ESR11: Conversation coordination and mind-reading

PhD Fellow: Joanna Kruyt

Joanna Kruyt

I applied to be part of COBRA because I enjoy doing interdisciplinary research, and see value in being in a multidisciplinary network. I’ve always been drawn to interdisciplinary topics, and because of this, my academic background is a bit all over the place: I have a BSc in cognitive neuroscience and molecular cell biology from University College Utrecht, and an MRes in language sciences from University College London. I’m particularly excited about my project ‘Conversation coordination and mind-reading’, because it allows me to research the two topics I’m most interested in, namely language and cognition, from a perspective that is new to me. 

I’m looking forward to learning and discovering more about naturalistic experimental settings and language as a shared resource for communication, while improving my knowledge and skills regarding computational methods. I feel lucky to know that I’ll be working with the passionate and interesting people in COBRA, and think this is a perfect start to my research career.


ESR11 will investigate to what extent people need to attribute intention, belief and knowledge to their interlocutor (i.e. theory of mind, also called mindreading) to effectively coordinate and build common ground during a conversation. ESR11 will design scenarios in which humans interact with a) individuals with a theory-of-mind impairment such as schizophrenia, and b) an avatar. The ESR will test the use of overt markers of the attribution of belief and knowledge (e.g. feedback responses such as backchannels, prosody) in the development of conversational coordination and alignment. Combining clinical work with computational modeling offers a broad range of skills for ESR11 and potential for complementary findings regarding the role of intention, belief and knowledge in conversation coordination.

Expected results:

  • Methodological tools (scenarios, protocols) for studying theory of mind in the population with schizophrenia;
  • Procedures for a controlled deployment of conversational coordination features in an avatar;
  • Contribution to the debate regarding the involvement of controlled cognitive processes versus automatic processes in conversation coordination;
  • Knowledge regarding the potential of speech features in predicting pathologies affecting mindreading abilities.

Based in Bratislava, Slovakia

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: Slovak Technical University

Main supervisor’s institution: IISAS, Bratislava

Main supervisor: Prof Stefan Benus


  • Aix-Marseille University: training in clinical assessment, development of psycholinguistic experiments (5 months);
  • Furhat Robotics, Stockholm: training in the implementation of the avatar interaction platform focusing on alignment and behavior projection (5,5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Furhat Robotics, Stockholm, Sweden

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