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Dr Kris McCarty

Research Fellow / Lab Manager Department of Psychology

Department: Psychology

Kris completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology in 2008 where he developed a passion for evolutionary psychology. He then went on to complete a PhD investigating the role of biological motion in people’s mate choice preferences under Dr Nick Neave in the Evolution, Perception and Behaviour Group at Northumbria.

His PhD research investigated female perceptions of male dance movements where he pioneered the use of a 3D motion capture suite in Sports Central to precisely record the movements of men with clinical accuracy. He then converted the resulting movement data (which is a collection of moving dots) into standardised humanoid avatars (or virtual CGI characters) before getting them rated by women. He has published his findings in high quality international journals such as Biology Letters.

Following his PhD, Kris was granted a Research Fellowship at Northumbria to continue his work in biological motion, further develop his motion capture technology and to expand its focus to other areas of psychology. Kris is currently developing a methodology that will allow for the recording of intricate hand gestures and facial expressions that will be used to investigate emotion perception problems with those with intellectual disabilities and autism. In addition to this, he is also working on the development of hyper realistic CGI characters for use in a variety of studies and disciplines (for example, evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, body image and cognitive psychology) that will vastly improve the stimuli in these areas of research by removing all ambiguities of past work whilst still maintaining precise control over their features. Examples of these can be found on his personal website.

In addition to his research activities, Kris is also the Psychology Lab Manager where he oversees the department’s specialist hardware and software (for example eye trackers, body scanners, stimuli presentation computers, motion capture systems and virtual reality suite) and provides training to staff and students on their use. Also as part of this role, Kris programs bespoke experiments for staff and students using Python and the PsychoPy libraries.

I am currently a Research Fellow and Laboratory Manager in the Department of Psychology where my primary focus is the use of technology in research. I oversee all the departments technical resources including eye-trackers, motion capture suites and VR labs where I train staff and students on their use. I also am the departments primary programmer for experimental and data analysis routines using a variety of languages (e.g. Python, C++, JavaScript, R). Furthermore, I engineer bespoke electronics for use in data acquisition and analysis such as input devices, distance and motion sensing, and TTL triggers.  

I teach on the MRes Psychology course where I teach students psychological research skills and techniques. This module introduces students to using experiment development software as well as scripting languages to run experiment and data analysis routines. The module also introduces students to the use of specialist hardware to support research questions and hypotheses.

Kris McCarty

Campus Address

NB163 Northumberland Building

0191 243 7244


PhD (2012) Evolutionary Psychology, Northumbria University

BSc. (Hons) Psychology  (2008), Northumbria University

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My main research interests concern the investigation of biological movement perception as a modality to assess a variety of physical and psychological traits. My current research focuses on how movement may be used to make judgments about a man’s dominance status, his intention to incite violence and his ability to inflict physical harm. I aim to develop a predictive model in which CCTV systems can flag potential civil unrest using cutting edge machine learning algorithms. 

I am also embarking on a new project that seeks to explore how children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other intellectual disabilities perceive emotions from whole body dynamic stimuli. I intend to explore the intricate role of hand gestures, context and the subtle nuances in the face to develop a training tool that will help people better negotiate social situations.  

Evolutionary Psychology – Biological Motion

I am particularly interested in the cues that people can observe just by watching somebody move around in their environment. My latest research concerns dominant and threatening behaviour and how it might be encoded into the walks of men and related to their circulating hormone levels.

Cognitive Psychology – Emotion Perception

In a new series of studies I aim to explore how people detect the emotions and actions of others via full body movement. Some people find detecting emotions particularly difficult and there is a wide literature on the subject using photographs as stimuli. However, much of the richness of emotionality is lost when using static images and very little work has explored how the dynamics of human movement in the body, hands and face might signal emotion. The research that is out there on the topic uses animated line drawings and moving dots to explore this topic, and these are very abstract from reality which makes the task difficult for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. As part of a strong multi-disciplinary team we aim to use cutting edge hyper realistic CGI models to solve these issues and explore with intricate detail what cues people attend to when assessing emotion. 

Key Publications

McCarty, K. (2016). Non-verbal indicators of dominance. In T.K. Shackelford, V.A. Weekes- Shackelford (eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. doi: 10.1007/978-3-    319-16999-6_1415-1.

Saxton, T.K, Mackey, L., McCarty, K., & Neave, N. (2015) A lover or a fighter? Opposing sexual selection pressures on men’s vocal pitch and facial hair. Behavioral Ecology.

Trivers, R., Fink, B., Russell, M., McCarty, K., James, B., & Palestis, B.G. (2014). Lower Body Symmetry and Running Performance in Elite Jamaican Track and Field Athletes. PLoS ONE 9(11): doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113106

McCarty, K., Hönekopp, J., Neave, N., Caplan, N., & Fink, B. (2013). Male body movements as a possible cue to physical strength. American Journal of Human Biology 25 (3), 307-312.

Fink, B., Weege, B., Flügge, J., Röder, S., Neave, N., & McCarty, K. (2012). Men’s personality and women’s perception of their dance quality. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 232-   235.

Neave, N., McCarty, K., Freynik, J., Caplan, N., Hönekopp, J., & Fink, B. (2011). Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye. Biology Letters 7, 221-224.

Professional Activity

Journal reviewer for Evolutionary Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences and The American Journal Of Human Biology

PGR Supervision

Kamila Irvine


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