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  3. PhD candidate FutureU: Testing a new intervention to reduce delinquency using serious gaming and virtual reality

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PhD candidate FutureU: Testing a new intervention to reduce delinquency using serious gaming and virtual reality

The challenge Why are some people more likely to commit crime than others? Answers to this question can be grouped into two broad views. On the one hand, …

12 maanden geleden


Drienerlolaan, Enschede, Overijssel
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


The challenge

Why are some people more likely to commit crime than others? Answers to this question can be grouped into two broad views. On the one hand, dispositional perspectives argue that stable factors within the individual, such as lack of self-control, lie at the roots of criminal conduct. Sociogenic perspectives, on the other hand, put the locus of study outside the individual and point towards external factors such as rough neighborhoods, parental unemployment, and deviant peers, as the main causes of crime. Research into both perspectives has identified hundreds of correlates of criminal behavior, yet how these are related is still largely uncharted territory. The ERC research program aims to integrate both views based on a new theoretical perspective, which draws from criminology, social psychology and evolutionary theory. This perspective is premised on the idea that short-term mindsets encourage crime and specifies how both individual dispositions and sociogenic variables can encourage such mindsets.

This PhD project will test the new theoretical perspective among a sample of offenders using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) delivered through a smartphone app. EMA is a validated and structured diary technique that allows for the systematic and repeated sampling of an individual’s mood, behavior and experiences over time in relation to context. Furthermore, building on recent pilot research (Van Gelder, et al., 2013, 2015), the project will use virtual reality (VR) technology in combination with a smartphone application to instill a future-oriented mindset in offenders by having them meet and interact with their future self through various serious games. This behavioral intervention called ‘FutureU’ will be implemented among convicted offenders in collaboration with the Dutch Probation Service (‘Reclassering Nederland’) and/or the Custodial Institutions Agency and will use an experimental design. It is one of the first interventions of its kind and will use cutting-edge VR and smartphone technology.

The project is part of a larger ERC-funded research program in which the role of short-term thinking is central. This program’s ambition is to realize ground-breaking advances in the understanding of criminal and delinquent conduct by improving our understanding what causes people to become shortsighted and also how they can learn and be motivated to take the longer term consequences of their actions better into account and move away from (embarking on) a criminal career.

You will be working closely together with other researchers in a young and ambitious multidisciplinary research team that aims to push the boundaries of the current state-of-the art in crime research. You will frequently interact with professionals working at the Probation Service and the Custodial Institutions Agency and engage directly with convicted offenders between 16 and 21 years.

The PhD project aims to fulfill the following objectives of the larger research program:

  1. Contribute to the development of a new behavioral intervention using virtual reality and a smartphone application
  2. Examine the effectiveness of the behavioral intervention that aims to reduce delinquency by connecting offenders to their future self-using an experimental research design
  3. Test the new theoretical perspective using surveys and ecological momentary assessment


  • you have obtained a MSc degree in a relevant field of the social sciences, preferably psychology, criminology or sociology. Completion of a Research Master is a plus as are publications;
  • you have a clear interest in crime research;
  • you have a strong background in statistics;
  • experience with using novel technologies such as VR or (serious) gaming is an advantage;
  • you have good social and communication skills which enable you to interact efficiently with both professionals and offenders;
  • you have a ‘hands-on’ work attitude;
  • you enjoy working independently but also working in teams;
  • you have excellent English language skills, both in writing and speaking;
  • you are creative, critical and highly motivated
  • Fluency in Dutch is desired given your role in data collection among Dutch speaking samples.

Information and application
For more information and a description of the project you can contact Prof. dr. Jean-Louis van Gelder (+31 53 489 3974 or 5279), email: j.vangelder@utwente.nl.
To apply for this position, please submit a letter with your motivation, your resume including name, email, address, phone number and two or more references; and a copy of your master thesis.

Your application needs to be uploaded before 1 May 2018 via the application link. Given that this website does not accept more than three documents, you can combine documents if necessary.


You are appointed as PhD (1,0 fte) for a period of four years. Initial gross salary is € 2.222,- in the first year going up to € 2.840,- per month in the fourth year. Preferred starting date is July 2018. The University of Twente offers excellent facilities for professional and personal development, international and dynamic atmosphere, a green and lively campus, holiday allowance (8%), end-of-year bonus (8.3%) and diverse extra benefits.