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Face Perception - PSY00009H

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  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Mike Burton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

How do people perceive your face? In fact, decisions are made about our faces all the time. People can identify who we are (not only our friends and family, but also people who don’t know us, for example in photo-ID). We can also be perceived as members of social groups, being variously attractive, experiencing particular emotions, having certain personalities and so forth. While some aspects of our faces can carry verifiable signals (e.g. health status) others seem to be based in social conventions. Furthermore, when face perception goes wrong, there can be catastrophic consequences – for example in cases where eyewitness testimony convicts innocent people.

In this course, we will examine the different sources of information available in a face. We will look at evidence from across a wide variety of methods to understand how research from different disciplines can converge to enhance our understanding of face perception. We will establish what is known about the human face perception system, alongside reviewing the consequences for our daily lives.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe the different sources of information available within faces
  • Give an account of the major findings from across different disciplines
  • Comment on biological and social factors involved in face perception
  • Evaluate the implications of these findings for psychology and for society
  • Discuss the impact of technological advances on face perception research

Module content

  • Recognising the people we know
  • Recognising people we don’t know: photo-ID
  • Recognising people within and outside our social groups
  • Facial expressions: how reliably can we judge someone’s emotion?
  • The biological background – brains and genes
  • Eye-witness testimony 1: How reliable?
  • Eye-witness testimony 2: Can psychologists help?
  • First impressions – why are we so quick to judge someone?
  • Facial attractiveness


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Face Perception
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Face Perception
5 hours 100

Module feedback

The marks on all assessed work will be provided on e-vision.

Indicative reading

Reading lists for each topic will be made available via the course home page. Key readings for the main lectures and seminars are available via the University library’s e-journals. The main reading involves primary source material and a published review paper for each topic.

An overview of course topics can be found in this textbook, which can be useful if you need to look up something or want a broader perspective on a particular issue:

Bruce, V. & Young, A. (2012). Face perception. London: Psychology Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.