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Dr Rebecca Owens

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Lecturer in Psychology

I earned a First Class BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 2009 and went on to start a part-time PhD in the same year. I completed my PhD in Evolutionary Psychology in 2016. I am now a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society, a Lecturer in Psychology and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Teaching and supervision

I teach primarily on the undergraduate psychology courses. I supervise research projects at both undergraduate and postgraduate. My teaching and supervision focuses on evolutionary psychology, individual differences, and research methods.

I am Module Leader for the core Stage 1 module Genes to Mind, the core Stage 2 module Research Methods and Data Analysis in Psychology, and the stage 3 option module, Male Psychology. I also teach on Meet the Relatives, which is a Stage 2 option module which incorporates comparative psychology and evolutionary psychology.

Research interests for potential research students

I am interested in supervising projects informed by an evolutionary perspective. There are three broad areas of research I am interested in:

Mating behaviours, preferences, and strategies: Sex differences in mating behaviours and preferences, costly signalling behaviours, including competitiveness, risk-taking, and the role of testosterone in such behaviours.

Male psychology: My PhD thesis took an evolutionary perspective on sex differences in competitiveness and risk-taking. This has led to an interest in male psychology, including the impact of gender roles on mental health and wellbeing, and the impact of so-called 'toxic masculinity' and 'gender blindness'.

Body image/identity and wellbeing:

I am interested in the motivations for, and perceptions of those who engage in various body modifications. Body modifications vary widely in both form and quality, and I am interested in why there is such variation, and whether this contributes to wellbeing, and what they signal about an individual. I recently did a podcast about this which can be accessed via iTunes or Spotify.


My research experience to date has involved taking an evolutionary perspective on competitiveness and risk taking behaviours. This involved considering the role of mating motivations and dominance striving, how such factors vary over the lifespan and are responsive to external cues in the environment, as well as the suggested biological underpinnings of such fluctuations of testosterone levels.

Although this area of research is ongoing, it is expanding and diverging. I also examine differences (for example, differences due to sex and/or developmental environment) in mating strategies.

A new area or research I am exploring is that of body modification. I am interested in examining the motivations people have for engaging in various forms of body modifications and to different extents, and how this is perceived by people who are not familiar with the industry. Furthermore, I am interested in the impact that engagement in body modifications has on individual mental health and wellbeing, and whether this is sometimes seen as therapeutic.


Number of items: 7.


Wignall, Liam, Portch, Emma, McCormack, Mark, Owens, Rebecca, Cascalheira, Cory, Attard-Johnson, Janice and Cole, Teri (2021) Changes in Sexual Desire and Behaviors among UK Young Adults During Social Lockdown Due to COVID-19. The Journal of Sex Research. ISSN 0022-4499

Owens, Rebecca, Driscoll, Helen and Farrelly, Daniel (2020) Variation in Women’s Mate Preferences Over the Development of a Monogamous Relationship Corresponds with Changes in Men’s Life History Strategy. Evolutionary Psychological Science. ISSN 2198-9885

Farrelly, Daniel, Owens, Rebecca, Elliott, Hannah, Walden, Hannah and Wetherell, Mark (2015) The Effects of Being in a “New Relationship” on Levels of Testosterone in Men. Evolutionary Psychology, 13 (1). ISSN 1474-7049

Farrelly, Daniel, Owens, Rebecca, Elliott, Hannah, Walden, Hannah and Wetherell, Mark (2013) Competitors who choose to be red have higher testosterone levels. Psychological Science, 24 (10). ISSN 0956-7976

Book Section

Owens, Rebecca and Barry, John From Fetuses to Boys to Men: The Impact of Testosterone on Male Lifespan Development. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. Springer International Publishing, pp. 3-24. ISBN 978-3-030-04384-1

Conference or Workshop Item

Owens, Rebecca, Driscoll, Helen, Farrelly, Daniel and Crawley, Rosalind (2015) Women Desire More Evidence of Commitment from a Partner as a Relationship Develops. In: Culture and Evolution Symposium, PsyPAG, 22-24 Jul 2015, Glasgow, UK.. (Unpublished)


Owens, Rebecca (2017) The Role of Life History Variables in Male Competitive Behaviour. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

This list was generated on Sun Sep 26 07:24:40 2021 BST.
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Individual differences
  • Mating behaviours and relationships
  • Male Psychology
  • The role of testosterone in male mental health and wellbeing
  • Tattoos and body modifications
  • Sex differences
  • Research methods, statistics, and psychometrics

Last updated 14 July 2021

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