We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Charles Fernyhough

(October - December 2008)

Dr Charles Fernyhough is a developmental psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Durham. His undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are from Cambridge, and he has also been a lecturer at Staffordshire University and a visiting researcher at Macquarie University. His primary research interests are in children's private speech (the non-communicative speech regarded by some to be the developmental precursor of verbal thought) and the development of young children's social understanding. In recent years he has applied ideas from developmental psychology to the study of experiences associated with psychiatric disorders, particularly the phenomena of delusions and auditory verbal hallucinations. He has edited a four-volume collection of critical assessments of the work of the Soviet psychologist, Vygotsky (Routledge, 1999), and his co-edited volume on private speech will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2008. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Infant and Child Development, and currently has active research collaborations with colleagues in Australia, Canada, the US and Austria.

Outside his part-time employment at Durham, Dr Fernyhough is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and also works as a literary journalist and creative writing tutor. He is the author of a novel, The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999), which was critically acclaimed in the UK, Australia, Germany and elsewhere. His fiction has twice been selected for inclusion in the prestigious New Writing anthology of writing from the UK and Commonwealth, and has been supported by a number of awards. His non-fiction book about young children's mental development, The Baby in the Mirror, will be published by Granta in 2008. He has taught creative writing in a variety of academic and non-academic contexts, including online mentoring for writers in Africa and the UK. He has contributed to the books pages of several newspapers, and regularly reviews fiction for the Sunday Telegraph. He has appeared at literary festivals in Barcelona, Sydney, Sheffield, Durham and Newcastle, and he is a member of the board of New Writing North, the literary development agency for the North-East of England.

Dr Fernyhough is involved in a number of interdisciplinary projects, such as the ‘Memory Maps' project (Victoria and Albert Museum/Essex University) which brings together creative responses to landscape and place from both professional and non-professional writers and artists. He has been an invited lecturer at the Wimbledon School of Art, where he led a discussion on the role of language in the visual arts. He has written on the interface between psychology and literature for the Guardian and the Psychologist, and teaches a short course on the topic for the MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. His research on children's imaginary friends has attracted considerable media interest, and he has acted as a consultant on this topic for the V&A's Museum of Childhood.

During his IAS fellowship Dr Fernyhough will be working on a popular non-fiction book on the phenomenology of thinking. This will allow him to integrate his psychological research on the relation between thought and language with his interests in literary depictions of consciousness.

For more information about Dr Fernyhough, please visit

Dr Charles Fernyhough Publications

Fernyhough, C. (2012) Pieces of Light. London: Profile. 

Fernyhough, C. (2010) 'Inner speech' in Pashler, E. (ed) Encyclopaedia of the Mind. Sage

Pawlby, S., Fernyhough, C., Meins, E., Pariante, C. M., Seneviratne, G. & Bentall, R. P (2010) 'Mind-mindedness and maternal responsiveness in infant–mother interactions in mothers with severe mental illness', Psychological Medicine, 40(11), pp. 1861-1869

Fernyhough, C. & Jones, S. R (2010) 'Thinking aloud about mental voices' in Macpherson, F. & Platchias, D (ed) Hallucination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fernyhough, C. (2009) 'What can we say about the inner experience of the young child?', Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, pp. 143-144.

Laing, S. V., Fernyhough, C., Turner, M. & Freeston, M. H (2009) 'Fear, worry, and ritualistic behavior in childhood: Developmental trends and interrelations', Infant and Child Development. 18, pp. 351-366.

Fernyhough, C. (2013). Inner speech. In Encyclopaedia of the Mind. Pashler, H. Sage.

Children's minds lead to big ideas
Newcastle Journal (18 October 2008)
Images of Childhood
Financial Times (23 May 2009) 
Grandad- back from the dead
Guardian (3 October 2009)


IAS Insights Paper


In this paper, I challenge assumptions of continuity in inner experience between infancy and adulthood. I begin by considering some differing views about when it is appropriate to attribute phenomenal consciousness to human infants, drawing on neurodevelopmental evidence and philosophical argument. The paucity of literary depictions of the early years of human life is balanced by some recent attempts at scientifically informed speculation about infants' first-person experience. Although much is now known about the perceptual world of human infants, the inner experience of young children has received less attention. One particular reason for taking an interest in the experience of the young child is that it can inform theorising about the development of psychological capacities proposed to utilise data on one's own inner experience. Carruthers' (in press) recent theory of the development of metacognition (the understanding of one's own mental states) is considered in this respect. I examine three possible reasons why young children's inner experience may not have the necessary qualities to support Carruthers' ‘mindreading is prior' mechanism. Even if young children's inner experience is not impoverished relative to our own, it is likely to be qualitatively different.

Insights Paper