Skip to main content

Developing new behavioural models at the intersection of psychology and econometrics


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Source of funding
Research council
Dr Thomas Hancock and Professor Stephane Hess
Institute for Transport Studies
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

We are looking for a highly motivated student to conduct PhD research in the field of choice modelling. Choice modelling is a key analytical tool used to understand consumer decisions and valuations and forecast choices across a range of topic areas, including transport, environmental and health economics, and regional science. Their outputs form a key component in guidance underpinning government and industry decisions on changes to policy, infrastructure developments or the introduction of new services or products. This role provides an exciting opportunity to contribute to a major cross-disciplinary research programme at the heart of the Choice Modelling Centre ( set up within the University of Leeds. The five year SYNERGY project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) seeks to unify three key paradigms for the unify three key paradigms for the mathematical modelling of human behaviour, namely: i) process models in psychology and cognate disciplines that seek to explain how decisions are made; ii) econometric and behavioural models that explain which factors influence the decision process and to what extent; and iii) data-driven (machine learning) methods that focus on the outcome of the decision process. The different aims and assumptions of these paradigms have resulted in very distinct strengths and weaknesses for each discipline. Only the synergy of the three will fulfil the promise of producing models that are behaviourally consistent, applicable to real-world problems, computationally tractable, and balance a priori assumptions with data-driven insights.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">The aim of this PhD project is to specifically create more links between two out of the three paradigms: process models and econometric/behavioural models. Thus far, work by mathematical psychologists and (econometric) choice modellers have been conducted almost entirely separately. This has led to the development of very different models that essentially have the same aims: the prediction of choice behaviour. This project, building on the work of the supervisors, will attempt to further bridge the gap between these disciplines. &nbsp;In particular, the research could include establishing best practices for comparing/combining the approaches, creating new methods for integrating choice process data and the development of new models with key aspects derived from each paradigm.</p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px">Tentative research questions: The research is likely to evolve over the course of the PhD, but will for example seek to address the following questions:</p> <ul> <li>Do process models outperform econometric models if choice process data (such as EEG) is incorporated into the model?</li> <li>How can we improve econometric choice models based on insights from process models?</li> <li>Can we better operationalise complex process models not yet used for large-scale applications?</li> </ul> <p style="margin-bottom:11px">Funding must be taken up before 1<sup>st</sup>&nbsp;October 2024.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is Developing new behaviour models at the intersection of psychology and econometrics as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Stephane Hess</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

A first class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree related to mathematics or statistics from a reputed university is desirable. Candidates with an upper second class (or equivalent) degree from excellent universities will also be considered, especially if the candidate has a Masters degree and/or practical experience in a highly relevant area. Experience of mathematical modelling and/or computer programming skills is also desirable.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>And enhanced stipend of &pound;18,905 per year (figure for 2023/24) available for a duration of three years.&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p><strong><em><span style="font-size:11.0pt"><span style="line-height:107%"><span style="font-family:&quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif">Enquiries, including on how to apply and funding details, may be made via telephone/email to </span></span></span></em></strong><span style="font-size:11.0pt"><span style="line-height:107%"><span style="font-family:&quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif"><a href="" style="color:#0563c1; text-decoration:underline">Professor Stephane Hess | Institute for Transport Studies | University of Leeds</a> <strong><em>and </em></strong><a href="" style="color:#0563c1; text-decoration:underline">Dr. Thomas Hancock | Institute for Transport Studies | University of Leeds</a></span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p>