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Doctoral student writing

Facial communication, expressivity and social networks in macaques

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Starting: 2021
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded

Overview

We are seeking applications for a 3-year full-time PhD student to work on primate communication and facial expressivity. The PhD will be supervised by Professor Bridget Waller and will be closely linked to the ERC Consolidator Project FACEDIFF ‘Individual differences in facial expressivity: Social function, facial anatomy and evolutionary origins’. FACEDIFF is a five-year project examining individual differences in facial expressivity and how this is related to social network size and success at social interaction in humans and macaques. Communicating with others via the face is crucial for navigating our social world. Deficits in facial expression production can have debilitating effects on social interaction. Despite this, we know surprisingly little about individual differences in facial expressivity in the typical population, what causes these differences and whether such differences impact on individual lives. In part, this could be due to an historical focus on the universal nature of facial expression, assigning individual difference to random ‘noise’, rather than an evolutionarily relevant characteristic. The FACEDIFF project will diverge from this classic approach and test the novel hypothesis that individual differences in facial expressivity equip individuals’ differentially to engage with their social environment: expressivity has a benefit (social engagement) but also a cost (over-exposure and thus risk of being cheated by others) and is related to the size and quality of an individual’s social network. FACEDIFF will combine psychological, anatomical and cross-species methods to provide the first thorough interdisciplinary investigation of individual differences.

The advertised position will be situated within the strand of research focussed on rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). The PhD student will focus on the relationship between facial expressivity and social popularity in young macaques. Research can be conducted on captive (MRC Centre for Macaques) and/or semi-free ranging (Caribbean Primate Research Centre, Cayo Santiago) populations of rhesus macaques (depending on candidate experience and preference). The candidate will combine behavioural observations (e.g. social network analysis, MaqFACS) and cognitive experiments (e.g. looking task experiments) on young macaques across their development to investigate how maternal and other social factors influence an individual’s facial expression development, production and processing skills.

Candidates with prior experience conducting behavioural research (both observational, and experimental) on social animals, and those with a strong interest in communication and comparative approaches to psychology will be preferred. Training and support in some specific research skills such as social network analysis and FACS (Facial Action Coding System) will be provided, but the successful candidate will need to have a demonstrable interest in standard quantitative approaches to observational and experimental data. Those candidates holding a master’s degree in psychology, zoology, or other related science will have an advantage, but, we are happy to consider any candidates without master’s degree who have appropriate research experience.

Entry requirements

Entrants must have an undergraduate degree in psychology, biology, zoology, behavioural science or related field. A master’s degree in a relevant field (or equivalent research experience) would be preferred, and experience of experimental or observational research with animals is essential.

How to apply

Please include a short proposal for the PhD outlining how you would tackle the research questions posed in the brief. Your proposal should focus on the goals and general methodology rather than precise details. The word limit stated in the application page is 1500 words which should include your reference list and timeline.

For a step-by-step guide on how to apply and to make an application, please visit our how to apply page. For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Bridget Waller at bridget.waller@ntu.ac.uk. For more information about the overarching project, please visit www.FACEDIFF.co.uk.

The application deadline is Sunday 13th June 2021 at 11.59 pm and interviews will commence from Monday 21 June 2021. The ideal start date is October 2021, however this is negotiable.

Entry qualifications

Entrants must have an undergraduate degree in psychology, behavioural science or related field. A master’s degree in a relevant field (or equivalent research experience) would be preferred, and experience of experimental social research with humans is essential.

How to apply

Please include a short proposal for the PhD outlining how you would tackle the research questions posed in the brief. Your proposal should focus on the goals and general methodology rather than precise details. The word limit stated in the application page is 1500 words which should include your reference list and timeline.

For a step-by-step guide and to make an application, please visit our how to apply page. For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Bridget Waller at bridget.waller@ntu.ac.uk.

The application deadline is Sunday 13 June 2021 at 11:59 pm. Interviews will begin from Monday 21 June 2021.

Fees and funding

The PhD will be funded by European Research Council Consolidator Grant FACEDIFF ‘Individual differences in facial expressivity: Social function, facial anatomy and evolutionary origins’ awarded to Bridget Waller. Funding will be provided for tuition fees, stipend for three years and research/conference expenses.

Guidance and support

Please visit our how to apply page for guidance and support.

Still need help?

Bridget Waller