Postdoctoral Position

The Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) invites applications for a postdoctoral position offering applicants the opportunity to join the research project “Uncovering and mitigating the detrimental effects of social learning on the discovery of new solutions”.
The postdoctoral position is a full-time fixed-term position for 2 years starting on 1st September 2022 or as soon as possible hereafter subject to mutual agreement.
The project is led by Dr Maxime Derex and funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR).

The research project

Our aim is to better understand humans’ ability to accumulate of knowledge and skills over successive cultural generations. Humans’ social learning abilities are pivotal to this process, but historical and empirical evidence suggests that excessive reliance on pre-existing solutions can sometimes promote the persistence of arbitrary solutions and hinder progress towards higher achievements. The project aims to improve our understanding of the extent to which social learning hinders collective innovation with the ultimate goal of assessing whether it is possible to reap the collective benefits of social learning (i.e., cumulative culture and collective intelligence) without paying the costs associated to it (i.e., fixation effects and limited exploration). The project will gain insight into these issues by conducting online, lab and field experiments.

The position

The advertised position involves developing and conducting laboratory and online experiments to study the effect of social learning on learners’ exploration of the design space. Experimental tasks (either computerized or physical) relevant to the question at hand will have to be developed by the postdoc. Experimental manipulations might concern the type, quantity and quality of social information and population turnover and structure, among others. Parallel online experiments in multiple countries might be added to the project depending on the applicant’s empirical interests and background knowledge.
Research will primarily be carried out collaboratively with other project members but there will also be opportunities for pursuing independent work within the focus of the project. The project includes funding for one research assistant, data collection, traveling and conferences.

Your qualifications

Applicants are expected to hold a PhD in relevant areas of psychology, cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, or a related field. Applicants should have a strong interest in cultural evolution, advanced statistical and programming skills and general interest for interdisciplinary research. In addition to a keen interest in conducting collaborative research within the focus of the project, the successful candidate must demonstrate ambition and ability to produce high-quality research and commitment to Open Science.
Please indicate in your application if you have prior experience with conducting human experiments, programming languages (e.g., Python, R, Javascript, etc.) and developing online or cross-cultural experiments.

Research environment

The postdoc will be part of IAST whose mission is to foster interdisciplinary research. IAST has a unified scientific project whose aim is to study the behavior of human beings as evolved biological organisms who live in groups, form networks and coalitions, are governed by formal institutions and informal norms, produce and exchange scarce resources and are inspired by ideals and beliefs. IAST hosts researchers with training in one of ten disciplines including psychology, anthropology, biology and economics. The institute is located in downtown Toulouse, a lively city in Southwest France. You can find more information about IAST here: https://www.iast.fr/

How do I apply?

Please send a cover letter (including research interests), 1-2 writing sample (e.g. published peer-reviewed journal article, preprint or working paper), your CV and the names and email addresses of 2-3 referees to Maxime Derex (maxime.derex[at]iast.fr). The deadline for submitting your application is Jan 15 th, 2022.