Anthony P. Atkinson

Associate Professor in Psychology, Durham University


Social cognitive and affective neuroscience

My collaborators and I are investigating the psychological and neural processes underlying social perception, including the perception of emotion and other social information (e.g. identity, personality) from faces and from body postures and movement (biological motion). We are studying people with brain damage and neurologically intact subjects using a range of behavioural and psychophysiological measures (e.g. reaction times, forced-choice accuracy, intensity ratings, skin conductance, facial EMG, eye tracking), as well as technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Issues we are investigating include: What are the visual cues that enable us to perceive and identify emotions expressed in facial and body postures and movements? How are these cues processed by the brain? How are the neural mechanisms underpinning emotion perception functionally organized? Does recognizing someone else’s emotional expression involve one actually experiencing the same emotional state as the other person, or simulating one or more aspects of the viewed emotional state? If so, what are the information processing and neural mechanisms involved? To what extent and how is the brain specialized for social perception and cognition?

Other interests

The Psychology and Philosophy of Emotions:

In addition to the perception of emotional expressions (see above), my interests here include empathy, the perception-action link, delusions, and the nature of emotions and feelings. I was co-investigator with Prof. Matthew Ratcliffe on the project "Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Illness",  funded by a Research Networks grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. See

Evolutionary Psychology and Psychological Explanation:

I have worked on issues of psychological explanation, including work on conceptual issues in evolutionary psychology with Dr. Michael Wheeler, a philosopher at the University of Stirling.

The Science of Consciousness:

This was the subject of my doctoral thesis and of a few subsequent publications.

Research Interests

  1. *Missana, M., Atkinson, A. P., & Grossmann, T. (2015). Tuning the developing brain to emotional body expressions. Developmental Science, 18(2), 243-253. doi: 10.1111/desc.12209

  2.  * Missana, M., Rajhans, P., Atkinson, A.P. & Grossmann, T. (2014). Discrimination of fearful and happy body postures in 8-month-old infants: an event-related potential study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 531. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00531

  3. *Shafir, T., Taylor, S.F., Atkinson, A.P., Langenecker, S.A., & Zubieta, J-K. (2013). Emotion regulation through execution, observation, and imagery of emotional movements. Brain and Cognition, 82(2), 219-227.

  4. *Atkinson, A.P. (2013). Bodily expressions of emotion: Visual cues and neural mechanisms. In J. Armony & P. Vuilleumier (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Human Affective Neuroscience (pp.198-222). New York: Cambridge University Press.

  5. *Atkinson, A.P. & Smithson, H.E. (2013). Distinct contributions to facial emotion perception of foveated vs non-foveated facial features. Emotion Review, 5(1), 30-35.

  6. *Thoresen, J.C., Vuong, Q.C., & Atkinson, A.P. (2012). First impressions: Gait cues drive reliable trait judgments. Cognition, 124(3), 261-271.

  7. *Atkinson, A.P., Vuong, Q.C., & Smithson, H.E. (2012). Modulation of the face- and body-selective visual regions by the motion and emotion of point-light face and body stimuli. NeuroImage, 59, 1700-1712.

  8. *Atkinson, A.P. & Adolphs, R. (2011). The neuropsychology of face perception: Beyond simple dissociations and functional selectivity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B: Biological Sciences, 366, 1726-1738.

  9. *Dzhelyova, M.P., Ellison, A., & Atkinson, A.P. (2011). Event-related repetitive TMS reveals distinct, critical roles for right OFA and bilateral pSTS in judging the trustworthiness and sex of faces. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(10), 2782-2796.

  10. *Peelen, M.V., Atkinson, A.P., & Vuilleumier, P. (2010). Supramodal representations of perceived emotions in the human brain. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(30), 10127-10134.

  11. *Atkinson, A.P. (2009). Impaired recognition of emotions from body movements is associated with elevated motion coherence thresholds in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychologia, 47(13), 3023-3029.

  12. *Sprengelmeyer,, R. Atkinson, A.P., Sprengelmeyer, A., Mair-Walther, J., Jacobi, C. Wildemann, B. Difttrich, W.H. & Hacke, W. (2010). Disgust and fear recognition in paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis. Cortex, 46(5), 650-657.

  13. *Heberlein, A.S. & Atkinson, A.P. (2009). Neuroscientific evidence for simulation and shared substrates in emotion recognition: beyond faces. Emotion Review, 1(2), 162-177.

  14. *Peelen, M. V., Atkinson, A.P., Andersson, F., & Vuilleumier, P. (2007). Emotional modulation of body-selective visual areas. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), 274-283.

  15. *Atkinson, A.P., Heberlein, A.S., & Adolphs, R. (2007). Spared ability to recognise fear from static and moving whole-body cues following bilateral amygdala damage. Neuropsychologia, 45 (12), 2772-2782.

  16. *Atkinson, A.P., Tunstall, M.L., & Dittrich, W.H. (2007). Evidence for distinct contributions of form and motion information to the recognition of emotions from body gestures. Cognition, 104, 59-72.

  17. *Atkinson, A.P. Tipples, J., Burt, D.M. & Young, A.W. (2005). Asymmetric interference between sex and emotion in face perception. Perception & Psychophysics, 67, 1199-1213. PDF

  18. *Atkinson, A.P., Dittrich, W.H., Gemmell, A.J., & Young, A.W. (2004). Emotion perception from dynamic and static body expressions in point-light and full-light displays. Perception, 33, 717-746.

  19. *Atkinson, A.P. & Wheeler, M. (2004). The grain of domains: The evolutionary-psychological case against domain-general cognition. Mind and Language, 19, 147-176. PDF

  20. *Tipples, J., Atkinson, A.P. & Young, A.W. (2002). The eyebrow frown: A salient social signal. Emotion, 2, 288-296.

  21. *Atkinson, A.P., Thomas, M.S.C. & Cleeremans, A. (2000). Consciousness: Mapping the theoretical landscape. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 372-382. PDF