2017 review

27 December 2017

Things that have consumed my attention in 2017.

Teaching and public engagement

At the beginning of the year I taught my graduate seminar class on cognitive neuroscience, and we reviewed Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender and the literature on sex differences in cognition. I blogged about some of the topics covered and gave talks about the topic at Leeds Beckett and the University of Sheffield. It’s a great example of a situation that is common to so much of psychology: strong intuitions guide interpretation as much as reliable evidence.

In the autumn I helped teach undergraduate cognitive psychology and took part in the review of our entire curriculum as the lead of the ‘cognition stream’. It’s interesting to ask exactly what a psychology student should be taught about cognitive psychology over three years.

In January I have a lecture at the University of Greenwich on how cognitive science informs my teaching practice, which you can watch online: Experiments in learning.

We organised a series of public lectures on psychology research, Mind Matters. These included Gustav Kuhn and Megan Freeth talking about the science of magic, and Sophie Scott (who gave this year’s Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution) talking about the science of laughter. Joy Durrant did all the hard work for these talks - thanks Joy!

More about Mind Matters


Using big data to test cognitive theories

Our paper ‘Many analysts, one dataset: Making transparent how variations in analytical choices affect results’ is now in press at (the new journal) Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science. See previous coverage in Nature, ‘Crowdsourced research: Many hands make tight work’ and 538, ‘Science isn’t broken: It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for’. This paper is already more cited than many of mine which have been published for years.

On the way to looking at chess players’ learning curves I got distracted by sex differences: surely, I thought, chess would be a good domain to discover the controversial ‘stereotype threat’ effect? It turns out ‘Female chess players outperform expectations when playing men’, in press at Psychological Science.

Wayne Gray edited a special issue of Topics in Cognitive Science: Game XP: Action games as experimental paradigms for cognitive science, which features our paper Testing sleep consolidation in skill learning: A field study using an online game.

I presented this work at a related symposium at CogSci17 in London, along with our work on learning in the game Destiny, at a Psychonomics Workshop in Madison, WI: Beyond the lab: Using big data to discover principles of cognition at a Pint of Science in Sheffield. Watch the video.

Our map of implicit racial bias in Europe sparked lots of discussion and the article was read nearly two million times at The Conversation.

Trust and reason

I read Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s The enigma of reason: A new theory of human understanding and it had a huge effect on me, influencing a lot of the new work I’ve been planning this year.

My book review in the Times Higher

In April I went to a British Academy roundtable meeting on ‘Trust in experts’. Presumably I was invited because of this research: Why we don’t trust the experts. Again, this has influenced lots of future plans, but nothing to show yet.

We have AHRC funding for our project Cyberselves: How immersive technologies will impact our future selves. Come to the workshop on the effects of teleoperation and telepresence in Oxford in February.

Decision making

Our Leverhulme project on implicit bias and blame wound up. Outputs in press or preparation:

My old PhD students Maria Panagiotidi, Angelo Pirrone and Cigar Kalfaoglu have also published papers, with me as co-author, making me look more prolific than I am. See the publications page.

The highlight of the year has been getting to speak to and work with so many generous, interesting, committed people. Thanks and best wishes to all.

Previous years’ reviews: