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Welcome to the Face Perception Lab



Cathy Mondloch
Lab Director

Faces convey a wealth of information in our daily social interactions - information about the identity of individuals, their emotions, their gender and race, and their direction of gaze. Sensitivity to each of these cues is important for successful social interactions. My research interests centre on the development of various aspects of face processing and the role of early experience in mediating that development. My research program involves developing tasks that tap various components of face processing in adults and then adapting those tasks in order to test children of various ages.

Currently we are investigating the development of norm-based coding, the development of sensitivity to emotional expressions, and the influence of context (e.g., background scenes, body posture, face race) on adults' and children's perception of facial displays of emotion. In addition, we are studying the influence of group membership (in-group versus out-group) on face perception and the extent to which children and adults can predict propensity towards aggression based on facial structure.


Valentina Proietti

I completed by PhD at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy under the mentorship of Viola Macchi Cassia and am currently a postdoc in the face perception lab working under the supervision of Cathy Mondloch. I investigate the role of experience with and exposure to faces of different categories (e.g., own-race, other-race, own-age, other-age) on our ability to recognize and process facial identities. Recently, I have also begun investigating the effects of emotional expressions on the formation of social judgements or first impressions people make when they see a face for the first time.


Abbie Coy

I completed my PhD at Sussex University, UK and joined the Face Perception Lab at Brock in 2015 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. My research interests include:

  • The development of adult-like facial emotion processing in children.
  • Implicit measures of facial emotion perception.
  • The association between facial emotion processing and individual differences in schizotypy and anxiety.
  • Schizotypy and vigilance to social threat (e.g., angry faces)



Claire Matthews, MA student

As an Honours thesis student in the Face Perception Lab, I initiated a training paradigm designed to improve our recognition of other-race faces through exposure to within-person variability (i.e. differences in lighting, facial expression, hairstyle, etc. across different photos of the same person). For my MA thesis, I will extend this training paradigm and also investigate how children learn new faces.

Xiaomei Zhou, PhD student

Adults are experts at recognizing faces, but they recognize faces from some categories better than others. For example, people own-race faces and own-age faces more accurately than other-race and other-age faces. I am especially interested in why this happens and how experience shape our perceptual representation of own- versus other-race faces. I am currently conducting three studies designed to compare perceptions of attractiveness, normality, and identity in own- versus other-race faces. In each study, I am testing two groups of participants: Caucasian participants at Brock University and Chinese students at Zhejiang Normal University (Jinhua, China). Collectively, these studies will provide new insights about the role of experience in face perception. My long-term goal is to investigate how people build representations of new faces and whether that process differs for own- versus other-race faces.


Ashley Gerada

I am investigating children's sensitivity to facial expressions when judging traits in a face.


Carlie LeBlanc

I am investigating whether the other-race effect (better recognition of own- than other-race faces) is attributable to differences in our reliance on shape vs. texture cues to identity in own- and other-race faces.

  Ally Zakic
Kristen Baker
  Harmonie Chan
Gabby Salgado
  Kari Gracey
  Zoe Hodson
  Lindsey Gerrard

Kathryn Bunda


Sarah Laurence

I completed my PhD at the University of Sussex under the mentorship of Graham Hole. As a postdoc in the face perception lab I completed two studies. In one study I worked with Xiaomei Zhou (a PhD student in the lab) to compare our ability to recognize own-versus other-race faces in photographs that incorporate within-person variability in apearance. We found that people are more likely to think that two photos of the same person belong to different identities when viewing other-race faces -- a finding that has implications for the use of photo ID. In a second study I found that children are more likely than adults to think that two photos of the same person belong to different identities, a pattern the youngest children showed even when viewing pictures of a highly familiar face - their own teacher! These papers are published in the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, respectively. I continue to collaborate with the Face Perception Lab in my new role as a faculty member at Keele University, UK.

Lindsey Short, PhD

MA, PhD Brock University
Undergraduate BA in psychology, Wittenberg University

Broadly, I am interested in the development of the face prototype(s) and the way in which social categorical distinctions in the absence of salient physical differences may potentially influence our perception of faces. Past research has demonstrated that adults code faces in reference to distinct face prototypes (averages), which represent the different face categories (e.g., race, sex) encountered in the environment. However, little is known about the way in which young children process and categorize faces. Using a child-friendly adaptation method, I am currently examining simple and opposing attractiveness aftereffects in 5-year-old children. That is, by repeatedly exposing 5-year-olds to distorted faces, can we systematically shift their perceptions of attractiveness? Additionally, I am interested in the role of social psychological factors in the elicitation of category-contingent opposing face aftereffects. Social context and factors such as in-group biases are often overlooked in what are primarily considered perceptual phenomena and may significantly influence both the strength and emergence of opposing face aftereffects.

Lindsey began a new position as Assistant Professor at Redeemer University College (Ancaster, Ontario) in July 2014.

Nicole Nelson

I am interested in determining how children come to make sense of the variety of emotional expressions they see in their daily lives. In my graduate work, I found that children as young as preschool-aged were able to use the facial, postural and vocal expressions they encounter to attribute emotions to others. In collaboration with the Face Perception Lab, I am using eye tracking data to determine which visual cues (e.g. facial expressions, posture) children and adults attend to when trying to decide how another person is feeling. I am also examining the process by which children learn about expressions they are unfamiliar with and whether children's tendency to mimic others' emotional expressions benefits their later recognition of those expressions.

Nicole began a new position as Assistant Professor at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) in July 2014.

Thalia Semplonius

For my MA thesis, I studied a phenomenon known as the "other-race effect". This simply means that when recognizing faces, we tend to be more accurate for own-race faces than other-race faces. In most studies of face recognition, faces are presented sequentially and in the absence of any other cues. In the real world, we often encounter many people at the same time and they compete with each other and with other stimuli in the environment (e.g., bodies, buildings, signs) for attention. The goal of my MA thesis was to examine how adults allocate attention when viewing multiple people in the context of a naturalistic scene. Each scene included both own- and other-race individuals and participants were told to either remember the people or form impressions of people in each scene. Regardless of task instructions, people looked longer at own-race faces and remembered them better. I am now conducting my PhD research in the Adolescent Development Lab where I am pursuing my interests in how spirituality influences development.


Matt Horner

Matt Horner investigated the influence of body postures on adults' and children's perception of facial displays of emotion. When judging sad vs fearful facial expressions, adults make more errors when faces are on incongruent bodies (e.g., a sad face on a body posing fear) than when faces are on congruent bodies (e.g., a fearful face on a body posing fear). Matt showed that this congruency effect emerges just as soon as children can accurately recognize emotions in isolated faces and bodies. Like adults, these young children do not show congruency effects when judging sad vs happy expressions, suggesting that happy facial expressions have special status. This work was published in JECP. Matt has another paper under review in which he investigated variation in the size of congruency effects.

Current Position: Research Assistant (McMaster University) & freelance writer

Anne Hackland

Anne completed her Honours Thesis in our lab. She investigated young children's sensitivity to distortions in young versus older adult faces, work that was presented at the Society for Research in Child Development in April. Anne also served as our Lab Co-ordinator for 2012-13. Anne will start her MA in Occupational Therapy in September. Good luck, Anne!

Amanda George

Amanda developed expertise in operating our 3D and 4D camera systems; she also completed an Honours Thesis investigating whether the own-race recognition advantage increases when recognition becomes more difficult because faces are presented from multiple points of view. Amanda will be starting her MA at Memorial University in September. Best of luck Amanda!

Alex Hatry

Alex Hatry, M.A.
Current Position: After graduation, Alex is embarking on a journey to New Zealand!

My Masters Thesis research investigated norm-based coding in children and in adults. Using a novel, child-friendly method I discovered that 8-year-old children, like adults, have dissociable prototypes for Caucasian and Chinese faces. After reading a storybook in which Chinese and Caucasian faces were distorted in opposite directions (compressed versus expanded features) participants’ attractiveness ratings for the two races shifted in opposite directions. I also discovered that the extent to which participants use distinct versus a single prototype depends on the social context in which faces are presented.

My research was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Jasmine Mian, B.A.
In September I will be working on my MA at the University of Calgary.

As adults, we are very good at recognizing identity across changes in facial expression. We are able to recognize the faces of those around us despite changes in expression. For my honours thesis, I examined the development of this ability throughout childhood. I specifically investigated how 8-year-old children represent identity and how this representation is influenced by variations in facial expression. I am also interested in how children perceive facial expressions within conflicting contexts. My Honours Thesis is now published in the Journal of Vision and my work on facial expressions is published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. I am now pursuing my wrestling and research careers at the University of Calgary and am funded by SSHRC.

Kendra Thomson, Ph.D.
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Centre for Applied Disability Studies, Brock University

My Masters Thesis research investigated children’s sensitivity to the authenticity of facial expressions. I discovered that 7-year-old children are as sensitive as adults to the difference between posed versus genuine  expressions, both when explicitly asked whether models are ‘really feeling happy’ and when rating objects held by models displaying a neutral expression, a fake smile, or a genuine smile. However, in this marketing context, children only show their sensitivity when their attention is drawn towards the face prior to their seeing the object.

Natalie Elms, M.A.

My Masters Thesis research investigated limitations in expert face processing. I measured holistic processing, featural processing, and configural processing of Chinese and Caucasian faces. Half of my participants (Caucasian) were tested in rural Pennsylvania; the other half were tested in China. My results showed that although adults process both own- and other-race faces holistically, they are slightly more sensitive to featural and spacing differences in own-race faces than in other-race faces. These small differences then contribute to the difficulty we have recognizing other-race faces in our daily lives.

My research was published in Perception.













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