Research

 

I’m based in the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee. My research is about our knowledge of ourselves, a topic known as metacognition. Why do we behave as we do, and what do we know about ourselves?

 

 

METACOGNITION. My main research interest is now in meta-processing: how we use our knowledge of our cognitive abilities . This interest grew out of my research on ageing, but it also links to my long-held interest in consciousness. (Like many other researchers, I first became interested in psychology because of my wonder of consciousness, although I soon realised there was nothing practical I could do about it.) What do we know about ourselves? Can we make ourselves better? Can we slow down or even prevent the cognitive effects of ageing? Does self-improvement work? How best should we learn and practise? Many of these topics are covered in my forthcoming Cognition book.

SLEEP AND DREAMS. I am interested in sleeping, dreaming, and consciounsess

AGEING. I am particularly interested in ageing now I find myself getting older. How do normal and pathological ageing affect our language and cognitive abilities? In particular, how do Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases affect language, conversation, and planning? Some of this work has been carried out in collaboration with Siobhan MacAndrew, Arlene Astell, and Lesley Jessiman. We have a review of our work, and particularly how changes in the frontal lobes of the brain associated with typical ageing and Parkinson’s disease affect language, currently in press in the journal Aphasiology. This work has important implications for speech therapy. I am increasingly interested in how we can slow down the effects of ageing.

 

TEACHING. How should something, particularly psychology best be taught? This interest grew in turn from my interest in meta-level processing. I am interested in what teachers think students know and understand, and what constitutes good teaching at university level. I am particularly interested in how the science of cognitive psychology can be applied to teach ... the science of cognitive psychology.

 

SPEECH PRODUCTION. How do we produce speech? What can slips of the tongue tell us? I am particularly interested in constructing computational models of representation and production. How do we get from meaning to words? What can go wrong with this process? Some of this work has been carried out in collaboration with Siobhan MacAndrew and Nadine Martin. It all started with my PhD work at the University of Cambridge on speech errors. I still collect them, and am planning to publish a paper on my recent errors in a few years.

 

 

FUTUROLOGY. What lies in the future, and how will developments in AI and robotics affect us? Is the future good or bleak? I have had several high-profile letters in newspapers and magazines and have talked about this subject on radio several times.

 

PSYCHOLOGY AND THE WEATHER. A slightly odd combination perhaps - am I the world’s first psychometeorologist? Why are we so interested in the weather? What leads so many to become obsessed with it? How does the weather influence our behaviour? How has it influenced our culture and evolution? What do we remember of the weather, and how accurate is our memory? Was the weather really more memorable when we were lads (and girls? How can we make weather forecasts more memorable?

 

COMPUTATIONAL AND MATHEMATICAL MODELLING. I am a firm advocate of computational and mathematical models of cognitive process, and have published several papers, mainly on language production, featuring them. Models force us to be explicit about our assumptions, don’t leave as much wiggle room for getting round troublesome results, and can make surprising predictions. And best of all, they’re fun to do.

 

COMPLEXITY AND STATISTICAL APPROACHES TO COGNITION. My long-held interest in connectionist modelling leads to a more general view that cognition is best approached as a complex system that carries out statistical processing as a “fast and dirty” means to process information, with the mind mediating body and environment. My book on cognition attempts to explain this viewpoint in much more detail. The ideas, can be expanded to other domains, as well, of course, such as history - although this idea is far from original I’ve explored some of these ideas in this paper: History.pdf.

 

TALKS. I have several talks available, including ones on consciousness, parapsychology, ageing, and the science of self-improvement. In the fairly recent past I’ve given a talk in Dundee in the Café Science series on The science of self-improvement on Monday 22 February 2010; my research was covered in the local newspaper, the Dundee Courier, the same day. My popular talks include: consciousness, parapsychology, cognitive ageing, and the science of self-improvement.

 

PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE. As we’re largely funded by the tax-payer, I think all scientists have a duty to explain their research to the public. But I’d like to go further: I’m keen to proselytise about the value of science and communicate my enthusiasm for the subjects and methods of science.

SUPERVISION OF RESEARCH. I am able and happy to supervise undergraduate, Masters, and doctorate research projects on any of the above topics, or anything I find interesting.

 

PUBLICATIONS. See here for a list of selected publications.