My Research

Social cognitive and affective neuroscience

My collaborators and I are investigating the psychological and neural processes underlying social perception, including the perception of emotion and other social information (e.g. identity, personality) from faces and from body postures and movement (biological motion). We are studying people with brain damage and neurologically intact subjects using a range of behavioural and psychophysiological measures (e.g. reaction times, forced-choice accuracy, intensity ratings, skin conductance, facial EMG, eye tracking), as well as technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Issues we are investigating include: What are the visual cues that enable us to perceive and identify emotions expressed in facial and body postures and movements? How are these cues processed by the brain? How are the neural mechanisms underpinning emotion perception functionally organized? Does recognizing someone else’s emotional expression involve one actually experiencing the same emotional state as the other person, or simulating one or more aspects of the viewed emotional state? If so, what are the information processing and neural mechanisms involved? To what extent and how is the brain specialized for social perception and cognition?

The Psychology and Philosophy of Emotions:

In addition to the perception of emotional expressions (see above), my interests here include empathy, the perception-action link, delusions, and the nature of emotions and feelings. I was co-investigator with Prof. Matthew Ratcliffe on the project “Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Illness”, funded by a Research Networks grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Evolutionary Psychology and Psychological Explanation:

I have worked on issues of psychological explanation, including work on conceptual issues in evolutionary psychology with Prof. Michael Wheeler, a philosopher at the University of Stirling.

The Science of Consciousness:

This was the subject of my doctoral thesis and of a few subsequent publications.