Cathy Macpherson

Cathy Macpherson

Psychology, University of Aberdeen

Tenure since 2017

Dynamics of social interaction: Investigating the impact of individual psychological characteristics on interpersonal coordinationCathy Macpherson

Coordinating with others is an integral part of our social world, allowing us to engage in a range of activities from ballroom dancing, to simply walking and talking. Coordination also appears to influence the degree to which we connect socially with others - a large body of empirical evidence now exists highlighting a bidirectional relationship between interpersonal coordination and a wide range of social outcomes, including rapport, liking and helping. Recently, research has suggested that the beneficial outcomes of coordination also extend towards influencing functional outcomes such as group productivity.

Within the literature on interpersonal coordination, however, it has been observed that some individuals coordinate to a much greater degree than others. For example, differences in the social motives of an individual can have a profound impact on the extent to which an individual will coordinate with another. Such an influence has also been highlighted in the field of mental health. Here, individuals suffering from a number of mental health disorders (e.g. social anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder) have been shown to present with deficits in the emergence of interpersonal coordination. It is currently unclear, however, whether the symptoms associated with these disorders may influence interpersonal coordination within a non-clinical population. Further, if such an influence is present, do these symptoms also influence the outcomes of coordination, such as the establishment of rapport, and group productivity?

The PhD project will focus on answering these questions, allowing significant advances to be made regarding understanding the continuum approach to mental health, as well as regarding understanding the role of mental health in interpersonal coordination.


Cathy graduated third in her class from the University of Aberdeen in June 2016 with a first class honours degree in psychology. She subsequently undertook a master’s degree in psychology, where she is due to graduate with a distinction in November 2017. Her master’s degree project focused on the influence of individual psychological qualities on interpersonal coordination. It was through this work that her interest in the PhD topic area grew, and much of the work Cathy has conducted throughout her master’s degree has formed the basis for the PhD project outlined.

Cathy also has a keen interest in law, and has been employed as a research assistant with the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen since July 2016.  In addition, throughout her master’s degree Cathy has engaged in a range of tutoring and teaching experiences, on both a self-employed basis and as an employee of the University of Aberdeen.