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Bridget Waller

Bridget Waller

Professor of Psychology

School of Social Sciences

Staff Group(s)


Bridget Waller is Professor of Evolution and Social Behaviour at NTU Psychology and research group lead for the Evolution and Social Interaction Research Group. She is also cluster lead for the Brain, Cognition and Development Research Cluster.

Career overview

Bridget Waller was Professor of Evolutionary Psychology and Director of the Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Portsmouth prior to joining NTU. She worked on Leverhulme Trust Research Project (to Professor Kim Bard) for her PhD on chimpanzee and human facial communication. She completed her Masters in Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Liverpool with Professor Robin Dunbar and was a Research Assistant in Cognitive Psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University. She studied Zoology as an undergraduate at Royal Holloway University of London.

Research areas

The overarching focus of her work is the evolution of social communication, particularly nonverbal behaviour and facial movement. She has specific expertise in human and non-human primate facial expression, and uses species-specific modifications of FACS (Facial Action Coding System) to make anatomically based, systematic comparisons between species. Currently, she is working on her European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant (FACEDIFF - Individual differences in facial expressivity: Social function, facial anatomy and evolutionary origins). She has also recieved funding from the Leverhulme Trust, British Academy, British Psychological Society, Leakey Foundation, DFG and Waltham Foundation.

Current ongoing projects:

FACEDIFF: ERC Consolidator Grant - Individual differences in facial expressivity: Social function, facial anatomy and evolutionary origins

AnimalFACS: Morphological and functional comparisons between humans and other primates species using modifications of the human Facial Action Coding System (FACS), such as chimpanzees, macaques, orangutans and hylobatids.

Sponsors and collaborators

European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant ‘Individual differences in facial expressivity: social function, anatomy and evolutionary origins’, 2020 – 2025, €1,994,446 (£1,662,038)

Leverhulme Trust Research Grant ‘Rethinking complexity in facial communication systems to Jerome Micheletta, Bridget Waller and Julie Dubosq, 2019-2021, £304,714

British Academy Research Grant ‘Children’s exposure to adult stress: perception, understanding and physiological impact to Bridget Waller, Sophie Milward and Matt Parker, 2019-2020, £9950

Leverhulme Trust Research Grant ‘Cultural variation in the social function and expression of guilt’ to Bridget Waller and Aldert Vrij, 2016-2019, £106,827

British Academy Research Grant ‘Comparative facial anatomy in macaques: insight into the evolution of complex communication’ to Jerome Micheletta and Bridget Waller, 2014-2015, £2970

Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship ‘Macacognitum: Evolution of cognition and primate social style’ to Marine Joly (fellow) and Bridget Waller (scientist in charge), 2014-2016, 299,558 € (£265,936)

Feline Friends Research Donation ‘Development of CatFACS: a facial action coding system for felids’ to Bridget Waller, 2013-2014, £10,000

Leakey Foundation Research Grant ‘Adaptive function of facial displays in crested macaques (Macaca nigra)’ to Bridget Waller and Jerome Micheletta, 2013-2014, $19,548 (£15,586)

British Psychological Society Public Engagement Grant ‘Development and evaluation of interactive exhibits promoting comparative psychology in a zoo environment’ to Katie Slocombe and Bridget Waller, 2012-2013, £19,340 

Waltham Foundation (Research Grant) 'The dog-human bond: Does facial communication influence shelter dog re-homing selection?', to Bridget Waller (PI), Juliane Kaminski and Anne Burrows, 2011-2012,  $14,930 (£11,904)

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Extension Research Grant ‘Comparing emotional expression across species – development of a FACS for gibbons’ to Katja Liebal, Bridget Waller, Anne Burrows, 2011-2012, 39,000 € (£34,573)

Nuffield Student Science Bursary ‘Analysis of facial muscle movements in cooperative tasks: does facial movement help us cooperate?2011 £1,440.

University of Portsmouth Science Faculty Special Project Grant, ‘Establishing a zoo-based facility for cognitive research with crested macaques’ to Bridget Waller (PI), 2009, £25,000

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Grant ‘Comparing emotional expression across species – development of a FACS for gibbons’ to Katja Liebal, Bridget Waller, Anne Burrows. 2009-2011, 143,300 € (£143,300)

Nuffield Student Science Bursary ‘Faking it: Analysing the muscle movements of smiling in persuasive contexts’, 2009, £1,440.

National Institute of Health Research RO3 Grant ‘Development of a Rhesus Macaque Facial Action Coding System’ to Lisa Parr (PI), Bridget Waller et al. 2008-2010, $200,231(£159,626)


Key research articles (see full list above)

  • Waller, B. M., Julle-Daniere, E., & Micheletta, J. (2020). Measuring the evolution of facial ‘expression’ using multi-species FACS. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 113, 1-11.
  • Kaminski, J., Waller, B. M., Diogo, R., Hartstone-Rose, A., & Burrows, A. M. (2019). Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1820653116
  • Waller, B. M., Whitehouse, J., & Micheletta, J. (2017). Rethinking primate facial expression: a predictive framework. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
  • Waller, B. M., Whitehouse, J., & Micheletta, J. (2016). Macaques can predict social outcomes from facial expressions. Animal Cognition., 19(5), 1031-1036.
  • Waller, B. M. & Micheletta, J. (2013). Facial expression in nonhuman animals. Emotion Review, 5(1), 54-59.
  • Slocombe, K.E., Waller, B. M. & Liebal, K. (2011). The language void: The need for multimodality in primate communication research. Animal Behaviour, 81(5), 919-924.
  • Waller, B. M., Cray, J.J. & Burrows, A.M. (2008).  Selection for universal facial emotion.  Emotion, 8(3), 435-439.
  • Parr, L.A., Waller, B. M. & Vick, S.J. (2007).  New developments in understanding emotional facial signals in chimpanzees. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(3), 117-122.
  • Vick, S.J., Waller, B. M., Parr, L.A., Smith Pasaqualini, M.C. & Bard, K.A. (2007). A cross-species comparison of facial morphology and movement in humans and chimpanzees using the facial action coding system (FACS). Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour, 31, 1-20.
  • Waller, B. M. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2005). Differential behavioural effects of silent bared teeth display and relaxed open mouth display in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Ethology, 111, 129-142.

See all of Bridget Waller's publications...