Skip to main content
Professor (0.5) in the Department of Psychology+44 (0) 191 33 48143
Department Rep (Psychology) in the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing 


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

Esteem Indicators

  • 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: Editorial board, Schizophrenia Bulletin: 2013-present, Editorial Board and acting associate editor, Schizophrenia Bulletin
  • 2013: Conference organisation: Biennial meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research, Durham, September 2013. 
  • 2013: Invited keynote, Psychosis: A National Symposium: Invited keynote, Psychosis: A National Symposium, Open University, November 2013. 
  • 2000: 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.


Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article