PhD vacancy @ Radboud University

PhD Candidate: Enhancing Marketing Interactions Using Virtual Humans

Would you buy something from a virtual human? Why or why not? And how would you want a virtual human to interact with you? These questions are at the core of this PhD trajectory. If you would like to develop an innovative research project at the intersection of communication, marketing and artificial intelligence, then you may be the PhD candidate we are looking for!

Virtual humans are increasingly being used in the marketing of commercial services and products, in particular via social media. They can handle or support a wide range of customer interactions, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex tasks. One example are virtual humans that recommend products or offer customer service via social media.

Virtual humans are unique in their ability to mimic human communication using communication channels such as speech and text, as well as facial expressions and gestures. The use of such cues has been found to induce a perception of humanness in users, which can enhance users’ relationships with them (e.g. trust, liking). However, using these cues is not a one-size-fits-all solution and more is not always better. Yet, which social cues can best be used to build a relationship with the customer has remained underexplored. As a result, companies and organisations are not yet making optimal use of virtual humans in their marketing strategy.

Current user experience research relies mainly on self-reported measures, prone to biases like socially desired responses. Incorporating objective measures such as EEG, fMRI, skin conductance, eye tracking, or emotion recognition from neuroscience and physiology could offer deeper insights into user-virtual human relationships.  In this PhD project, you will therefore investigate user-agent interactions and the role of social cues in these interactions using neuroscience and physiological measurements alongside traditional methods. The project allows flexibility in choosing specific research focuses.

As a PhD Candidate, you will initiate, develop and execute several studies. You will write scientific papers, resulting in the completion of a PhD thesis at the end of your employment contract. You will participate in supervision meetings and staff meetings of the Communication Science department as well as other relevant research meetings.

You will be embedded in the Communication & Media research programme, which is part of the Behavioural Science Institute (BSI). As a member of the BSI Graduate School PhD programme, you will be expected to complete several courses related to the basic professional skills of scientific researchers such as presentation skills, scientific integrity, and data management. We also encourage you to attend and present your work at relevant workshops and conferences. As part of your PhD position, you will have a 10% teaching load and the opportunity to work towards the university teaching qualification.

Application deadline: 21st April 2024

More information can be found here.

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