Dr Sophie Sowden BSc, MSc, PhD, AFHEA

Dr Sophie Sowden

School of Psychology
Assistant Professor in Psychology

Dr Sophie Sowden 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.


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

-          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 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. 


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

Schuster, B. A., Fraser, D. S., van den Bosch, J. J. F., Sowden, S., Gordon, A. S., Huh, D., & Cook, J. L. (2021). Kinematics and observer-animator kinematic similarity predict mental state attribution from Heider–Simmel style animations. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 18266. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97660-2.

Keating, C. T., Fraser, D. S., Sowden, S., & Cook, J. L. (2021). 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. doi:10.1007/s10803-021-05083-9

Corsi, E., Cardi, V., Sowden, S., Coll, M. P., Cascino, G., Ricca, V., . . . Monteleone, A. M. (2021). Socio‐cognitive processing in people with eating disorders: Computerized tests of mentalizing, empathy and imitation skills. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(8), 1509-1518. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23556

Sowden, S., Schuster, B. A., Keating, C. T., Fraser, D. S., & Cook, J. L. (2021). The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion expression and recognition. Emotion, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000835.

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, 65, 359-367. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2018.08.009.

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, 42(11), 1687-1692. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000310.

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, 9(2), 292-300. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1511.

Sowden, S., Wright, Gordon R. T., Banissy, Michael J., Catmur, C., & Bird, G. (2015). Transcranial current stimulation of the temporoparietal junction improves lie detection. Current Biology, 25(18), 2447-2451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.014

Sowden, S., & Catmur, C. (2015). The role of the right temporoparietal junction in the control of imitation. Cerebral Cortex, 25(4), 1107-1113. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bht306.

Shah, P., & Sowden, S. (2015). Insights into social perception in autism. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(23), 8689. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1216-15.2015.

Shah, P., Happé, F., Sowden, S., Cook, R., & Bird, G. (2015). Orienting toward face-like stimuli in early childhood. Child Development, 86(6), 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, 2(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, 2(6), 140343. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.140343.

Sowden, S., & Shah, P. (2014). Self-other control: a candidate mechanism for social cognitive function. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 789. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00789.

Cavallo, A., Catmur, C., Sowden, S., Ianì, F., & Becchio, C. (2014). Stopping movements: when others slow us down. European Journal of Neuroscience, 40(5), 2842-2849. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.12645.

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