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Perception, Evolution, and Behaviour

The Perception, Evolution, and Behaviour group investigates aggression, inequalities in health and ageing, interpersonal relationships, mating behaviours and preferences, movement, and social networks. By taking an evolutionary perspective, the theme unites researchers in a multidisciplinary approach to ask not only about human behaviour, but also its functional foundations. In this endeavour, we draw ideas and expertise from cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, physiology, evolutionary biology, and animal behaviour. 

Projects and collaborations 

Perceived controllability of mortality risk & health behaviour

This project aims to understand how people assess health risks. In particular, to understand which risks to health and life are perceived to be within individual control, and which are not. Further, to investigate how perceived uncontrollable (extrinsic) mortality risks influence health behaviour, and what role this plays in health inequalities, given that income alters the extent to which people can control risks to their health and lives.

Food insecurity, physical & mental health

This project aims to understand how food insecurity affects people’s metabolic and mental health. This includes work to identify the behavioural and physiological pathways by which food insecurity leads to obesity in women, and addressing the question as to whether weight gain is an adaptive response to food shortage. It also includes work on the effects of hunger on attention, cognition, and perception, and the mental health consequences of food insecurity.

The effect of Instagram use on offline social relationships and personal wellbeing 

A key debate in both research and society is how our use of social media platforms affects our offline social relationships, are the effects positive, negative or a combination? This research, led by Professor Thomas Pollet, is specifically examining how the use of Instagram affects our offline social relationships and personal wellbeing, in particular loneliness. The research will explore the relationship between people’s usage of Instagram and their personal offline social networks in the context of the first year of University life, a period of high social change for many individuals.  

Smellbound: how do natural infant odours enchant parents?

Dr Tamsin Saxton holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to investigate the role of olfaction in the parent-infant relationship. Olfaction can have both an affective and an instrumental role within parent-infant interactions, and the research programme is investing parents’ experiences of their babies’ odours in caregiving and bonding, and the significance of individual differences in infant odour qualities.



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