Vacancy: PhD position in behavioral informatics and AI

(21-02-2019) We are seeking candidates for a fulltime PhD position in Game theory and Behavioral Artificial Intelligence research.

The research will be performed with the groups of Prof. Pieter Simoens (UG - IDlab), Prof. Jo Pierson (VUB – SMIT)  and Prof. Tom Lenaerts (VUB – AI lab).  This works builds on the expertise of these groups in collective intelligence, (evolutionary) game theory, human trust, behavioral intelligence and AI.  Your work will consist of building agent-based models, performing a series of behavioral experiments, as defined in the research context below, report on the scientific insights gathered from these models and experiments.  

Research context

In this age of ubiquitous digital interconnectivity, we may envisage that humans will increasingly delegate their social, economic or data-related transactions to an autonomous agent, for reasons of convenience or complexity. Although the scientific knowledge to create such systems appears to be available, this transformation does not appear to become commonplace soon, except maybe the use of basic digital assistants.

We aim to explore if this is due to the lack of knowledge about human trust and acceptance of artificial autonomous delegates that make decisions in their place or even how these delegates should be designed. We will study these questions using computational agent-based models that are validated in a series of behavioral experiments defined around the public goods game. We investigate when and how the autonomous agent may evolve from observer, over decision support to a delegate with full autonomy in decision-making. In later phases of the research, we will investigate networking effects between these agents and study the collective behavior of such agent-based systems.

The research is conducted in the scope of a multi-disciplinary project. You will collaborate with two other researchers. One other student will investigate how a VR/AR representation of the agent influences trust. The other student – from the domain of social sciences - will check all the technology-oriented research against socio-technology acceptance theories. The results of this fundamental research will allow us to explore important questions related to the intelligence and interface of the envisioned agents and lay the foundation for new types of online markets that bring autonomous agents into real-world applications.


A full time PhD scholarship for the duration of 4 years, funded by the Flemish foundation for Scientific Research (F.W.O.). You will receive a joint PhD degree between Ghent University and Vrije Universiteit Brussels.


  • The candidates hold a Master degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Behavioral informatics, Complex Systems or a related field.
  • Knowledge about game theory and behavioral experiments is a plus.
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Good skills in analyzing experimental data, scripting (JavaScript, Python, etc.) and programming (python, C++, …)
  • Excellent communication skills in English: within the context of this project you will be interfacing with scientists of different backgrounds.
  • The candidate is open to collaborative work between the research groups and willing to engage in collaborations with different team members. In this sense, you will work both in Ghent and in Brussels (40 min by train) – a train subscription will be paid for you.


Please submit a cover letter detailing your background and interest in this position, a full C.V, information about your grades during each Bachelor and Master year, your ranking percentile, copies of your diplomas and an abstract of your thesis.  Also provide at least two references (with name, email, address, phone number).

All this information can be sent via email to and  Questions concerning the position can also be sent to these email addresses.

Application deadline

Screening starts as soon as applications are received. Estimated start date: June 1st or September 1st.

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