Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Franziska Hartung

Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology


I am interested in (neuro)aesthetic, communication, story telling and story engagement, and social bias. In my research, I  investigate how context shapes meaning, cognitive strategies, and communication. Cognition never happens in a vacuum but is always embedded in a situation. I study how the same information is processed and evaluated differently depending on situational factors like the identity of the person communicating, the setting, individual biases, and task goals. For my research, I use a range of behavioural methods and neuroimaging tools. 

I studied linguistics and psychology in Germany (LMU Munich) before I moved to the Netherlands for my PhD in neurobiology of language at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour. Before coming to Newcastle University, I completed 4 years of postdoctoral training in the US in cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, and neuroaesthetics in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, Department Neurology). 

My personal website has more detailed information about my research, open access links to most of my publications, and other things I think are useful. 

My complete list of publications is public on Google Scholar


I am interested in language and cognition, social cognition, and neuroaesthetics, particularly appearance and perceptions of beauty, identification in narratives. I am also interested in how brain injury can inform theories on cognition. 

In my research, I study how context influences cognition. Do we pay attention to different things depending on who is speaking? Do we judge the quality of work differently based on what we know about the person who created it? How do such biases impact equal and fair treatment of different groups of people in settings such as health communication, education, and professional decision making? 

Previously, I investigated individual experiences of literary fiction with a particular focus on the interaction of features of a story and its reader. In more recent years, I also started working on social cognition, especially the cognitive and neural underpinnings of biases against people with facial anomalies (disfigurement) and people who are overweight or obese. In my current research endeavors, I am exploring the interface of speaker or narrator identity (and whether they belong to a marginalized group) and how others process information from and about them in different situations.

In my research, I use a variety of behavioural and psychophysical measures, as well as functional MRI. I am currently supervising multiple projects investigating social bias towards marginalized groups (e.g. people with facial anomalies, overweight people, people with afrocentric hairstyles, people with diagnosed mental illnesses) and possible interventions. If you are interested in my research, please do not hesitate to get in touch and talk about options. 

I am affiliated with the following research themes at Newcastle University:
Behavioural Science and Psychology
Neuroscience, Neurodisability and Neurological Disorders


I am leading the UG Cognitive Psychology module (PSY1004) and the Research Apprenticeship (PSY8040) in the Clinical Master's program. I am also contributing to Evolution Behaviour & Comparative Cognition (PSY2020). 

I love academic writing and good scientific practice, and one of my favorite things is teaching others to love writing and doing science as well.