Dr Christopher Watkins

Senior Lecturer

School School of Applied Sciences

Department Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8646


I commenced my funded PhD in October 2010 (University of Aberdeen, supervised by Professor Benedict Jones), gained my lectureship in September 2012 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in August 2017. I have published 32 peer-reviewed scientific papers, which includes 19/4 first-/sole-authored papers, 10 papers independent of PhD team, with 5 student-authored papers as PI (WoS statistics, 03/20: h index = 14, citations = 457, most cited paper = 63 citations). I have also published 6 book chapters, 8 peer-reviewed conference papers, and delivered 1 invited talk and 16 conference posters. My research has attracted funding from The Carnegie Trust, The Experimental Psychology Society, Human Behavior and Evolution Society and the European Human Behavior and Evolution Association.

I am primarily interested in social judgements of faces and voices, in order to understand social interactions with possible romantic partners and associates. My work has attracted media attention with 136 articles in international outlets and news media, including ScienceAPS Observer, The Atlantic, BBC, New York Post, The Times, The Australian, Hindustan Times and South China Morning Post. I have consolidated evidence from my recent research in a book chapter (Facial Displays of Leaders, Palgrave), and I am Section Editor for The Encyclopaedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science (Springer). My TEDx talk can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtPv1wuFJYI 

Prospective MbR/PhD students can visit my website (https://www.relationship-lab.com/) or contact me directly if they wish to discuss potential research opportunities.

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Programme Leader: BSc Psychology and Counselling (NSS "Overall satisfaction" = 100% in 2018 and 93.3% in 2019)


Current teaching:

PSY401 Human Evolutionary Psychology (Module Leader); PSY207 Philosophy of Science, Mind and Self (Module Leader); PSY410 Honours Project Module (Median = 6 supervisees p/a); PSY404: Mental Health and Ageing; PSY103: Evidence-based thinking. 

Current PG Supervision: Jordan Sculley 

I have been nominated for three and co-won one Student Led Teaching Award since commencing my post at Abertay. I am Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and External Examiner for The Open University (2020-2023).

Project supervision and mentoring are important parts of my teaching. To date, I have supervised 67 students and/or funded Research Assistants (including 2 PhD and 4 MbR students) and have also supervised several volunteer RA's under the School's Research Volunteer Scheme. Supervision and working with students as PI has so far generated 4 peer-reviewed papers (Cowan et al., 2016; James et al., 2018; Watkins et al., 2019, 2017) and 8 peer-reviewed international conference outputs (Sculley et al., 2019, 2018; Tilley et al., 2014; Watkins & Leitch, 2018; Watkins et al., 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015).


What pulls us closer toward some people over others? Why do we look up to certain people (even if briefly) at the expense of others?

I am interested in how humans agree and differ in their judgements of attractiveness and whether our romantic preferences and sexuality provide a window into our evolutionary history. I am also interested in whether problems related to competition and cooperation faced by humans over evolutionary history have shaped our social judgements of others today. To date, most of this work has been conducted using computer graphic techniques inspired by Sir Francis Galton, which enables you to manipulate facial characteristics in order to test whether such manipulations have a corresponding effect on our first impression judgements of other people (e.g. by manufacturing two different versions of the same individual). My reserach interests bridge perspectives from cognitive, biological and social psychology with evolutionary biology, anthropology and zoology.

I am interested in hearing from potential collaborators or Postgraduate students in this area.

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More Information

Knowledge Exchange

(all KE activity listed below are oral presentations unless otherwise indicated)

Sculley, J., Watkins, C. D. & Ritchie, K. L. (2019). Initial experimental evidence that the ability to choose between items alters attraction to familiar versus novel persons in different ways for men and women. Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Conference (Pre-conference on Psychology of Media and Technology), Portland, Oregon (February 2019). *Poster*

Watkins, C. D. & Leitch, A. (2018). If the shoe fits? Using sexual selection theories to examine potential between-women and within-women differences in their responses to high heels. International Society for Human Ethology Biennial Conference, Santiago, Chile (August/September 2018).

Sculley, J., Watkins, C. D. & Ritchie, K. L. (2018). The Coolidge Effect and Online Dating: Primed choice of both potential dates and resources directly reduces the attractiveness of familiar faces. International Society for Human Ethology Biennial Conference, Santiago, Chile (September 2018). *Poster*

Watkins, C. D., Leongomez, J. D., Bovet, J., Zelazniewicz, A., Korbmacher, M., Correa Varella, M. A., Fernandez, A. M., Wagstaff, D. & Bolgan, S. (2018). Do national health and wealth predict attitudes toward, and use of mouth-to-mouth kissing in romantic relationships? International Society for Human Ethology Biennial Conference, Santiago, Chile (September 2018). *Poster*

Watkins, C.D., Nicholls, M., Batres, C., Xiao, D., Talamas, S. & Perrett, D.I. (2017). Own attractiveness and perceived relationship quality shape women's memory for other men on the attractiveness dimension. Human Behaviour and Evolution Society, Boise, Idaho (June 2017).

Cowan, M. L., Watkins, C. D., Fraccaro, P. J., Feinberg, D. R. & Little, A. C. (2015). It's the way he tells them: Men's dominance is positively correlated with their preference for jokes told by dominant-sounding men. PTNCE, Poznan, Poland (September 2015).

Watkins, C. D., DeBruine, L. M., Little, A. C. & Jones, B. C. (2015). Social support influences preferences for feminine facial cues in potential social partners. EHBEA, Helsinki, Finland (Poster Presentation, March/April 2015).

Hegarty, L., Tadden-Paterson, C. & Watkins, C. D. (2015). What you see is what you get? The Dark Triad and sex differences in impression management in online dating. British Psychological Society Undergraduate Conference (Scottish Branch), University of Strathclyde, March 2015.

Watkins, C. D. (2014). The Face of Dundee. Public Lecture, Dundee Science Festival, Abertay University (November 2014).

Tilley, E. B., Cunningham, C. L. & Watkins, C. D. (2014). Do romantic partners impose additional costs than other social partners? PTNCE, Wroclaw, Poland (Poster Presentation, October 2014).

Watkins, C. D., DeBruine, L. M., Little, A. C., Feinberg, D. R. & Jones, B. C. (2014). Priming concerns about pathogen threat versus resource scarcity: Dissociable effects on women's perceptions of men's attractiveness and dominance. PTNCE, Wroclaw, Poland (October 2014).

Watkins, C. D., DeBruine, L. M., Feinberg, D. R. & Jones, B. C. (2014). A sex difference in the context sensitivity of dominance perceptions. Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Natal, Brazil (August 2014, Chair of session on Aggression and Homicide).

Watkins, C. D. (2013). Take me out? The science of love, sex and attraction. Public Lecture, Dundee Science Festival, Abertay University (November 2013).

Watkins, C. D. (2013). Competition and social perception of faces. Invited talk, Behavior and Evolution Research Group, University of Stirling.

Watkins, C. D. & Jones, B. C. (2012). Priming men with different contest outcomes modulates their dominance perceptions. Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Watkins, C. D., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., DeBruine, L. M. & Feinberg, D. R. (2011). Cues to the sex ratio of the local population influence women's preferenecs for facial symmetry. Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Montpellier, France.

Watkins, C. D., Quist, M. C., Smith, F. G., DeBruine, L. M. & Jones, B. C. (2011). Individual differences in women's perceptions of other women's dominance. Evolutionary and Biological Approaches to Behaviour Research Group, Abertay University, Scotland.

Meet the rest of the team

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Dr Lara Wood

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Lecturer

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Dr Sheila Cunningham

Dr Sheila Cunningham

Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences | Senior Lecturer

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