I completed my PhD in the Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences Research Department at University College London (UCL), before taking up a permanent faculty position at City University London in February 2012. In July 2013 I was identified as an ESRC Future Research Leader.
I have two principal research interests: The first is social perception - the mechanisms mediating the perception of human faces, bodies and actions and how they differ from the processes recruited by other 'generic' classes of stimuli. While considerable research attention has focused on the recognition of identity from static stimuli, the role of dynamic motion cues remains poorly understood. Equally, the mechanisms mediating perception of human bodies have been largely neglected despite a number of parallels with faces.
My second interest relates to mirror neurons, imitation and the visuomotor correspondence problem. Automatic imitation, i.e. the unconscious, unintentional copying of observed actions, is evidence that action observation can excite corresponding motor representations. However, whether these associations are innate or acquired through sensorimotor experience, remains a topic of intense debate. Much of my work with Cecilia Heyes (University of Oxford) has been concerned with testing the claim that mirror neurons acquire their sensorimotor properties through associative learning.
I am always very interested to hear from students (based at City or elsewhere) who are keen to get involved in research relating to social perception or imitation. I usually have a number of ongoing projects that require data collection. This research experience would suit students who are considering applying for PhD funding (or for the Clinical Doctorate) and wish to develop their research skills / publication record.
I would be delighted to hear from students interested in doing a PhD in these areas. City University offers a number of funded PhD studentships each year (http://www.city.ac.uk/research/research-degrees/fees/university-doctoral-studentships), suitable for UK, EU and international students. Please drop me an email if you'd like more information (Richard.Cook.firstname.lastname@example.org).