Wellington (NZ)


History and Purpose

This is a fully-funded PhD scholarship made available through the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden-funded project entitled: »Does the Tracking of Others' Mental States Depend on Motor Processes? Why Constraining Your Body Limits Your Understanding of Others' Minds.« Associate Professor Jason Low is the project's principal investigator. The project is an inter-disciplinary and international effort to investigate the role of motor activity in mentalising, and specifically why freedom to move one's hands matters for tracking others' mental states like their beliefs. This project will expose the PhD student to different techniques both experimental and theoretical. The PhD project will involve observing adults watching various scenarios unfold while their hands or feet are constrained or free, correlating their eye gaze, postural sway, movements through space, response times and explicit judgements.

We seek a PhD student to investigate how adults' mental state tracking abilities variously link to, and depend on, motor processes. The student will be enrolled at Victoria University of Wellington, in the coolest capital city in the world – Wellington, New Zealand. The successful candidate will be co-supervised by Associate Professor Jason Low (School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington) and Associate Professor Stephen Butterfill (Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick).

In the most recent Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) evaluation, Victoria University of Wellington was ranked first in New Zealand for research excellence and was also ranked first in New Zealand in Psychology.


  • Applicants should have a psychology degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc in Psychology with high grades.
  • The ideal candidate will possess experience and ability with research on human perspective-taking, cognitive psychology and motor cognition, and/or embodied cognition; some experience in programming and designing experiments (using Matlab and EPrime) is also desirable.
  • Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington and ensure that they can satisfy the English language requirements.

Number of awards offered: One

Total value: Stipend of NZ$27,500 per annum for 3 years, plus tuition fees.

Tenure of award: Three years (PhD candidates in New Zealand typically complete in three years)

Closing date: 1 March 2018

How do students apply?

Applicants must meet the entry requirements for PhD study at Victoria University. Please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Research, New PhD applicants should complete the PhD Admission and Scholarship online application available from and clearly indicate they wish to apply for the »PhD Scholarship in Psychology – Motor Processing For Tracking Others' Mental States.«

Applicants should include in their expression of research interest a statement detailing why they are interested in this project. Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to: Associate Professor Jason Low ().

Decision makers

Associate Professor Jason Low (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) and Associate Professor Stephen Butterfill (University of Warwick, United Kingdom).

What conditions are attached to acceptance of this Award?

The successful candidate is expected to be engaged in full-time study and conduct research in a timely fashion; be willing to contribute to the research activities of Associate Professor Jason Low's research laboratory; and be eligible for New Zealand student visa (if applying from overseas). The candidate will also need to sign a Victoria Research Scholarship contract.

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