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Durham University

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Professor Charles Fernyhough, MA, PhD

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Professor (0.5) in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 48143
Fax: +44 (0)191 3343241
Room number: 80

Contact Professor Charles Fernyhough (email at


My background is in developmental psychology, with a particular focus on social, emotional and cognitive development. Through theoretical and empirical work, I have contributed to the understanding of how language and thought are related in child development and beyond. The focus of my recent scientific work has been in applying ideas from mainstream developmental psychology to the study of psychosis, particularly the phenomenon of voice-hearing (in which individuals hear voices in the absence of any speaker). I have developed a new model of voice-hearing and inner speech, and conducted empirical studies testing aspects of the model in clinical and healthy samples. This work culminated in 2012 with the award of a £1m Wellcome Trust Strategic Award to the interdisciplinary Hearing the Voice project, on which I am PI.

I am active in outreach and public engagement work on themes relating to my research, and in recent years have taken up several exciting engagement challenges, such as lecturing twice at the Royal Institution (March 2010 and July 2012), and writing features for New Scientist and Focus Magazine. I contribute regularly to newspapers in the UK and beyond, with credits including the Guardian, TIME Ideas, Daily Beast, Observer, Literary Review, Sunday Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday, Financial Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Nature. My broadcast media appearances include writing and presenting an essay for New Generation Thinkers (Radio 3, 2008), three appearances on NPR’s Radiolab, interviews on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Brian Lehrer show, local radio (BBC London, Newcastle, Manchester, Kent, Tees), three appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, interviews on Radio 4’s All in the Mind and The Digital Human and BBC World Service’s The Forum, and several other radio appearances in the US, Ireland and elsewhere. I have been involved in a consultancy role in two West End theatre productions (‘The River’, Royal Court, 2012; ‘Old Times’, Harold Pinter Theatre, 2013), numerous TV (BBC1 and Channel 4) and radio documentaries and several other artistic projects. I have produced two popular science books on psychology: The Baby in the Mirror: A child’s world from birth to three (Granta, 2008) and Pieces of Light: Memory and its stories (Profile, 2012; shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books). I am also the author of two novels: The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999) and A Box of Birds (Unbound, 2013).

Research Interests

  • Cognitive-developmental approaches to psychosis and other disorders
  • Imaginary companions in childhood and adulthood
  • Individual differences in theory of mind
  • Private speech and the development of verbal self-regulation
  • Vygotsky's theory
  • Cognitive processes in literary reading and writing

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2016: Invited keynote, BPS annual conference: Invited keynote, BPS Annual Conference, Student Conference, Nottingham, April 2016.
  • 2016: Panel membership: Panel membership, Selection Panel for Humanities and Social Sciences, Wellcome Trust, January 2016
  • 2015: External PhD examining: University of Sheffield, November 2015.
  • 2014: External PhD examining: University of Liverpool, October 2014.
  • 2013: Conference organisation: Biennial meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research, Durham, September 2013.
  • 2013: Editorial board, Schizophrenia Bulletin: 2013-present, Editorial Board and acting associate editor, Schizophrenia Bulletin
  • 2013: Invited keynote, Psychosis: A National Symposium: Invited keynote, Psychosis: A National Symposium, Open University, November 2013.
  • Invited plenary, Medicine of Words conference: Invited plenary at Medicine of Words: Literature, Medicine and Theology in the Middle Ages, St Anne’s College, Oxford, Sept 2015.

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Wilkinson, Sam & Fernyhough, Charles (2017). Auditory verbal hallucinations and inner speech a predictive processing perspective. In Before consciousness: in search of the fundamentals of mind. Radman, Zdravko Exeter: Imprint Academic. 285-304.
  • McCarthy-Jones, S., Thomas, N., Dodgson, G., Fernyhough, C., Brotherhood, E., Wilson, G. & Dudley, R. (2015). What have we learnt about the ability of cognitive behavioural therapy to help with voice-hearing?. In Psychological approaches to understanding and treating auditory hallucinations: From theory to therapy. Hayward, M., Strauss, C. & McCarthy-Jones, S. Routledge. 78-99.
  • Woods, A. & Fernyhough, C. (2014). Hearing voices. In Where does it hurt? The new world of the medical humanities. Holden, John, Kieffer, John, Newbigin, John & Wright, Shelagh London: Wellcome Trust. 84-85.
  • Fernyhough, C. (2013). Inner speech. In Encyclopaedia of the Mind. Pashler, H. Sage.
  • Fernyhough, C. & McCarthy-Jones, S. R. (2013). Thinking aloud about mental voices. In Hallucination. Macpherson, F. & Platchias, D. MIT Press. 87-104.
  • Fernyhough, C. (2009). Dialogic thinking. In Private speech, executive functioning, and the development of verbal self-regulation. Winsler, A., Fernyhough, C. & Montero, I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pawlby, S. & Fernyhough, C. (2009). Enhancing the relationship between mothers with severe mental illness and their infants. In Keeping the baby in mind: Prevention in practice. Barlow, J. & Svanberg, P. O. London: Routledge.
  • Fernyhough, C. & Meins, E. (2009). Private speech and theory of mind: Evidence for developing interfunctional relations. In Private speech, executive functioning, and the development of verbal self-regulation. Winsler, A., Fernyhough, C. & Montero, I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fernyhough, C. (2009). Voices of the mind. In Thinking about almost everything: New ideas to light up minds. Amin, A. & O'Neill, M. London: Profile Books.
  • Fernyhough, C. (2009). Vygotsky, Luria, and the social brain. In Self- and social-regulation: Exploring the relations between social interaction, social cognition, and the development of executive functions. Carpendale, J., Iarocci, G., Mueller, U., Sokol, B. & Young, A. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fernyhough, C. (2006). Private speech, executive functioning and theory of mind: A Vygotskian-Lurian synthesis. In Current research trends in private speech: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on self-regulatory functions of language. Montero, I. Madrid: University Press of Universidad Autónoma of Madrid.
  • Fernyhough, C. (1997). Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach: Theoretical issues and implications for current research. In The development of social cognition. Hala, S. London: Psychology Press.

Edited book

  • Winsler, A., Fernyhough, C. & Montero, I. (2009). Private speech, executive functioning, and the development of verbal self-regulation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lloyd, P. & Fernyhough, C. (1999). Lev Vygotsky: Critical assessments. London: Routledge.

Edited Journal

Journal Article

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Selected Grants

  • 2018: Maternal mind-mindness: Transmission mechanisms and predicting development into early adulthood (£108209.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2014: The Hubbub Hub at Wellcome Collection (£491563.00 from Wellcome Trust)
  • 2012: Hearing the Voice, Wellcome Trust Strategic Award (grant number WT098455MA), £1,000,708
  • 2008: ‘Depression at 17: ALSPAC.’ £648,184, Wellcome Project Grant (grant number WT084268MA)
  • 2008: ‘The development of repetitive behaviours in young children.’ £78,300, ESRC-funded (grant number RES-000-22-2771)
  • 2005: ‘Internal working models and young children’s social-emotional development.’ £332,365, ESRC-funded (grant number RES-000-23-1073)
  • 2003: Infant-mother interaction in a sample of mothers with psychosis, ESRC, £41,999 (grant number RES-000-22-0395)