Doctoral Research in Marketing (Decision Neuroscience)

The marketing group at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University is seeking highly motivated PhD students looking to pursue academic careers studying topics in consumer behavior, quantitative marketing, and consumer neuroscience. Strong applicants typically have backgrounds in psychology, business, statistics, economics, neuroscience, or computer science, and are looking to pursue an international career as a leading academic researcher. Students define and execute their own projects in consultation with their advisers, and therefore need to have creativity, self-direction, and a passion for scientific research.

For the current position, we seek outstanding applicants whose research interests lie at the intersection of psychology, economics, marketing and neuroscience and who are interested in studying the brain mechanisms that underlie judgement and decision-making. Particular interests of our group are the neural underpinnings of persuasive messaging, social influences on choice, dishonesty, emotion regulation and self-control.

For the current project, we are especially looking for applicants who have experience with innovative fMRI methods, most notably multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), representational similarity analysis (RSA), or multivariate approaches to EEG data analysis, and who would be interested in applying these techniques to study (real-world) choice behaviour. Candidates with a less technical focus and a more general interest in how neuroscience can inform the study of decision-making are also invited to apply.

Keywords

Neuroscience, marketing, fMRI, EEG, decision-making, neuroeconomics

Topic

The marketing group at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) ranks among the best in the world. Our members publish their research in top journals in marketing and related fields. Our group is diverse, collaborative, collegial.

Our PhD program seeks to train the next generation of (marketing) academics. We want our students to maximize their potential and become independent scholars. We expect students to become experts in and define a research agenda around a topic of their choosing. As such, PhD positions in our group are open. During their five years of study, students define and execute their own projects. They do this in consultation with their advisers, but can also work with other faculty, including those at other institutes.

Students enter the PhD program under one of three sub-programs: Consumer Behavior, Quantitative Marketing, or Consumer Neuroscience. These determine the type of courses students take and who their advisors are in the first 2–3 years. Prospective students should apply to the sub-program that best matches their interests.

Consumer Neuroscience. Faculty work on a wide range of topics in consumer neuroscience ranging from understanding the neurological basis for consumer judgements and behaviors to predicting population-level outcomes from neural response data (Ale Smidts, Maarten Boksem, Alex Genevsky). In general, we seek to understand and predict choice from neural activity in response to for example money, products, and persuasive messages. However, candidates have a large say in the precise focus of their project. In addition to standard required course work, students typically take courses in neuroscience, statistics, programming, machine learning, and seminars in consumer behavior.

See the listings for Consumer Behavior and Quantitative Marketing.

Resources. Students have access to the world-class Erasmus Behavioral Lab, which provides facilities to conduct high-quality behavioral research: sound-insulated cubicles, group labs, video labs, and facilities for eye tracking, EEG/ERP, facial coding, and hormone-administration studies. Researchers also have access to multiple MRI scanners located the Erasmus Medical Center. High-performance computing resources are available via SURFSara.

Approach

The PhD student will work in close collaboration with the supervisory team and other faculty on tasks that include:

  • Identifying novel hypotheses based on real-world phenomenon or extant theory
  • Select the appropriate literature and the theoretical foundation underlying such phenomenon, and identify past related findings
  • Identify the fundamental variables and relationships that are most important to the phenomena of interest
  • Conducting original and rigorous research to test or measure the hypotheses or phenomena
  • Writing computer code to analyze experimental or secondary data
  • Presenting research findings at international conferences
  • Writing up findings for publication in international journals
  • Attending classes and seminars to further develop thinking and research skills
  • Participating in and contributing to departmental research functions (PhD Day, research seminars, weekly research meetings)
  • Teaching (to a limited degree) students of the department

Through workshops, research seminars, applied and theoretical research with faculty, and seminars on key disciplines that provide the foundations of the marketing discipline (statistics, economics, psychology), the PhD student will gain the requisite experience for independent work. The actual project will be defined by the student and the supervisory group and thus requires creativity, self-direction, and passion for top-notch scientific research.

The preferred methodology is fMRI, in particular applying innovative techniques such as MVPA and RSA, as well as neural reliability (inter-subject correlations in neural activity). Experience with and interest in applying these methods is a definite plus. In addition to fMRI, we use EEG, facial coding, eye-tracking and behavioral measures in our research. Experience with at least one of these methods is required.

Required Profile

The ideal candidate has the following qualities:

  • Highly motivated with ambition to pursue an international career as a leading scholar
  • MSc degree, with a background in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, or biological psychology
  • A definite interest of applying knowledge to the field of decision-making
  • Experience conducting and analyzing fMRI data using techniques such as MVPA and RSA, as well as neural reliability (inter-subject correlations in neural activity), or experience with EEG, facial coding, or eye-tracking
  • Intellectual curiosity, eagerness to learn, and openness to criticism and other perspectives
  • Excellent speaking and writing ability (in fluent English)
  • Strong commitment to methodological rigor and scientific integrity
  • Willingness and motivation to independently formulate your own research projects and carry them through to the end (i.e., publication in a top journal)
  • Excellent organizational skills

The PhD position is for a period of 5 years. Please note that a GMAT or GRE is required to be appointed. However, they are not a requirement to apply for these positions. You will have the opportunity to sit the GMAT or GRE after the interview rounds.

Expected output

You will generate research that can be published in top-tier peer-reviewed journals in marketing (such as Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing), and neuroscience (such as Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience). The research group at RSM has a strong publication track record in these journals and top journals in related fields, such as Management, Psychology, and Economics. The final results of the PhD project are published in a PhD dissertation; most marketing PhD dissertations at RSM find their way into top journals.

Cooperation

The PhD student will be a member of The Erasmus Center for Neuroeconomics (ECN), which is hosted by the Marketing Department of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, and dedicated to conducting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in decision neuroscience. This position will be jointly supervised by Prof. Ale Smidts and Dr. Maarten Boksem.

In addition to research, we are involved in teaching a course on neuroeconomics in the bachelor program and a consumer neuroscience course at the MSc level. PhD students are given the opportunity to assist and co-teach in these courses to develop their teaching skills.

To strengthen your international profile and complement your time at RSM, you will have the chance to go abroad for a 3- to 6-month research visit. Past visits have included Stanford, Wharton, Harvard, University of Florida, University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Cornell.

Societal relevance

Students are encouraged to pursue topics that improve the practice of business and management, and thus align closely with the school’s mission to be a force for positive change in the world.

Scientific relevance

PhD projects should lead to research that scientifically and managerially relevant, and of the highest quality. The PhD student will be expected to present this work to colleagues at other schools and conferences and ultimately publish it in a top scientific journal. The marketing group publishes work in both marketing journals and top academic journals in related disciplines (e.g., management, psychology, neuroscience, economics, and statistics). This makes the department a lively, creative, interdisciplinary, and intellectually stimulating place to conduct research.

Literature references

Chan, H.W., Boksem, M.A.S. and Smidts, A. (2018), Neural profiling of brands: How brand image is represented in the human brain. Journal of Marketing Research, 55 (August), 600-615.

 

Stallen, M., Rossi, F., Heine, A., Smidts, A., De Dreu, C. K. & Sanfey, A.G. (2018), Neurobiological mechanisms of responding to injustice. Journal of Neuroscience 38 (12), 2944-2954.

Couwenberg, L.E., Boksem, M.A.S., Dietvorst, R.C., Worm, L., Verbeke, W.J.M.I. & Smidts, A. (2017). Neural responses to functional and experiential ad appeals: Explaining ad effectiveness. International Journal of Research in Marketing 34, 355-366.

Boksem, M.A.S. & Smidts, A. (2015). Brain responses to movietrailers predict individual preferences for movies and their population-wide commercial success. Journal of Marketing Research 52 (4), 482-492.

Boksem, M.A.S., Mehta, P.H., Van den Bergh, B., van Son, V., Trautmann, S.T., Roelofs, K., Smidts, A. & Sanfey, A.G. (2013). Testosterone inhibits trust, but promotes reciprocity. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2306-2314.

Klucharev, V.A., Hytonen, K., Rijpkema, M., Smidts, A. & Fernandez, G. (2009). Reinforcement learning signal predicts social conformity, Neuron, 61, 140-151.

For a list of recent publications by all faculty members, see this page (https://www.rsm.nl/research/departments/marketing-management/top-publications/). The web pages for individual faculty members (https://www.rsm.nl/research/departments/marketing-management/faculty/) provide additional information about current research interests.