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Dr Ian Stephen


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Senior Lecturer

My interest in the mechanisms and evolutionary explanations of face perception is the result of my diverse academic background. My undergraduate degree was the interdisciplinary life sciences programme, BSc (Hons) Human Sciences at University College London (UCL), where my main interests were in evolution, genetics and psychology.

I went on to study for an MPhil in Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, where I first began research on the evolutionary psychology of face perception. I completed my PhD with Prof David Perrett at the University of St Andrews in 2009. I then held an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Bristol, before moving to the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in 2010. I joined Macquarie University as a Senior Lecturer of Psychology in February 2014.

Research interests

My research focuses on face perception, which I approach from two main angles. First, I am interested in the interaction between health and facial appearance. How does our health impact on the appearance of our faces and bodies, and how are these changes perceived by observers? Second, I am interested in the similarities and differences in face processing style between people from different ethnic groups and cultures. We know that people from different backgrounds look at faces in different ways, but to what extent does this reflect different cognitive processing styles?


(* = supervised student author)

Stephen, I.D., * Tan, K.W. (in press) Healthy body, healthy face? Evolutionary approaches to health perception. In: E. Sheppard & S. Haque (Eds) Studies in Contemporary Psychology: A Collection of Critical Essays.

Stephen, I.D., * Perera, A.T.M. (2014) Judging the difference between attractiveness and health: Does media influence body weight preferences? PLoS ONE

Stephen, I.D., * Perera, A.T.M., (2014) Judging the difference between attractiveness and health: Do men and women really have different weight preferences? Body Image

Stephen, I.D. (2013) The lasting impact of Tinbergen (1963) on face perception research. Human Ethology Bulletin.

View all publications

* Tan, K.W., Stephen, I.D. (2013) Sensitivity threshold of colour changes in facial skin and colour patches. Perception

Stephen, I.D. (2013) Book review: Applied Evolutionary Psychology by C. Roberts (Ed). British Journal of Psychology, 104, 438-442.

Danel, D.P., Saxton, T.K., Fedurek, P., Nowak, N., Stephen, I.D., Stirrat, M., Coetzee, V., Perrett, D.I. (2012) Does the natural visual experience affect preferences for population-specific face shapes? Ethology, 118, 1173-1181.

Whitehead, R.D., Stephen, I.D., Coetzee, V., Ozakinci, G., Perrett, D.I. (2012) Reply: Fruit-and-vegetable consumption may not be "inadequate". American Journal of Public Health, 102, e3-4.

Park, J., van Leeuwen, F., Stephen, I.D. (2012) Homeliness is in the disgust sensitivity of the beholder: Relatively unattractive faces appear especially unattractive to individuals higher in pathogen disgust. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 569-577.

Stephen, I.D., * Oldham, F.H., Perrett, D.I., Barton, R.A. (2012) Redness enhances perceived aggression, dominance and attractiveness in men's faces. Evolutionary Psychology, 10, 562-572.

* Tan, C.B.Y., Stephen, I.D., Whitehead, R., Sheppard, E. (2012) You look familiar: How Malaysian Chinese recognize faces. PLoS ONE, 7, e29714.

Stephen, I.D., Scott, I.M.L., Coetzee, V., Pound, N., Penton-Voak, I.S. (2012) Cross-cultural effects of colour, but not masculinity, preferences in men's faces. Evolution and Human Behavior. 33, 260-267

Stephen, I.D. (2012) Book review: New Directions in Colour Studies. British Journal of Psychology, 103, 428-430.

Whitehead, R.D., Stephen, I.D., Coetzee, V., Ozakinci, G., Perrett, D.I. (2011) Appealing to vanity: Could seeing potential appearance gains motivate fruit and vegetable consumption? American Journal of Public Health 102, 207-211.

Stephen, I.D., Coetzee, V., Perrett, D.I. (2011) Skin carotenoid and melanin coloration affect perceived health of human faces. Evolution & Human Behavior 32, 216-227.

Perrett, D.I., Re, D., Whitehead, R., Stephen, I.D., Xiao, D. (2011) Perception of health and facial attractiveness is influenced by small changes to lifestyle. Journal of Vision, 11, 564.

Scott, I.M.L., Pound, N., Stephen, I.D., Penton-Voak, I.S. (2010) Does masculinity matter? The contribution of sex-typical appearance to male attractiveness in humans. PLoS ONE, 5, e13585.

Stephen, I.D., * McKeegan, A.M. (2010) Lip colour affects perceived sex typicality and attractiveness of human faces. Perception 39, 1104-1110.

Coetzee, V., Chen, J., Perrett, D.I., Stephen, I.D. (2010) Deciphering faces: Quantifiable visual cues to weight. Perception, 39, 51-61.

Coetzee, V., Perrett, D.I., Stephen, I.D. (2009) Facial adiposity: a cue to health. Perception 38, 1700-1711.

Stephen, I.D., Law Smith, M.J., Stirrat, M.R., Perrett, D.I. (2009)  Facial skin colouration affects perceived health of human faces. International Journal of Primatology, 6, 845-857.

Stephen, I.D., Coetzee, V., Law Smith, M.J., Perrett, D.I. (2009) Skin blood perfusion and oxygenation colour affect perceived human health. PLoS ONE 4:e508.




UniJobs Australian Lecturer of the Year – top 10 at Macquarie University       


Nominated for Dearing Award for excellence in teaching at UNMC


ILM accredited Level 5 Award in Research Management – University of Bristol




Funding Body





Macquarie University Research Development Grant

A Visual Adaptation Model of Body Size Misperception

Ian D Stephen, Kevin Brooks, Jonathan Mond, Richard J Stephenson



MQSIS equipment fund

3DMDflex7 3D face and body scanner

Ian D Stephen



CCD small grant

Influence of pathogen exposure on preferences for facial health cues

Ian D Stephen, Yong Zhi Foo, Gillian Rhodes



Psychology Department Research funding

Objective face and body cues to health

Ian D Stephen



FoS Teaching & Learning Fund

Developing a series of tutorial materials for the School of Psychology

Ian D Stephen, Elizabeth Sheppard, Jessica Price, Matthew R Johnson, Rika Imada




Effects of carotenoid-rich smoothy consumption on skin colour and healthy appearance

Ian D Stephen, Brigitte A Graf, Soma R Mitra, Tan Kok Wei



CFFRC Small Project Grant

Developing a smoothy for delivery of underutilised fruit and vegetables

Ian D Stephen, Brigitte A Graf, Soma R Mitra, Tan Kok Wei



FoS Equipment grant

For purchase of Konika Minolta CM-700 spectrophotometer

Ian D Stephen




Anxiety in Young Adolescents : An Examination of the Perception of Facial Threat and Role of Temperament in Parenting Practices.

Ian D Stephen, Roslinda Binti Mustafa



Science Faculty Pump Priming Grant

Using 2D and 3D imaging to identify the relationship between health and appearance

Ian D Stephen



ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship

Lifestyle factors affect skin colour and are perceptible to observers

Ian D Stephen, Ian Penton-Voak


 Higher Degree Research completions






Dr Chrystalle B.Y. Tan

Face processing in Malaysian Chinese adults

Doctor of Philosophy