PhD position at BCBL (FPI)

The Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities has published the call for PhD Students 2018. The application period is from 9/10/18 to 29/10/18 at 15:00h.

The call offers up to 1 PhD Student position (4-year contract ) to join the following Research Funded Project:

PSI2017-82941-P- REFO – Phonemic retuning induced by reading acquisition – PI Dr. Clara Martin

Key words: Reading acquisition, Phonemic retuning, Phoneme-grapheme conversion, Dyslexia, Word perception and production

Summary of the project:

Learning to read changes the way one perceives spoken words and boosts performance in phonemic tasks. In fact, in expert readers, spoken words with inconsistent phonemes (i.e., phonemes that have many spellings) are recognized slower and less accurately than those with consistent phonemes (i.e., that have only one possible spelling; “orthographic consistency effect”). Plus, reading acquisition induces a boost in phonemic awareness (i.e., ability to distinguish and manipulate the minimal sounds of speech). Here, we make the claim that those consequences of reading acquisition (RA) can be explained by a unique and common phenomenon, which is the recalibration of phonemic representations (PRs) by literacy acquisition. More specifically, we claim that (1) PRs (in perception and production) become more stable (less dispersed) when learning to read, accounting for the phonemic awareness boost during RA. We also argue that (2) this recalibration varies with the consistency of the reading system (i.e., (in)consistency of phoneme-to-grapheme conversions), which would in turn explain the “orthographic consistency effect”. We will explore such recalibration by means of the first longitudinal cross-linguistic study examining the position and dispersion of PRs, together with processing speed (both in perception and production of phonemes and words). We will compare Spanish and French children on target phonemes that are shared by the two languages but that do not systematically follow the same phoneme-to-grapheme conversion rules (e.g., the phoneme /b/, consistent in French -always spelled ‘b’- and inconsistent in Spanish -spelled ‘b’ or ‘v’-). Children will be tested in a longitudinal design before and after RA in order to explore the developmental pattern of phonemic recalibration during literacy acquisition. By comparing dyslexic children with their matched controls, we will also test the hypothesis that (3) stabilization of PRs during RA is impaired in dyslexic patients. Such result would account for the (previously reported) lack of phonemic awareness boost and “consistency effects” in this population. This proposal provides the first systematic investigation of phonemic recalibration during literacy acquisition, which is highly relevant for the fields of language development and impaired reading acquisition, enabling better detection of risks of dyslexia and the creation of remediation tools.

Individuals interested in the PhD position should have:

  • Strong theoretical and methodological background in cognitive neuroscience or experimental psychology with a special focus on psycholinguistics and/or neighboring cognitive neuroscience areas.
  • Good level of written and spoken English.

Research experience in the domain of speech perception and production, especially with acoustics/phonetics analysis techniques, will be an asset. Possession of a Master degree in the area of psycholinguistics or cognitive sciences (or any other related area) is highly recommended and will be positively valued. Speaking Spanish and/or French would also be a plus to facilitate preparation of stimulus materials and running experiments with Spanish and French native participants.
For more information:

Please, should you be interested in the position, do not hesitate to contact Ana Fernández (, Project Manager of the BCBL. She will be very pleased to support you in the submission process.