We integrate approaches from social neuroscience and experimental psychology in order to address the following research themes:
Our work on social perception aims to examine how people perceive and interpret social signals displayed by others (e.g. emotional expressions, facial identity, animacy perception, trait judgements), how these abilities vary between us, and how they change as we age. We use a range of techniques including human brain imaging, non-invasive brain stimulation, and neuropsychology to address these questions. We also work closely with groups that have difficulties with social perception (e.g. prosopagnosia and alexithymia) and are part of the Trouble With Faces group (www.troublewithfaces.org). In this context, we are seeking to use our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to social perception abilities in order to develop potential tools to improve the perception of social signals.
To develop and maintain the long-lasting social relationships, people must not only be able to perceive social cues, but also to differentiate their own thoughts and feelings from those of their interaction partners. Our work on social cognition aims to examine the mechanisms that contribute to this process. To do so, we study the neural and psychological mechanisms that contribute to our ability to experience empathy, to distinguish between oneself and another person, and to control representations of the self or other in order to support social interaction. We study these processes throughout the lifespan (from infancy through to older adulthood) and are interested in what factors contribute to individual differences in these skills. We also work closely with a rare group of individuals whom experience tactile sensations on their own body when simply observing touch/pain to another person (mirror-sensory synaesthetes), in order to a) understand the mechanisms that contribute to this rare experience and b) inform us about mechanisms of interpersonal representation in us all. We are using this knowledge to investigate tools that might be useful to aid social cognition skills.
In addition to the applied aspects of our social perception and social cognition work (e.g. where we are seeking to develop approaches to improve these skills), we also have research interests in a range of other areas related to the application of cognitive neuroscience to aid performance. These include industry-based collaborations related to the study of social cognition training, decision making, sleep, and creativity.