Dr Sophie Sowden-Carvalho BSc, MSc, PhD, AFHEA

Dr Sophie Sowden-Carvalho

School of Psychology
Assistant Professor in Psychology

Dr Sophie Sowden-Carvalho is an experimental psychologist and director of the U21 Autism Research Network. She is interested in social cognition across the lifespan as well as in a range of clinical conditions including autism, conduct disorder and Parkinson’s Disease, and takes a cross-cultural approach to her research.

To read more about Dr Sowden-Carvalho’s research, visit her lab website here.


  • BSc in Psychology (Hons) (University of Surrey)
  • MSc in Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry (King’s College London)
  • PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience (King’s College London)


Dr Sophie Sowden-Carvalho completed her Bachelor’s degree (in Psychology) at the University of Surrey, followed by her Master’s and doctoral studies at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London. She then moved to the University of Birmingham as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2018 prior to taking up the role of Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham in 2021.


Introduction to Developmental Psychology

Adolescence Mind and Brain

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Sowden-Carvalho has expertise in experimental measures of social and motor functioning, including facial emotion production and perception, theory of mind, automatic imitation and empathy. She investigates the cognitive underpinnings of both typical and atypical social cognition, including in clinical conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s Disease, eating disorders and conduct disorder.

She is also the director of the U21 Autism Research Network, investigating autism-related language preferences, camouflaging and mental health in autistic people around the globe.

Dr Sowden-Carvalho is interested in supervising postgraduate students and PhD students in the following areas (please email if interested in working with Dr Sowden-Carvalho):

-          Social and motor cognition across the lifespan (adolescence, young adulthood and aging)

-          Emotion production and perception in autism spectrum disorder

-          Social cognition and adolescent conduct problems

-          Mental wellbeing in autism spectrum disorder (with cross-cultural perspectives)


My primary research interests are in social and motor functioning across the life span, particularly with respect to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions such as autism, conduct disorder and Parkinson's disease. I have an interest in creating international research collaborations, having recently acquired funding from both the Experimental Psychology Society and Universitas-21 for cross-cultural projects.

I am the director of the U21 Autism Research Network (https://www.u21autismresearchnetwork.co.uk/). This network brings together autism researchers from 7 universities across the globe with the aim of making society and research more inclusive for autistic individuals. Our research focuses on understanding cross-cultural similarities and differences in the experiences and mental wellbeing of autistic individuals around the globe.

Other activities

Dr Sowden-Carvalho is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with membership to the following societies:

  • Experimental Psychology Society
  • British Neuroscience Association
  • European Society for Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 


Highlight publications

Keating, CT, Hickman, L, Leung, J, Monk, R, Montgomery, A, Heath, H & Sowden, S 2022, 'Autism-related language preferences of English-speaking individuals across the globe: A mixed methods investigation', Autism Research. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2864

Keating, CT, Hickman, L, Geelhand, P, Takahashi, T, Leung, J, Schuster, B, Rybicki, A, Girolamo, TM, Clin, E, Papastamou, F, Belenger, M, Eigsti, I-M, Cook, JL, Kosaka, H, Osu, R, Okamoto, Y & Sowden, S 2021, 'Global perspectives on autism acceptance, camouflaging behaviours and mental health in autism spectrum disorder: A registered report protocol', PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 12, e0261774. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261774

Sowden, S, Schuster, BA, Keating, CT, Fraser, DS & Cook, JL 2021, 'The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression production and recognition', Emotion, vol. 21, no. 5, pp. 1041-1061. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000835

Sowden, S, Khemka, D & Catmur, C 2021, 'Regulating mirroring of emotions a social-specific mechanism?', Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/17470218211049780

Keating, CT, Sowden, S & Cook, JL 2021, 'Comparing internal representations of facial expression kinematics between autistic and non‐autistic adults', Autism Research. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2642

Recent publications


Keating, CT, Hickman, L, Geelhand, P, Takahashi, T, Leung, J, Monk, R, Schuster, B, Rybicki, A, Girolamo, TM, Clin, E, Papastamou, F, Belenger, M, Eigsti, I-M, Cook, JL, Kosaka, H, Osu, R, Okamoto, Y, Sowden-Carvalho, S & Dey, A (ed.) 2024, 'Cross-cultural variation in experiences of acceptance, camouflaging and mental health difficulties in autism: A registered report', PLOS One, vol. 19, no. 3, e0299824. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299824

Schuster, B, Sowden-Carvalho, S, Rybicki, A, Fraser, D, Press, C, Hickman, L, Holland, P & Cook, J 2024, 'Disruption of dopamine system function impairs the human ability to understand the mental states of other people', PLoS Biology. <https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.07.21.550065v1.full>

Keating, CT, Fraser, DS, Sowden, S & Cook, JL 2022, 'Differences Between Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults in the Recognition of Anger from Facial Motion Remain after Controlling for Alexithymia', Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 1855-1871. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05083-9

Rybicki, AJ, Sowden, SL, Schuster, B & Cook, JL 2022, 'Dopaminergic challenge dissociates learning from primary versus secondary sources of information', eLife, vol. 11, e74893. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.74893

Schuster, BA, Sowden, S, Rybicki, AJ, Fraser, DS, Press, C, Holland, P & Cook, JL 2022, 'Dopaminergic modulation of dynamic emotion perception', The Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 42, no. 21, pp. 4394-4400. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2364-21.2022

Schuster, BA, Fraser, DS, van den Bosch, JJF, Sowden, S, Gordon, AS, Huh, D & Cook, JL 2021, 'Kinematics and observer-animator kinematic similarity predict mental state attribution from Heider–Simmel style animations', Scientific Reports, vol. 11, no. 1, 18266. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97660-2

Corsi, E, Cardi, V, Sowden, S, Coll, M-P, Cascino, G, Ricca, V, Treasure, J, Bird, G & Monteleone, AM 2021, 'Socio-cognitive processing in people with eating disorders: computerized tests of mentalizing, empathy and imitation skills', International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 54, no. 8, pp. 1509-1518. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23556

Sowden, S, Koletsi, S, Lymberopoulos, E, Militaru, E, Catmur, C & Bird, G 2018, 'Quantifying compliance and acceptance through public and private social conformity', Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 65, pp. 359-367. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2018.08.009

Sowden, S, Koehne, S, Catmur, C, Dziobek, I & Bird, G 2016, 'Intact Automatic Imitation and Typical Spatial Compatibility in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Challenging the Broken Mirror Theory', Autism Research, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 292-300. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1511

Sowden, S, Brewer, R, Catmur, C & Bird, G 2016, 'The specificity of the link between alexithymia, interoception, and imitation', Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, vol. 42, no. 11, pp. 1687-1692. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000310

Shah, P, Happé, F, Sowden, S, Cook, R & Bird, G 2015, 'Orienting Toward Face-Like Stimuli in Early Childhood', Child Development, vol. 86, no. 6, pp. 1693-1700. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12441

Shah, P, Sowden, S, Gaule, A, Catmur, C & Bird, G 2015, 'The 20 item prosopagnosia index (PI20): Relationship with the Glasgow face-matching test', Royal Society Open Science, vol. 2, no. 11, 150305. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150305

Shah, P, Gaule, A, Sowden, S, Bird, G & Cook, R 2015, 'The 20-item prosopagnosia index (PI20): A self-report instrument for identifying developmental prosopagnosia', Royal Society Open Science, vol. 2, no. 6, 140343. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.140343

Sowden, S, Wright, GRT, Banissy, MJ, Catmur, C & Bird, G 2015, 'Transcranial Current Stimulation of the Temporoparietal Junction Improves Lie Detection', Current Biology, vol. 25, no. 18, 12231, pp. 2447-2451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.014


Keating, CT, Hickman, L, Leung, J, Monk, R, Montgomery, A, Heath, H & Sowden, S 2022 'Autism-related language preferences across the globe: a mixed methods investigation' PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/859x3

View all publications in research portal


Autism; Communication; Language preferences; Social cognition

Media experience