Post Doc in Evolution of Human Cooperation

VU University of Amsterdam Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

Do you hold a PhD in the social, biological, or computer sciences, have skills to develop models about the evolution of cooperation, and would you like to pursue a post-doc investigating how ecological variation in interdependence affects the evolution of human cooperation? Please apply for the 3-year post-doc position in the Amsterdam Cooperation Lab ( at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. You will collaborate with Daniel Balliet (P.I., Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Fernando P. Santos (University of Amsterdam) on this project.

Duration: 3 years
FTE: 1 - 1

Job description

General Description
A Postdoc position for three years for 1.0 fte is available at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Amsterdam Cooperation Lab ( headed by Prof. Daniel Balliet at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

The Research Project
The postdoc will work within an interdisciplinary team, composed of psychologists, anthropologists, and computer scientists, to implement an ERC funded project on the ecological origins of cross-societal variation in human cooperation (see the project summary below). The postdoc will focus on the sub-project that aims to test ideas about how variation in interdependence can affect the evolution of different norms of cooperation across societies.
This project will involve conducting agent-based models of cooperation, and there is also the potential to design and implement behavioral experiments.  Therefore, a successful candidate must have the knowledge and skills to implement agent-based models about the evolution of cooperation, perform numerical simulations, and would have experience in writing papers based on these methods. The postdoc will have the skills to analyze data, and consider how to use existing data from experiments to inform models about the evolution of cooperation.  
The Amsterdam Cooperation Lab is also connected with the Hybrid Intelligence Center ( which aims to build A.I. that better cooperates with humans. Depending on the interests of the postdoc, the Hybrid Intelligence Center could also provide opportunities for further collaboration.

Project Summary
A puzzle facing the social sciences is understanding the origin of cross-societal variation in cooperation. Strikingly, multiple disciplines propose the same, not yet established, explanation: ecological conditions, such as subsistence, environmental hazards, and relational mobility, determine how people are interdependent (i.e. how actions affect own and others’ outcomes), and interdependence can be the mechanism through which diverse ecologies shape a culture of cooperation. For example, rice versus wheat production plausibly has led to more versus less dependence on others, which then led to different cultures (e.g. values, beliefs, and norms) that affect strategies of when and how people cooperate. The Amsterdam Cooperation Lab will use a multi-discipline, multi-method approach to answer three questions about whether ecologies indeed create different interdependence, and how this leads to variation in culture and cooperation.

Do ecologies create different kinds of interdependence? We will measure the interdependence and cooperation people experience across different ecologies in 22 contemporary small-scale societies, among rice and wheat farmers in China, and in over 200 societies documented in the ethnographic record.

Can interdependence cause differences in culture and cooperation? We will use agent-based models and experiments to study how variation in interdependence can cause different norms of cooperation.

Does variation in interdependence relate to culture and cooperation? We apply experience sampling to measure interdependence and cooperation in daily life across 42 societies that vary in culture.

This project aims to establish interdependence as a common mechanism through which diverse features of the ecology shape cross-societal differences in culture and cooperation.


  • A PhD degree in the social, biological, or computer sciences
  • Experience with Agent-based modelling and Monte-Carlo simulations
  • A background in the study of cooperation, evolutionary game theory, and/or related topics
  • Good programming and data-analysis skills
  • Experience in designing and interpreting experiments
  • Demonstrated ability to engage in effective scientific writing (publications)
  • Demonstrated ability to think and work outside-the-box (creativity)
  • Excellent command of English
  • Preferably be able to start before December 2022
  • Familiarity with dynamical systems and/or stochastic processes is a plus

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,960 (scale 10)
and a maximum €5,439 (scale 11), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year. After satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, it can be extended for an additional 2 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge
  • discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance);

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences
The Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences focuses on the broad domain of behaviour and health. Our teaching and research programmes are devoted to current developments in society, from healthy aging to e-health, from juvenile crime to dealing with depression, from training for top athletes to social media as a teaching tool. We are unique in that we combine three academic disciplines: psychology, movement sciences and education.

Working at Behavioural and Movement Sciences means working in an ambitious organization that is characterized by an informal atmosphere and short lines of communication. Our faculty offers tremendous scope for personal development. We employ more than 600 staff members, and we are home to around 3,400 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 07/10/2022.  In your cover letter, please devote (at least) one paragraph stating what you have investigated so far, and another paragraph about how this experience has prepared you for this project. Also devote one paragraph about your experience and knowledge of research on cooperation. Please also include the contact information of two references in your letter.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Prof. Daniel Balliet

No agencies