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Sarah's story

As a Principal Academic in Psychology and Director of the Centre for Face Processing Disorders, Dr Sarah Bate’s research is making a difference to the public, policy and to the students she teaches.

Sarah’s work and research examines the nature of face-processing at both ends of the spectrum; those who suffer from a condition called prosopagnosia (more commonly known as face blindness) and are unable to recognise others from their faces alone, and ‘super-recognisers’ who have exceptional face-processing abilities.

“Although the NHS now recognises prosopagnosia, very few healthcare or educational professionals are able to offer diagnostic or remediation services,” Sarah said.

“Adults and children with face blindness can visit my research team to receive a formal diagnosis, and to participate in research that attempts to improve their face recognition skills. Our ongoing outreach programme is also raising professional and public awareness of the condition.”

Work that Sarah and her team have undertaken includes high-profile media appearances and hosting a roundtable event in Parliament, with the aim of having prosopagnosia formally recognised.

“Hosting the Roundtable in the House of Commons was a definite highlight, as it influenced the NHS to formally recognise face blindness for the first time,” said Sarah. 

“Also, our work examining super recognisers featured on the cover of the New Scientist, given its important implications for national security.”

Sarah also leads a final year Psychology unit called ‘Face Recognition and its Disorders’, and recently launched the new MSc Forensic and Neuropsychological Perspectives in Face-Processing course.

This means students can directly benefit from Sarah and her team being at the cutting edge of research into face processing.

“My research directly complements my teaching,” she said.

“Students have the opportunity to carry our research projects working directly with people who are either face blind or super recognisers, sometimes in collaboration with external agencies such as charities like the Encephalitis Society or the police.”

She added: “Given my research examines both neuropsychological and forensic applications of face-processing, I am able to teach students about the latest and most cutting-edge findings in the field.”

Her work and research has been supported by BU in a number of ways – such as funding opportunities and PhD studentships, alongside profile-raising activities to enhance its reach and impact.