Ph.D. Position [Full time – 3 years] in Cognitive Development


Prof. Valérie Camos (Université de Fribourg – Suisse) and Prof. Agnès Blaye (Université de Marseille – France) invite applications for a Ph.D. position in a project on ‘goal setting in working memory: its critical role in preschoolers’ at the Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Working memory (WM) is one of the most important concepts of cognitive and developmental psychology. WM can be understood as a capacity-limited system involved in all the mental activities that require processing information while concurrent active maintenance of information in short-term memory is needed. WM is thus a central system of the Human cognitive architecture. Moreover, the development of WM is conceived to play a leading role in cognitive development. Some recent work by Camos suggests that recall performance in preschoolers can be improved by the context of a naturalistic WM task (Bertrand & Camos, in press). We suggest that this context can provide some external cues, which help preschoolers to keep the task goal active. This leads to hypothesize that developmental changes in WM between preschoolers and school-aged children could reflect a form of goal neglect rather than a lack of maintenance strategies.

Blaye in her own field of inquiry on the development of executive control in preschoolers argues that goal representation and goal maintenance may be the corner stone of efficient executive control (Blaye & Chevalier, 2011; Chevalier & Blaye, 2009; Chevalier, Blaye et Maintenant, 2014). Blaye’s work revealed both their critical role and ways to enhance them through the use of external cues and/or induced verbal self-cueing in tasks measuring cognitive control. Following these lines, we will test the role of goal setting in WM by manipulating different forms of goal-cueing that we expect to differentially support children’s performance. The impact of this manipulation will be examined across preschool years to test that younger preschoolers will need stronger external support to encode and maintain the task goal of recalling the memoranda.

This project should have important theoretical implications for our understanding of WM development, and more generally cognitive development. This project focuses on preschool ages. Although this age range was extensively studied during this last 20 years for the development of executive functions, it was on the contrary poorly examined concerning WM development. 

Job Details:

3-year position (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation)

The doctoral student is expected conduct research described in the project with French speaking children in Fribourg and in Marseille. Communication with the supervisors will be in French or English.


University Master’s Degree in Psychology (or related cognitive science discipline)

    background in experimental psychological research

    background in developmental psychology

    experience with (experimental research in) young children is desirable

    excellent French verbal language skills

Candidates are asked to submit a current CV, copies of diploma, as well as a short cover letter that describes their research interests, previous experience, motivation to apply for this position, career goals, and at least one reference name that we could contact.

Applications and supporting materials can be submitted in French or English to:  and until the position is fulfilled.

Starting date: 1st September 2015       


Prof. Valérie Camos –

Prof. Agnes Blaye -