Postdoc in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Religion

Job description

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate for a postdoc position within a project funded by the Templeton Foundation and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, granted to Dr. Brian Ostafin and Prof. Dr. André Aleman. We offer a contract of 12 months, with an extension of 12 additional months being possible.

Phenomenological perspectives of religion highlight the importance of religious or spiritual experiences. These experiences may occur through direct experiential contact with the transcendent or through mythic metaphor, which facilitates an intuitive identification and participation with the transcendent. Researchers have increasingly used cognitive science tools to better understand mental processes involved in religious experiences. The cognitive science approach to religion seeks to uncover how information is processed, stored and acted upon and how these processes underlie religious experience and behavior.

Further, cognitive neuroscience can help to shed light on the underlying mechanisms of cognitive processes involved and to distinguish between different cognitive hypotheses. Working from recent advances in the cognitive science understanding of metaphor and its role in meaning-making, this project focuses on the relation of transcendent experiences on metaphorical cognitive processes when reading religious text.

This project examines the influence of inducing the emotion of awe on interpretation of religious narrative and the neural and psychological mechanisms of the main effects. fMRI assessments will be conducted at the Cognitive Neuroscience Center of the UMCG.

Tasks and responsibilities:

  • Designing and carrying out experimental study using experimental psychology and fMRI methods
  • Presenting research results at conferences and workshops
  • Publishing academic articles
  • Participating in regular meetings with the other project team members, including supervision of researchers
  • Assisting in communication tasks (e.g., co-managing project website, writing blog posts


The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

Our Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences is a center of knowledge focusing on individuals and society. We study issues relating to human behaviour, and the relationships between people and society as a whole. This includes the study of how people function under normal circumstances, but also of the problems encountered by individuals or groups, and how to resolve or prevent these. The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences employs over 800 staff members. For more information about the Faculty please check the link


We are looking for candidates who meet the following requirements:

  • a PhD degree in the cognitive science of religion, cognitive neuroscience or a related discipline;
  • a relevant publication record in the cognitive science of religion, cognitive neuroscience or a related discipline, demonstrating your ability to publish international academic publications;
  • a clear interest in collaborative interdisciplinary research;
  • excellent command of the English language;
  • ability to work independently and manage joint research activities;
  • a team player with strong communication skills;
  • demonstrable competences as conceptual capacity, environment orientation, presenting and result orientation.


Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

  • depending on qualifications and work experience, a salary of € 3,413 to a maximum of € 4,670 (salary scale 10) gross per month for a full-time position
  • a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
  • attractive secondary terms of employment
  • the position is classified in accordance with the University Job Classification (UFO) system; the UFO profile is Researcher 4
  • a temporary contract of 1.0 fte for a period of 1 year, with the extension of 1 year being possible.

Intended starting date: October 1, 2023


You can apply by submitting a letter of application and curriculum vitae until July 12, 2023, 11:59pm Central European Time. Only submissions via the application form will be considered. The selection interviews will take place the week of July 17, 2023.
Applications should include:
1. A letter of motivation (about 1000 words), in which you describe your background in the cognitive science of religion, cognitive neuroscience, or related fields.
2. A curriculum vitae, including a list of publications and (if applicable) other research output clearly showing your expertise in relevant areas
3. The text of one publication (or piece of writing, e.g., a chapter from your dissertation) you find particularly relevant.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP):

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.