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The University of Southampton
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Professor Sarah Stevenage BSc, PhD

Professor in Psychology

Professor Sarah Stevenage's photo

Sarah Stevenage is Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Southampton.

Academic qualifications

BSc Psychology, University of Exeter

PhD Psychology (Face perception), University of Exeter

Chartered Psychologist

Associate Fellow of the BPS

Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


My interest in Psychology began through my degree, and later my PhD at the University of Exeter, under the supervision of Dr Ian Gordon. I came to Southampton in 1993, and have stayed here ever since. With a primary interest in face perception, I was naturally drawn to the area of Cognitive Psychology, and my undergraduate and postgraduate teaching has been focused mainly in the areas of Memory, Face Perception, and more recently Forensic Psychology. With a passion for teaching, and for making the experience of my students really enjoyable and interactive, I was awarded the VC’s Teaching Award on two occasions and all of my administrative roles have been focused on improving the experience of our students. Most recently, these include the roles of Head of Psychology, and Associate Dean (Education) for the Faculty. In 2017, I was also recognized for my Strategic Leadership in Teaching and Learning through being awarded the role of Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academic, which is the highest award of the professional body overseeing University-level education.

In terms of research, my main focus is on Identity and Identification, as judged through face perception, gait and most recently voice perception. These interests have culminated in my role as lead investigator on a £2m EPSRC project – SuperIdentity – across 7 institutions in the US and the UK, and my involvement in a number of government and Research Council initiatives to understand identity better within a modern and digital environment.

That's me!


Research interests

My research interests are in the area of cognitive psychology. My teaching helps me maintain a broad set of interests which share a basic focus on identity and identification. Current projects include identification from the face, from the voice, and from the hand, each of which may provide evidence to support court cases (see below). Please do get in touch if you are interested in study or collaboration with me in these areas.

Face Perception

There are many remarkable skills that we have in terms of processing faces - recognising people despite changes over time; recognising people despite transient changes in expression or pose. We can also make very fine level discriminations enabling us to tell apart similar looking people - and even twins. We can remember people's faces for 50 years or more. There are also instances where we get fooled - when faces of another race look too similar for us to distinguish, or when faces are deformed or turned upside down. These patterns of performance are quite well understood, and have helped us work out how these exceptional feats are achieved and which bits of the brain are responsible. We can even simulate human performance using neural networks.

Voice Recognition

In addition to my interests in face perception, I have also recently become involved in the examination of other means for identifying people. Gait perception has emerged as a promising avenue, and a multi-disciplinary team of computer scientists and psychologists are trying to model the processes involved. Much more recently, I have become interested in the under-researched area of voice recognition with the guiding principle that surely some processes must link with face recognition to inform us that we are processing a single individual. Similar factors affect performance, however differences between face and voice processing also emerge - these are what occupy me at present.

Hand Recognition

The hand is one of the most recent types of evidence to be deemed admissible in court. Whilst looking at a hand won’t necessarily tell you who someone is, there is the potential to compare the hand of a perpetrator (say from a video image) with the hand of a suspect and determine whether there is a match (or not). I am fortunate to work with some of the UKs leading scientists in this endeavour as we track the capability, and the limits of hand processing, and as we explore the assumptions of persistence and individuality of the hand itself.



Research group

Centre for Perception and Cognition (CPC)

I have covered many roles within the Psychology Department, including year 1 tutor, Director of Programmes, Head of Psychology, Associate Dean for Education, and now, Employability Lead.  My current role allows me to combine all of my skills in order to ensure that our students feel prepared and supported for their next steps after their training finishes. 

I work closely with Andy Port, our Careers Practitioner within the Careers and Employability Service. However, I also work hand in hand with Personal Academic Tutors in order to advise our students.  I am particularly pleased to have launched the Masters Support Scheme which provides 1-1 support for those finalists wanting to apply for further study. 

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My main teaching is on the Undergraduate Degree programme, and I teach all groups from first years up to third years. As an experienced tutor, I love the small group format of our Thinking Psychologically module (PSYC1005).  As a cognitive psychologist, I love teaching to my research strengths within the second year Language and Memory module (PSYC2021).  I have also coordinated three new modules designed to provide academic support and employability input alongside our substantive teaching.  Finally, I love the 1-1 teaching opportunities provided by project and dissertation supervision with finalists, largely in the area of forensic psychology. 

Professor Sarah Stevenage
Building 37, Room 4107 University of Southampton Southampton S017 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number: 44/4129

Facsimile: (023) 8059 4597

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