Investigating the structure of person perception and its broader affective and cognitive correlates: an individual differences approach

Hannah Connolly

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The ability to perceive social information from another person is an important skill for successful everyday functioning. Given that deficits in this ability can be detrimental for wellbeing and relationships, it has unsurprisingly been the focus of much research. This has revealed notable individual differences in the general population; but relatively little work exists seeking to understand this variation. Moreover, sex and age differences have largely been studied with small samples and problematic stimuli. In this thesis, I addressed a number of major issues in the field of person perception through the lens of individual differences.
In Chapter 3, I examined the individual differences architecture of emotion recognition across three modalities (face, body, voice), and observed that this ability is related to, yet distinct from, the recognition of facial identity, the construct of alexithymia (a trait reflecting difficulty in identifying and describing feelings), and general intelligence. In Chapter 4, I observed a moderate association between emotional expression and identity recognition even after adjusting for general intelligence. In Chapter 5, I observed a negative relationship between alexithymia and intelligence, independent of emotion recognition ability.
In Chapter 6, I examined sex differences in facial and bodily emotion recognition, and observed a small but consistent female advantage for recognising facial disgust. Finally, in Chapter 7, I examined the effect of age on facial expression and facial identity recognition, and report significant age-related declines in both abilities that were independent of each other and of general intelligence.
This thesis expands our understanding of key components of person perception. I have outlined a proposed structure of emotion recognition ability, and how this is related to identity recognition, cognitive ability, and demographic variables. I suggest that individual differences are highly important to consider at both the general (cognition) and specific (face-processing) levels of this ability.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Lewis, Gary, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Mar 2020


  • emotion recognition
  • identity recognition
  • person perception
  • general intelligence
  • alexithymia
  • face perception
  • social cognition
  • individual differences
  • Structural Equation Modelling

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