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The power of goal-directed processes in the causation of emotional and unhealthy behavior Leuven Belgium,  

KU Leuven (company)

Posted on : 01 May 2017

Project Description

  • People often engage in behavior that is not in their best interest. 
  • For instance, they become aggressive even when they risk a high cost (e.g., retaliation or ruining a relationship) and they engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking. 
  • Traditional theories have attributed these so-called suboptimal behaviors to a stimulus-driven process in which a stimulus activates a response based on the person s prior learning history or innate wiring. 
  • This response can be regulated by a goal-directed process, which compares the values and likelihoods of the outcomes of different action options, but only when the person has ample opportunity to engage in this process.
  •  We propose an alternative theory in which goal-directed processes do not merely play a regulatory role, but are also at the heart of the emotional and unhealthy behaviors themselves.
  •  This deviates from the tenacious view that emotions and unhealthy behaviors are irrational. 
  • The project challenges the traditional theory by testing whether seemingly stimulus-driven behavior might be due to goal-directed processes after all. 
  • We do so by using state-of-the-art behavioral (reaction time) and neuroscientific (TMS/MEP) methods. 
  • Support for the alternative theory has important implications for behavior change in clinical practice and society.

Candidates should have a Master degree in psychology, experience with conducting experimental research, experience with or a willingness to learn neuroscientific methods (TMS/MEP), a deep interest in theory, and good English reporting skills. 

  • The PhD position extends over a period of 4 years.  
  • We offer a competitive salary with various additional benefits (in terms of holidays, health insurance, transport costs), excellent research facilities, and conference and travel budget. 


3000 Leuven Belgium

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