One of the tasks that confronts us daily is the requirement to quickly and accurately make sense of the people around us. This involves detecting people in the scene around us, identifying them, perceiving their states (e.g. emotions) and traits (e.g. gender), and interpreting their actions and goals. Our work has revealed much about the mental processes and brain regions that make it possible for us to perceive this information. Over the years, our projects have been funded by the BBSRC, the ESRC, the Leverhulme Trust, and the DSTL. A new 3-year project, funded by the ESRC, starts in September 2023; it concerns how we are able to rapidly and effortlessly make sense of other people's actions.
Professor Paul Downing is a member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute.
BS Cognitive Science, University of California, Los Angeles 1992
PhD Psychology, Princeton University 1998
The main focus of my teaching is on the Year 3 module entitled "The Social Brain". Humans spend much of their time in the company of other people, whose behaviour is complex, often unpredictable, and highly relevant to our own daily lives. Making sense of all of this places strong demands on the "social brain". We can think of the social brain as a system that continuously (and often unconsciously) seeks answers to questions: Is anyone there? Who is that? What are they looking at? What are they doing? What are they feeling? What are they thinking? How do I feel about them? Modern social-cognitive neuroscience has uncovered a great deal about the brain systems that ask and answer these questions. The module covers important concepts and findings in this area.
Department of Psychology
Gwynedd LL57 2AS
Tel: +44 (0) 1248 382159
Fax: +44 (0) 1248 382599
Professor Downing welcomes informal enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in projects related to the cognitive neuroscience of person perception. After reviewing relevant information at his lab web page (https://sites.google.com/view/downinglab/home) please get in touch vial email and include a draft research proposal of 1-2 pages.
Competitive scholarship opportunities available: None at present.