Meet people in the School, Psychology

Introducing a new lecturer in the School, Sarah Laurence

We introduce a new lecturer in the School, Dr Sarah Laurence.

Sarah, welcome to the School. Tell us about your interests and the area of psychology that you work in. 

I am a cognitive psychologist with a particular interest in how we perceive and recognise faces.This topic has always fascinated me because faces are all so similar (two eyes, above a nose, above a mouth) yet despite this people with typical face recognition ability are able to recognise lots of different familiar faces with ease. It is also important in a range of different contexts, such as our day-to-day social interactions (e.g. recognising a neighbour) and in a range of applied settings (e.g. recognising someone in CCTV footage).

What are your current projects?

I am currently conducting research that aims to understand: a) the nature of our memory representations of familiar faces, b) how a face transitions from being unfamiliar to familiar, c) face recognition in applied settings (e.g. policing, security, missing persons).

In 2018 I was awarded a New Investigator award from the Economic and Social Research Council. This is funding a project that examines how we recognise faces across changes in appearance brought about by ageing. For example, how do we recognise people we have known for a long time even though their appearance has changed (e.g. Paul McCartney when he was in the Beatles and as he is today).

When I worked in the Face Perception Lab at Brock University a few years ago I studied the development of face recognition during childhood and ethnicity biases in face recognition. I will continue to examine these topics in my current role.

What were you doing before you came to the Open University?

Before starting at the Open University, I worked as a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Keele University.  Prior to that I spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brock University, Canada, working in the Face Perception Lab. I started my academic career at the University of Sussex where I completed both my BSc. and Ph.D. in Psychology

What are your plans for teaching and research in the School? [e.g. mention modules you’ll be working on, if you know]

This year I’m looking forward to working on developing two new modules, one aimed at undergraduate level and the other at postgraduate level. I’ve been on maternity leave for most of the last 12 months, so I’ll also spend the next few months restarting my research projects.

Read more about Sarah Laurence’s work here

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