Lunds universitet, Humaniora och teologi, Filosofiska institutionen

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top universities. The University has around 45 000 students and more than 8 000 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Research assistant with the Cognitive Zoology Group


Period: 1/2-2022-31/12-2022 or according to agreement


Research assistant in Cognitive Science with the Cognitive Zoology Group

The Cognitive Zoology Group strives to answer the fundamental questions of a) how cognition evolves, b) when and where specific forms of cognition evolved, c) and whether cognition has evolved in similar ways repeatedly. The advertised research assistant position is part of a new project on “the evolution of executive functions”. It will involve cognitive experiments with a range of crocodylian and bird species at research stations and zoological institutions. The experiments aim to tease apart different cognitive skills, which are classically summarized as “executive functions” and then compare how the species perform. This project is funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council.


Executive functions are cognitive processes which control behaviour, e.g. working memory. They are governed by two different brain regions in mammals (prefrontal cortex) and birds (nidopallium caudolaterale, NCL). At a neuronal level, these processes function in the same way. Recent studies found that 1) the NCL differs considerably in size between bird lineages, with the corvids (considered cognitively complex birds) having the biggest; and 2) crocodylians, the closest living relatives of birds, have a small version of the NCL.

In this three-year project, we will run a task battery testing different executive functions in Crocodylians (American alligators) and representatives of the Palaeognathae (emus, nandus), Galloanserae (red junglefowl), Columbidae (pigeons), Estrildidae (zebra finches), and Corvidae (crows, ravens). We will compare their performance with the size of their NCL. Executive functions for which the performance scales with the NCL, might have contributed to the enlargement of this structure. Executive functions without this relationship, might either only require a rudimentary version of the NCL or are not solely governed by it.

The experiments are all non-invasive behavioural observations with captive animals. This project will elucidate how executive functions evolve and which ones lead to an enlargement of the associated brain region. This will also advance our understanding of the evolution of the large human prefrontal cortex, a defining characteristic of our own species.

Job description

The successful applicant will initially be introduced to the specific tasks and animals by the PI, but is expected to conduct the experimental work independently within the first two months of the employment. The applicant will also have to set up experiments, document the procedures, and analyze the collected data. Therefore, the applicant must have extensive experience in animal cognition research. The applicant should have a strong background in animal behaviour, including excellent knowledge of experimental design and data analysis. A Master’s degree in cognitive science, biology, psychology or a contextually related field is required. Several of the study species are particularly challenging to work with (e.g. American alligators, emus, nandus). Hence, the applicant must have experience working with crocodylians and palaeognaths; this should be confirmed by certificates or at least one reference letter. Previous hands-on work experience with adult American alligators, emus, nandus, junglefowl, pigeons, finches, and corvids would be considered strong merits. Fluency in spoken and written English is a requirement.

To submit (in addition to general requirements from Lund University)

CV (including list of publications) and documentation on having worked with both crocodylians and palaeognaths


Type of employment Temporary position
Contract type Part-time
First day of employment 2022-02-01 or according to agreement
Salary Månadslön
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 65
City Lund
County Skåne län
Country Sweden
Reference number PA2021/4208
  • Dr. Stephan A. Reber, PI,
Union representative
  • OFR/ST:Fackförbundet ST:s kansli, 046-222 93 62
  • SACO:Saco-s-rådet vid Lunds universitet, 046-222 93 64
Published 20.Dec.2021
Last application date 12.Jan.2022 11:59 PM CET

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