NIHC – PhD position A cognitive system supporting intelligent interaction – sluitingsdatum: 1 september 2010


Job description
The PhD position is available in the Multi-agent Systems Group in the Institute of Artificial Intelligence (ALICE) at the University of Groningen. The candidate will join the five-year Vici project of Prof. Rineke Verbrugge, comprising six researchers.

The Vici project ‘Cognitive systems in interaction: Logical and computational models of higher-order social cognition’.

Software agents are capable of recursion in their social reasoning: A thinks about what B knows, about what B thinks that A knows, and so on. However, humans lose track of such reasoning after only two or three levels. If software agents work together with human team-mates, they need to take into account the limits of their social cognition.
In the Vici project, we investigate children’s development and adults’ limitations in applying higher-order reasoning, using a close-knit combination of empirical research and formal modelling. Whereas first-order social cognition has been intensely investigated, higher-order social cognition is far less well-understood. This Vici project aims to apply improved understanding of higher-order social reasoning to design realistic logics, ready for implementation in systems supporting mixed human-computer teams.

The PhD project: How did higher-order social cognition evolve?

The PhD student implements a proof-of-concept cognitive system to support teams consisting of human beings as well as software agents and robots. Specifically, the system supports a team when it needs the higher-order social cognition during planning.
During team planning, the cognitive system will support agents while they negotiate about how sub-tasks and resources will be divided. They use interest-based negotiation, for example during the integrative phase of ‘expanding the pie’, where agents jointly inquire into possibilities for mutual gain.

Based on results about human reasoning processes in higher-order theory of mind, the PhD student models the users in order to provide appropriate training and support. The performance of the system will be compared to that of existing negotiation agents that do not take higher-order social reasoning into account. The PhD student tests the system on some case studies of human-computer teamwork.

We seek an energetic PhD candidate to carry out this fundamental research project at the forefront of the interdisciplinary combination of cognitive science, logic, and artificial intelligence. The candidate has an MSc degree in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, logic or theoretical biology, with a strong interest and proven skills in agent-based modelling and / or game-theoretic models. Good analytical skills and a positive attitude towards interdisciplinary work are required. Objective of the 4 years position is the production of a number of research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and a PhD thesis. Teaching duties of 10% of the time are foreseen, for example, supervision of Master’s theses. In exceptional cases, the position may also be filled as a postdoc position, for a period of around 2.5 years.

Conditions of employment
The University of Groningen offers a salary of € 2,042 gross per month in the first year up to a maximum of € 2,612 gross per month in the fourth year. It is a temporary assignment for a period of 4 years. First you will get a temporary position of 1.5 years with the perspective of prolongation with another 2.5 years. After the first year, there will be an evaluation as to the feasibility of successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next two and a half years.The Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) at the University of Groningen provides a stimulating research environment, with good facilities and high quality training and teaching.

Start date
Autumn 2010

ApplicationWe would like to receive letters in English language, including a personal motivation, a curriculum vitae, and the names and addresses of three referees (including telephone number and e-mail address).

Please, also send an electronic copy of your application to: [email protected]

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