dynamic interactions between symptoms. Thus, a mental disorder is better explained by a complex system of dynamically interacting symptoms instead of a latent categorial or dimensional entity that underlies or causes a number of symptoms. From this network perspective, symptoms are not the output of one underlying pathogenic pathway, but they are the input for, and driver of, other symptoms. The theoretical model assumes that two individuals with the same clinical presentation (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder) may be characterized by quite different network structures, and therefore require a different focus in therapy.


The leading hypothesis of the current PhD-project challenges one of the basic assumptions of the network model. It states that emotional memory lies at the core of a broad range of mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety disorders, PTSD, mood disorders, eating disorders), and that targeting emotional memory in psychotherapy is quintessential to persistently mitigate symptoms of psychopathology. There is however little evidence indicating whether treatment response is indeed achieved by altering underlying representations such as emotional memory. An alternative hypothesis is that emotional memory may solely be a theoretical construct that provides a strong rational for clinical scientists and practitioners. Such a view would essentially align with the network model of psychopathology, where mental disorders are conceptualised as dynamic networks of interacting symptoms without an underlying latent entity. In fact, the network approach proposes a radical move away from common causes, such as emotional memory, in the aetiology and maintenance of psychopathology.


What are you going to do


You will critically test a latent factor model against the network model of psychopathology. More specifically, we will test whether emotional memory is: (1) a latent entity that is responsible for the rise and fall of symptoms of psychopathology, or, (2) not more, and not less than a collection of interacting symptoms represented in dynamic networks of symptoms, or (3) a network itself, integrated in networks of symptoms (hybrid model). You may also contribute to teaching in the Psychology curriculum.


What do you have to offer


You have:

  • A Research Master’s degree in psychology with a major/minor in clinical psychology and psychological methods (or vice versa);
  • A keen interest in and preferably experience in network methodology and psychopathology;
  • Strong statistical skills;
  • Programming skills, preferably R or Python;
  • Well-developed analytical skills and creativity;
  • Excellent writing and presentation skills (English).


Our offer


The position concerns temporary employment of maximally 38 hours per week for a maximum term of 4 years. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 36 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. We will put together a curriculum which will also include the opportunity to attend training courses and both national and international events. You will also be tasked with teaching Bachelor's students.


Your salary will be €2,443 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3,122 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.


The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.


What else do we offer

  • a position in which initiative and input are highly valued;
  • an enthusiastic and warm team that is open to new colleagues;
  • an inspiring academic and international working environment in the heart of Amsterdam.


About us


The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 39,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.


About the faculty

A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.




Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

  • Prof. dr. Merel Kindt


Job application


Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 11 September 22. You may apply online by using the link below.


Applications in .pdf should include:

  • a curriculum vitae;
  • a letter of motivation.



The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.


If you encounter Error GBB451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.


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