Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology

Vacancies ICS Graduate School

Currently we have 1 vacancy: PhD project at Utrecht University, supervised by dr. Eva Jaspers.

  • Project: Inclusivity Norms to Counter Polarization in European Societies (INCLUSIVITY)
  • For details see below AND in this PDF
  • Please note you have to apply via the website of Utrecht University using this LINK
    Read more about the ICS PhD program.

About the vacancy

Project title
How to counter societal polarization? The role of inclusive social norms in networks.

Job description
Many European societies have become increasingly polarized, in part due to migration-related issues, and increased disinformation on social media. Evidence of widening cleavages and conflicts between groups can be found along multiple lines, such as ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual and political orientation. This polarization, broadly defined here as a process by which society is increasingly divided into groups with contrasting opinions (such as about immigration, climate change, diversity), and conflictual behavior, often results in adverse feelings (e.g., dislike or hatred) and avoidance. In Europe, polarization is accompanied by serious societal and political challenges, such as the rise of populist leaders, and an increase in hate speech and hate crimes. Polarization hampers dealing effectively with the societal challenges Europe is facing and undermines democracy.

We are seeking a candidate for a PhD project within an international, interdisciplinary consortium that aims to understand how polarization between groups in Europe can be overcome through social norms. The PhD project will systematically study the transmission of and conformity to inclusivity norms, i.e., social norms that promote equality-based respect, dialogue, and unity, and which are expected to increase tolerance and the willingness to interact and collaborate with opposing groups, and ultimately to decrease conflict between these groups. The aims of the project are (1) to study how inclusivity norms are embedded in networks of family, friends and acquaintances, (2) how such norms may diffuse within networks, (3) whether these norms increase cooperation between groups that oppose each other, and whether such improvements may hold across group divides (e.g., ethnic groups). The interdisciplinary area of social network analysis has set clear antecedents in studying the diffusion of information and innovation in social networks, which we draw on to model norm transmission. Recent work on network interventions has integrated network models by targeting both social referents and complex social reinforcement over time. Such research has shown that this approach can effectively decrease interpersonal conflicts in adolescence. However, little is known about the potential role of the social network structure in transmitting inclusivity norms in polarized networks, i.e. networks that contain opposing groups. Various methods of data collection can be part of this project, such as surveys, experiments on online platforms, and Agent Based Modelling (ABM). For a detailed description of the full project, see link.

Dr. Eva Jaspers (UU) and Prof. dr. Frank van Tubergen (UU)

International team
The project is part of the international and interdisciplinary research program INCLUSIVITYInclusivity Norms to Counter Polarization in European Societies. INCLUSIVITY is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, and includes researchers form 4 countries: Prof. Oliver Christ (FernUniversität in Hagen), Prof. Marcin Bukowski (Jagiellonian University, Kraków), Dr. Miranda Lubbers (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Dr. Eva Jaspers (Utrecht University) and Prof. Maarten van Zalk (Osnabrück University). 3 post docs and 2 PhD students will be appointed simultaneously across all countries. The team’s competencies guarantee a genuine interdisciplinary approach, bridging social, political, developmental psychology with sociological perspectives and network methodologies. The full proposal can be downloaded here.


In Spring 2022 the ICS will start recruiting PhD students for projects that start in September 2022.

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