Dr Mary Louise Cowan is a lecturer in Psychology whose research interests lie primarily in the evolution of the sense of humour. During her BSc degree in Psychology in the University of Stirling, Mary developed an interest in examining the relationship between attractiveness and the use of humour in online dating advertisements.
Following the success of this project, Mary pursued an MSc in Psychological Research Methods in the University of Stirling. During this time, she began working with Dr Anthony C Little in understanding the relationship between the sense of humour, IQ, and physical attractiveness. This sparked a keen interest in investigating the sense of humour further, therefore she began a PhD which investigated the sex differences associated with humour, how humour types relate to attractiveness, and the relationship between humour and dominance.
Since then, Mary worked as a Teaching Fellow in Goldsmiths, University of London, and continued to build on the teaching experience gained during her PhD. She has published her work and presented it at international conferences, gaining much attention and interest in the media as well as among her peers.
- PGCHE, Regent's University London, 2018
- PhD Psychology, University of Stirling, 2015
- ‘There’s nothing funny about the evolution of humour: The Impact of Sex, Style, and Status on Humour Production and Appreciation’ supervised by Dr Anthony C. Little
- MSc Psychological Research Methods, University of Stirling, 2010
- BSc Psychology with Honours (First Class), University of Stirling, 2009
Relevant Past Employment
- 2014-2016 Teaching Fellow, Goldsmiths, University of London
- 2010-2014 Teaching Assistant, University of Stirling
- Cowan, M L., Watkins, C. D., Fraccaro, P. J., Feinberg, D. R. & Little, A. C. (2016) It’s the way he tells them (and who is listening); Men’s dominance is positively correlated with their preference for jokes told by dominant-sounding men. Evolution and Human Behavior. 37(2), 97-104
- Cowan, M. L. & Little, A. C. (2014) Exploring the relationship between attractiveness and a good sense of humour. Psychology of Interpersonal Perception and Relationships. Nova Publishers pp 71-94.
- Mileva, V. R., Cowan, M L., Cobey, K. D., Knowles, K. K., & Little, A. C. (2014) In the face of dominance: Self-perceived and other-perceived dominance is positively associated with facial Width-to-Height ratio in men. Personality and Individual Differences, 69, 115-118.
- Cowan, M L. & Little, A. C. (2013) The attractiveness of humour types in personal advertisements: Affiliative and aggressive humour are differentially preferred in long-term versus short-term partners. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 11(4), 159-170.
- Cowan, M L. & Little, A. C. (2013) The effects of relationship context and modality on ratings of funniness. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(4), 496-500.
Mary has supervised BSc projects on topics such as the relationship between humour and personality traits, the use of gossip to aid bonding, and the influence of prejudice and sexuality on schadenfreude. Mary would be interested in supervising BSc or MSc projects on the evolution of humour, sex differences in dominance, sexuality, and mate choice.
Mary’s research interests lie primarily in the sense of humour. Her research seeks to test hypotheses related to understanding why the sense of humour has evolved; why it may be adaptive for bonding with others and why it is attractive to mates. Humour is a topic which relates to many other areas of psychology, therefore her research has extended to examining personality traits, the communication of dominance, and the attractiveness for different humour styles across varying relationship contexts.
Mary has also developed an interest in examining the influence of the menstrual cycle on female sexuality and has an ongoing interest in sex differences in mate choice.
- PhD Departmental Studentship from the University of Stirling (£52,598 / 36 months)
- MSc Graduate Scholarship from the University of Stirling (£1,500).
- Fellow of Higher Education Academy, 2018
Conference Papers Given
- European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association conference in Vu University, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands (March 2013). Presented a poster entitled: ‘The attractiveness of humour types in personal advertisements; affiliative and aggressive humour are differentially preferred in long-term versus short-term partners’. Attendance was supported by an EHBEA student bursary.
- European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association conference in Durham University (March 2012). Presented a poster entitled: ‘The attractiveness of humour; the effects of relationship context and modality’. Attendance was supported by an EHBEA student bursary and a Grindley Grant bursary.
- Human Behaviour and Evolution Society conference in Montpellier, France (June 2011). Presented a poster entitled: ‘The relationship between humour, intelligence, and attractiveness’. Attendance was supported by a SCONET travel bursary.