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Seeing Things You Don’t See:

Unifying the Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience of Multimodal Mental Imagery

Principal Investigator: Bence Nanay


Project funded by the European Research Council’s ERC Consolidator Grant 726251


The European Research Council awarded 1,967,192 Euros worth of ERC Consolidator Grant for five years (2017-2022) to support Bence Nanay’s research grant Seeing Things You Don’t See


As part of this grant, four postdoctoral and two PhD positions will be advertised from 2017 on – see the first call for applications below. There will also be various workshops and conferences on the theme of the project.



The theme of the project is multimodal mental imagery. Here is a short description:


When I am looking at my coffee machine that makes funny noises, this is an instance of multisensory perception – I perceive this event by means of both vision and audition. But very often we only receive sensory stimulation from a multisensory event by means of one sense modality. If I hear the noisy coffee machine in the next room (without seeing it), then how do I represent the visual aspects of this multisensory event?


The aim of this research project is to bring together empirical findings about multimodal perception and empirical findings about (visual, auditory, tactile) mental imagery and argue that on occasions like the one described in the last paragraph, we have multimodal mental imagery: perceptual processing in one sense modality (here: vision) that is triggered by sensory stimulation in another sense modality (here: audition).


Multimodal mental imagery is rife. The vast majority of what we perceive are multisensory events: events that can be perceived in more than one sense modality – like the noisy coffee machine. And most of the time we are only acquainted with these multisensory events via a subset of the sense modalities involved – all the other aspects of these events are represented by means of multisensory mental imagery. This means that multisensory mental imagery is a crucial element of almost all instances of everyday perception, which has wider implications to philosophy of perception and beyond, to epistemological questions about whether we can trust our senses.


Focusing on multimodal mental imagery can help us to understand a number of puzzling perceptual phenomena, like sensory substitution and synaesthesia. Further, manipulating mental imagery has recently become an important clinical procedure in various branches of psychiatry as well as in counteracting implicit bias – using multimodal mental imagery rather than voluntarily and consciously conjured up mental imagery can lead to real progress in these experimental paradigms.


Call for applications: Three positions in philosophy of mind


Applications are invited for the following three positions at the University of Antwerp:


·     Postdoctoral researcher (2 years)

·     PhD student (4 years)

·     Administrative assistant (half time, 5 years – I want to fill this position with a research active philosopher)


The postdoc/PhD student/admin assistant will be part of Bence Nanay’s ERC-funded project as well as his larger research group (funded by ERC, FWO, FP7 CIG and BOF UA) and will work with Professor Nanay. The pay is (for US and UK standards) very generous. Postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in Belgium are public employees with very generous benefits. The research group has six postdocs and three PhD students at the moment. 


There are no teaching obligations. These positions, unlike some previous ones advertised, is on a very specific topic funded by the recently awarded ERC project described above: on mental imagery and multimodal perception. The postdoctoral researcher is expected to work on joint projects with Professor Nanay that are related to this topic and the PhD student is expected to write his/her dissertation on a topic related to the ERC project.  


Background in the empirical sciences is an advantage. Candidates are encouraged to email nanay@berkeley.edu if they have doubts about whether their profile matches this call. Candidates must have a PhD degree in philosophy (PhD has to be officially awarded before the staring date, which is September 1st, 2017).   


In the light of recent findings on implicit bias, the candidates are asked to send their application material fully anonymized: Please send an anonymized cv, an anonymized max 5000 word writing sample and an anonymized max 2-page outline of what joint papers/projects the candidate envisages to write/have with Professor Nanay to nanay@berkeley.edu and have two letters of reference (which obviously shouldn't be anonymized) sent to the same email address. Please write ‘Postdoc: ERC’ or ’PhD: ERC’ or ’Admin: ERC’ (depending on which position you are applying for or enquiring about). 


Deadline: April 9, 2017 

Starting date of the position: September 1, 2017 (not negotiable)