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Dr Rebecca Owens

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Associate Head of the School of 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 Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and the Associate Head of the School of Psychology (UG Provision).

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 the Programme Leader for BSc Psychology and teach on various modules including the core Stage 1 module Genes to Mind, the core Stage 2 module Research Methods and Data Analysis in Psychology, the optional stage 2 module Meet the Relatives, and the stage 3 option module, Male 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 co-host a podcast called the Inking of Immunity Podcast with colleagues at the University of Alabama. This is a cross-disciplinary research project where we speak with other academics interested in body modifications.


I bring an evolutionary perspective to all aspects of my work. My PhD research  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. This led me onto the area of Male Psychology generally.

Male Psychology is a relatively new area of research and involves considering and integrating biological and evolutionary perspectives on sex differences and similarities with the areas we typically consider, such as social and developmental, to better understand issues that primarily or exclusively affect men and boys. This often also uncovers areas relevant to people who are not male as well, which is also helpful!

I am also interested in body image and representation in terms of body modifications. I am interested in 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: 9.


Elliott, Ryan and Owens, Rebecca (2023) Barriers to Help Seeking in Men. Psychreg Journal of Psychology, 7 (2). ISSN 2515-138X

Owens, Rebecca, Filoromo, S. J., Landgraf, L. A., Lynn, C. D. and Smetana, M. R. A. (2023) Deviance as an historical artefact: a scoping review of psychological studies of body modification. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 10 (33). pp. 1-10. ISSN 2662-9992

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 Mon Sep 25 06:37:57 2023 BST.
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • 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 August 2023