[Face-research-list] PhD Studentship: Adaptive perspectives on social signals within the human face

Robert Ward r.ward at bangor.ac.uk
Mon Feb 2 18:32:38 GMT 2015

I am advertising to offer a fully-funded PhD studentship at Bangor University (UK/EU fees, stipend, travel and research expenses) starting in Oct 2015, to investigate social attributions to faces. The position would be most appropriate for someone who already has, or is currently enrolled in, an MSc in psychology or related area. A general description and link to the ad is below. As you can see, there is some deliberate flexibility for the student to shape the project topic.

If you are interested, please contact me to discuss. The deadline for applications is 27 Feb.

Thank you,

Professor Robert Ward
Wolfson Centre for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience
School of Psychology
Bangor University
Bangor LL57 2AS


Humans are both highly visual and highly social beings, and people are quick to make attributions of personality and other social traits on the basis of mere appearance. For the past few years my students and I have been investigating the accuracy of visually-based judgements from the face, and in a series of studies have found that these attributions can be surprisingly accurate, even when based on neutral "passport"-style photographs. Within such photographs is enough information to identify stable personality traits and aspects of mental health in strangers (e.g., papers from former PhD students: Kramer & Ward, 2010; Jones et al, 2012; Scott et al, 2013). Such findings raise a number of issues to be explored in this studentship. A key general issue is whether these facial cues to behaviour are part of an evolved signal system. Theories of evolved signal systems emphasise the co-evolution of the signal sender and receiver.  For the system to remain stable, it must have benefits for both the sender and receiver. What adaptive benefits might there be for someone to signal their socially undesirable traits to others? Can facial signals be masked to deceive the receiver? For example, to what extent is signal disrupted by voluntary emotional expressions?  A second general issue surrounds the signal content. That is, what is the facial information that observers use to identify social traits? Possibilities include subtle micro-expressions, postures, facial morphology, and more. Finally, what are the causal factors that might produce a joint influence on facial appearance and behaviour? Within the context of these general issues, there is scope for the student to shape the project aims and focus.

Rhif Elusen Gofrestredig 1141565 - Registered Charity No. 1141565

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