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Facing judgement: what can we tell about people just by looking at them?

   School of Social Sciences

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  Dr Ian Stephen  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

As humans, we form judgements about other people just by looking at their faces and bodies. Some of these judgements are formed very quickly and accurately, such as categorising people as male or female. Other judgements seem much more subjective, such as how healthy we perceive other people to be, or the judgements we make about their personalities. While psychologists have long theorised about whether these judgements contain a kernel of truth, or whether judgement is purely in the eye of the beholder, modern techniques such as Geometric Morphometric Methods, texture analysis, and psychometric scales allow us to test these competing hypotheses directly. This project will determine whether people’s judgements of health and personality are accurate, identify the specific aspects of appearance that may act as valid cues to aspects of underlying health and personality, and use AI to predict aspects of health and personality from people’s faces and bodies. The results of this research will answer an age-old question about what makes people “judge a book by its cover”. The results may also be useful in applications such as remote diagnosis and human-machine interaction. This project would suit a student with interests in person perception and evolutionary psychology. Good statistical skills are required, and experience of the statistical package R would be an advantage.

Entry requirements

Candidates entering from Undergraduate must hold or expect to hold at least a 2.1 degree in Psychology or similar discipline. Candidates entering from Postgraduate must hold or expect to hold at least a merit/commendation with their UG or PG qualification in Psychology or related discipline.

How to apply

For a step-by-step guide and to make an application, please visit NTU's how to apply page.

Funding Notes

This project is self-funded but applicants can contact project leaders to discuss potential funding opportunities.


Antar, J.C., Stephen, I.D. (2021) Facial shape provides a valid cue to sociosexuality in men but not women. Evolution and Human Behavior 42, 361-370.
Stephen, I.D., Hiew, V., Coetzee, V., Tiddeman, B., Perrett, D.I. (2017) Facial shape analysis identifies valid cues to aspects of physiological health in Caucasian, Asian and African populations. Frontiers in Psychology.

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