- University of GlasgowReader, 2005 - present
My main research interests are kin recognition, facial resemblance and face processing. Specifically, I am interested in how humans use facial resemblance to tell who their kin are and how people respond to cues of kinship in different circumstances. I am also interested in how the visual system learns about faces and what visual adaptation effects can tell us about the face processing system. I have published more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals on these topics.
I was appointed in 2011 to the Royal Society of Edinburgh's inaugural Young Academy. I am also involved in the running of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) and the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (EHBEA).
I mostly post about science, especially evolutionary psychology, behavioural biology, and public science education. I have lived in the US, Canada and the UK, so my spelling is a bit random.
- McMaster UniversityPhD Psychology, 2000 - 2004
- University of MichiganMS Biology, 1998 - 2000
- University of MichiganBS Biopsychology & Anthropological Zoology, 1994 - 1998
My new blog post dissecting an infographic on the dangers of sitting.
I also research how the behavioural immune system influences our social interactions. I've published a few papers establishing that women who are more concerned about pathogens, who live in regions with higher pathogen prevalence, or who are exposed to cues of pathogens (i.e., disgusting pictures) have higher preferences for cues of testosterone in male faces. This is work testing ideas about why women might differ so much in their preference for male masculinity and what male masculinity might signal.
I've never really understood the idea that evolutionary psychology is inherently anti-feminist. Indeed, I perceive that there are more self-identified feminists in the ev psych community than in experimental psychology in general.
Secondly, there's a real problem in sexual coercion/exploitation discussions to focus on the exploitee rather than exploiter. Given that I think we all agree a woman should be able to do/wear what she likes without it being taken as an invitation to be raped, looking into the cues men respond to isn't very helpful. Sure, they may indeed respond to these cues, but what we need to know is what kind of intervention will stop them thinking clothes/drinking/whatever are green flags. I think this is a case of having to be very careful about what we do with our data because there will be a strong tendancy for other people to take the path of least resistance; i.e. curb women's dress/behaviour, not work on educating men.
Finally, I think there is a tendancy in the field to make strong assumptions about biological underpinnings without strong data to support them. While I agree that it is implausible that the brain could be uniquely immune to sexual selection, I also have concerns that 'we' tend to assume that any apparently adaptive sex difference we document probably has a biological root cause (even if it is still changeable as all behaviour is). When in fact there's very little evidence to directly support that (intra-sexual evidence =/= inter-sexual evidence) and as a field we should be more aware of co-evolutionary and non-biological behavioural transmission. At some point I want to sit down and see if there's a theoretical paper in the idea that what we're really adapted for is sexual differentiation rather than specific differences per se, with cultural transmission carrying most of the 'beneficial' differences. Just an idea atm, but it's percolating away up there.
A couple days ago, a new paper appeared in PLoS One describing a series of studies that failed to replicate a set of classic priming studies. Yesterday, a news article appeared in Nature that grouped together this replication failure with cases of fraud. That's not a good thing. Follow the link to see why.
( has a nice New Yorker post on this same issue. I link to it in the blog post).
Researchers at the University of St Andrews found that non-sexual social interactions with men caused a noticeable rise in the temperature of a woman’s face, without them even noticing.
More here: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2012/Title,87049,en.html
There is a participative experiment, an iPhone app, and other information on face perception in general at the Perception Lab.: http://www.perceptionlab.com/
For #sciencesunday #scienceeveryday and curated by , and
Image: Leonardo Da Vinci's "Ginevra de' Benci" photo by dbking on Flickr
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