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UOA 44 - Psychology

University of Edinburgh

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

The University was restructured in 2002, with Psychology (5 RAE 2001), targeted for substantial investment. This transformed the research environment 2004-2007, with multiple new senior and junior appointments: 40 Category A staff are returned compared with 21 in 2001. Strategy focuses on three major research themes (a) Differential and Health Psychology (DHP), (b) Language, Cognition and Communication (LCC), both major strengths in 2001, and (c) Human Cognitive Neuroscience (HCN), established 2004. All three benefited from new appointments including four Professors (Della Sala, Ferreira, Henderson, Logie -all Journal Editors), 15 new lecturing staff, two RCUK Fellows, MRC, BA, Leverhulme, and Marie-Curie Fellows, an almost three-fold increase in grant income, a doubling of research students, and substantial new infrastructure. There is cross-theme collaboration in research projects and PhD supervision. There are around ten special interest subgroups with overlapping membership within and across themes, e.g. Cognitive Ageing, Cognitive Neuropsychology, Eye Movements, Visual Cognition. Clinical Psychology was relocated (2006) to a refurbished building nearby, leading to new interaction through joint supervision of DClinPsy research projects, and seminars within the DHP and HCN themes. Five (4.6 FTE) Category A staff are from Clinical Psychology.


Research income in RA4 totals £4.4 million compared with £1.6 million in 1995-2000. Competitive grants excluded from RA4 because they were recently awarded or administered elsewhere are described in relevant sections. For example, Ferreira and Henderson held over $7 million at Michigan State, 2001-2006, from NIH, NIMH, NSF, US Army. Professors provide leadership in each theme and subgroup, and stimulate research activities. A Psychology Research Adviser and Committee comprising junior and senior staff from each theme ensure that research infrastructure and activity are maintained and enhanced, while addressing barriers to research. There are weekly departmental research seminars, and weekly research meetings for each theme, special interest subgroups and research students.


Research Infrastructure


The Psychology building has been refurbished and re-equipped, providing 12 new high quality specialist laboratories and 16 new experimental testing rooms each containing networked computers with experiment generator software (E-prime). There is disabled access for testing neuropsychological patients. The complement of over 40 general purpose and specialist laboratories makes for a strong fit between current  research activity and research infrastructure in the building.


For example, six new (2005/2006) laboratories house state-of-the-science eyetrackers: Eyelink 2000, two Eyelink 1000s, two Eyelink IIs, and Generation 6.3 Dual-Purkinje Image, and off-the-shelf and custom software for experiment control and data analysis. This mix allows fixed systems and tracking during participant movement. Two further Eyelink IIs are shared with Linguistics (UoA 58). An additional laboratory houses state-of-the-science systems for studying human movement, including a fixed infrared-based Optotrak and a portable electromagnetic system for use in schools, hospitals or patients' homes. These facilities support core research for eleven Category A staff bridging HCN (Brockmole, Henderson, McIntosh, Nuthmann) and LCC (Branigan, Corley, Ferreira, Haywood, Pickering, Shillcock, Sturt), with collaborative use by others and fortnightly discussions of advances and issues in eyetracking research. Facilities support stimulus creation, graphics creation and manipulation, real-time computer-controlled stimulus presentation, eye movement data collection, fixation/saccade-contingent display changes, digital/video eyetracking and human movement analyses, and computational modelling/simulation. This critical mass of equipment and personnel comprises a unique concentration of theoretical and practical expertise and technical support for eyetracking to study human cognition that is, as far as we are aware, larger than any comparable institution worldwide.


There are strong links with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Brain Imaging Centre 1.5 tesla GE fMRI at Western General Hospital for functional and structural brain imaging studies, with Psychology represented on the cross-disciplinary scientific committee. Funding is in place to enhance substantially the fMRI facilities, specifically a recent SFC infrastructure award of £7 million for SINAPSE (Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence), led by Edinburgh for neuroimaging research across six Scottish universities. Two specialist research fellows support fMRI studies and analysis split primarily between Psychology and Psychiatry. Cognitive ageing research in Psychology helped establish, and makes extensive use of, the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. In the current RAE period well over 1000 surviving participants of the Scottish Mental Surveys (see DHP group) have been interviewed and examined, and had DNA collected, processed and genotyped at the Facility.


Psychology houses a refurbished lab with a purpose-built (2004) full size fMRI simulator for paradigm development, participant familiarisation and practice prior to use of the GE scanner. Psychology also houses two 40 channel amplifiers for EEG/ERP recording and analysis software. A further (2006) specialist lab is dedicated to Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation, and other recently refurbished laboratories provide multi-computer set-ups for assessing dual task and multi-task performance, acoustically isolated testing, and two networked suites of computers for multi-participant testing in visual cognition.


The University has made a significant investment in a new building (completion 2008) 50 metres from Psychology. This will co-locate several hundred cognitive scientists from Linguistics (UoA 58), Philosophy (UoA 60) and Informatics (UoA 23). Psychology will remain in its current, refurbished building, but in the new building Psychology and Linguistics will have electrically screened, acoustic/vibration-isolated laboratories designed to house MEG and high specification EEG/ERP facilities, eye trackers, preparation areas, computer clusters and servers, and office space for research visitors, research staff, and technicians (total 205 m2). Bids are in place for substantially enhanced EEG/ERP facilities for this space, and a further 100 m2 is available if all these bids are successful. Following its establishment with EEG/ERP integrated eye trackers and skills infrastructure, bids for MEG will be prepared for development within Edinburgh over the next review period.


Psychology has two full time computing officers, a graphics and an audio-visual technician. There are refurbished shared rooms with networked computers for research students. There is a well established panel of volunteer members of the general public for experimental studies, and a nursery with children participating in developmental research projects. There is a library with librarian and dedicated library budget in the Psychology building housing copies of core Psychology journals, books, and psychometric/neuropsychological tests. The main University library houses three million volumes, including a wide range of Psychology books and journals. Staff have electronic access from their desktops to full text copies of most Psychology journals, including APA. Staff and student projects are examined by the Psychology research ethics committee, and there is a University research ethics committee with external representation.


Multiple meetings within each research theme and subgroup take place weekly and involve external international and cross discipline speakers as well as subgroup members. A weekly departmental research seminar has a budget for international and UK speakers.

We now describe each research theme and subgroup. Given space limitations, we focus on achievement highlights.


Differential and Health Psychology (DHP)


Austin, Bates, Deary, Gow, Johnson, Laidlaw, Lenton, Power, Schwannauer, Shipley (Roberts in RA1), Taylor, Watt, Weiss, Whiteman


This theme constitutes the largest collection of academic differential psychologists in the UK, and, as far as we are aware, in any comparable institution worldwide. Variance is addressed across healthy and unhealthy individuals, across age in adulthood and across abnormalities, emphasising the interaction between psychology and biology. Following our staffing strategy Bates (Professor), Lenton, Schwannauer, Taylor, and Weiss (Lecturers), Johnson (RCUK Fellow), Shipley (MRC Fellow), Gow (CSO co-PI) all have been appointed to this theme since 2001. Deary provides strong leadership. New staff brought complementary expertise in genetic, social, personality, environmental factors and behavioural statistical modelling, to further strengthen existing work in the theme, which includes structural and functional brain imaging. They also comprise a substantial resource for statistical expertise for analysis and modelling. There is a large panel of older volunteers, with extensive longitudinal psychometric, genetic, structural brain imaging and demographic information for each volunteer. There are strong links with research groups on diabetes, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, MRC Human Genetics Unit, University Medical Genetics Unit, Clinical Neurosciences, Queensland (Australia) Medical Research Institute, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Units in Glasgow, primate colonies for observational studies (Edinburgh, Singapore and Antwerp Zoos), and Clinical Psychology units throughout Scotland. Research for the theme has been funded by Leverhulme, British Academy, BBSRC, ESRC, EU, Research into Ageing, Help the Aged, Scottish Executive Chief Scientist Office (CSO), Royal Society, Wolfson, MRC and USA National Institute on Aging.


A major recent development has been the ‘Disconnected Mind’ project, an interdisciplinary programme across six PIs and 17 collaborators, led by Deary, and focused on how changes in the brain’s white matter ­contribute to age-related cognitive decline in humans. The integrated programme translates, to humans, knowledge of the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying brain white matter changes and altered cognitive ability in experimental models. The programme’s core human subject sample is the unique cohort of 1000 older people born in 1936, and whose cognitive ability was originally studied in 1947 at age 11, and again recently, allowing a study of cognitive changes across 60 years. The network of researchers across several different UoAs capitalises on expertise of imaging and cognition in the ageing human brain, and on models involving clinical, cognitive and basic neuroscientists, geneticists and psychologists. The project is linked with a major gift campaign by Help the Aged which has the object of raising £11.3M for the project over eight years from 2006. The MRC has recently contributed over £1M to the project.


Subgroups comprise cognitive differences and cognitive ageing, individual differences and health, and individual differences in personality and social interactions.


Cognitive differences and cognitive ageing

Bates, Deary, Gow, Johnson, Shipley, Whiteman


This subgroup conducts research into the origin and impact of cognitive differences across the life span, and the effects of ageing and medical conditions on cognition. One major focus is the follow-up of the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947, when every 11 year old in Scotland was given the same mental ability test. Thousands of these individuals have been traced and retested. This work has produced over 50 peer reviewed articles since 2001 which have advanced our understanding of cognition and its biological and lifestyle correlates. For example, in the longest term follow-up study ever conducted on the stability of human intelligence differences, Deary (#2) showed that 50% of the variance in intelligence is stable over almost 70 years. Using a different study group, Shipley (Roberts#2) showed that mental ability in childhood is associated with mental decline in mid-life. The same studies have revealed important biological factors in cognition: there are genetic contributions to changes in cognitive ability in normal ageing between age 11 and age 80 (Deary #1), and, using diffusion tensor MRI Deary (#4) showed that associations between white matter integrity and cognition in old age are independent of childhood IQ and mediated by speed of information processing.


Regarding biological and medical conditions, Whiteman’s (#1, #4) longitudinal studies showed associations between peripheral vascular disease and ‘normal’ cognitive decline. Bates (#4) demonstrated a core role for creatine as a store of energy in the brain, able to raise general ability and working memory.


Focusing on normal and abnormal development, Johnson (#1,#3) showed that social and genetic factors can be modelled statistically and, using such models, demonstrated how genetics and environment both influence academic achievement trajectories. Bates (#1, #3) demonstrated a genetic linkage for dyslexia in a normal sample, providing the first empirical evidence for two genetically distinct forms of dyslexia, with genetic modelling of a dual-route cascaded model of reading, and demonstration that genes for spelling and reading are the same. 


Individual differences and health

Deary, Johnson, Shipley, Taylor, Weiss, Whiteman


This subgroup studies associations between cognition, personality and health outcomes such as illness or mortality. It is acknowledged as having originated, and now leads, the emerging research field of ‘cognitive epidemiology’, that established and explores (mechanism and policy implications of) the associations between early life cognitive ability and later (including old age) morbidity and mortality. It contributed the first and many of the subsequent earliest population-representative empirical findings in the field, and has published major systematic reviews (e.g. Psychological Bulletin, British Medical Journal). Major findings are that cognitive ability in childhood is strongly associated with longevity and with many illnesses including dementia (Deary and Taylor, British Medical Journal. Neurology etc.), and that differences in reaction time can explain the association between IQ and mortality (Shipley #1, Deary #3). Taylor (#2, #3) showed that childhood IQ is associated with smoking-related behaviour, diseases and mortality; Weiss (#2, #3) showed that Neuroticism, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness are protective against mortality in physically impaired people aged 65 to 100. During the RAE period Deary has continued a very successful programme of collaborative work on diabetes, publishing many papers on the effects of acute hypoglycaemia on specific cognitive processes (e.g. Neuropsychology), and the effects of diabetic complications on cognition (e.g. Diabetes).


Individual differences in personality and social interactions

Austin, Laidlaw, Lenton, Power, Schwannauer, Watt, Weiss


This subgroup focuses on the origin and impact of personality differences in humans and animals, emotional intelligence, quality of life assessment, and individual differences in social interactions and beliefs.


Internationally collaborative work by Weiss on heritability and well being in primates has been influential in establishing the field of animal personality. For example, he found that Extraversion, Agreeableness and low Neuroticism are associated with subjective well being in orangutans (Weiss #1). His work on agreeableness in humans is complementary, showing that in the last decades of life the personality trait of Agreeableness increases.


Social-oriented differences research has demonstrated that mate choice follows evolutionary predictions of parental investment theory (Lenton #3) and that stereotypes may produce stereotype-consistent and stable false memories (Lenton #1).


Following the death (2004) of Professor Robert Morris, research on individual differences in belief in paranormal phenomena has continued in this subgroup. For example, Watt (#2) provided evidence for the importance of neuroticism in superstition. Other work on the history of paranormal belief is being submitted under UoA 62 (Lamont).


Clinically relevant research on individual differences in emotion-related traits includes the demonstration that emotional intelligence and personality traits have different predictive validity for social- and health-related aspects of wellbeing (e.g. Austin #2, #3, #4), that emotion can be modelled and addressed empirically (Power #3), and that modelling can aid the understanding and development of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (Power#2). Power (#4) has been a major driver in applying research to clinical practice as main co-ordinator for a set of large scale EU funded projects (£3 million across EU partners) which, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), investigate individual differences in quality of life, particularly in the ageing population.


Language, Cognition and Communication (LCC)


Branigan, Corley, Ferreira, Haywood, Kelly, McKinlay, Pickering, Santesteban, Shillcock, Simner, Sturt, Widdicombe


This theme focuses on psycholinguistic and social-psychological study of language and communication. A new (2006) Professor of Language and Cognition (Ferreira), complements the leadership role of Pickering. Ferreira is editor of JEP:General. ... Following the overall staffing strategy, Branigan and Sturt (Readers), Simner (Leverhulme Fellow), Haywood (BA Fellow) and Santesteban (Marie-Curie Fellow) all are new additions to the largest grouping of researchers in the psychology of language and communication in the UK and, as far as we are aware, in any comparable institution world-wide. Moreover, it is embedded in one of the largest concentrations of language researchers internationally, encompassing theoretical linguistics, computational linguistics, and applied aspects of language being returned under UoAs 23 and 58. The theme runs a highly successful taught MSc in Psycholinguistics (8-10 students/year) and a strong community of PhD students. There is significant expertise in the use of behavioural techniques, linguistic analysis, and eyetracking techniques.


The breadth and strength of expertise allows a full range of research activity on cognitive mechanisms that underlie communication, referring to normal functioning, development, and breakdown as well as functions served by communication. These topics are addressed across three complementary subgroups: (1) Language production and dialogue; (2) Comprehension of words and sentences in reading and speech; (3) Language processing and communication in children, non-native speakers and special populations. Main funding sources are ESRC, British Academy and Wellcome Trust.


Language production and dialogue.

Branigan, Corley, Ferreira, Haywood, Pickering, Santesteban, Simner


This subgroup addresses questions such as: Are syntactic rules psychologically real? How do speakers make choices about grammatical structure? How do conversational partners influence each other in dialogue?


A core finding that speakers tend to repeat grammatical structure (syntactic priming: Corley #1; Pickering #2; Branigan #2) has been exploited to investigate the mechanisms underlying choice of utterance form. The experiments demonstrated that people make “local” choices at each stage in the production process, and that speakers do not compute unordered constituent-structure representations. Moreover, priming affects speed of written production and not merely choice of form. Corley’s (#2) studies on the production of individual words showed that traditional accounts of lexical bias effects (speech errors tend to be real words) need to be abandoned. In additional, non-nominated publications, Ferreira demonstrated speakers' productions of overly detailed descriptions, in a free word order, non-Indo-European language (Odawa), supported by grants ($959K) at Michigan State (NSF/NIH).


The subgroup has made major contributions to the psycholinguistics of dialogue, building on investigations of monologue production. The interactive-alignment model constitutes the first theoretical account of mental mechanisms underlying dialogue, and assumes that interlocutors align their mental states through largely automatic processes such as syntactic priming from comprehension to production (Pickering, #3). This work has been supported by a BA Research Readership to Pickering, recently awarded an ESRC grant (£325K) to continue this work. Branigan (#1) provided clear evidence for grammatical priming in language comprehension, demonstrating how alignment works in multi-party dialogue (Branigan, #2). This research has been supported by ESRC and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Haywood has shown (#1) that speakers avoid grammatical ambiguity in dialogue, which contrasts with monologue.


Comprehension of words and sentences in reading and speech.

Branigan, Corley, Ferreira, Haywood, Pickering, Shillcock, Sturt


This subgroup addresses how people integrate language processing and visual processing, how listeners detect and deal with errors and disfluencies and how people store information about gender stereotypes in their mental dictionaries.


One important highlight is Shillcock’s work on the comprehension of individual words, many of which provide support for his “split fovea” model of reading (Shillcock, #3, #4), and which he has developed theoretically and computationally (Shillcock, #1, #2). Pickering has considered the processes underlying the interpretation of ambiguous verbs, and showed that their resolution tends to be delayed in comparison to nouns (Pickering, #1).


Work on sentence processing has integrated techniques from individual differences research to syntactic ambiguity resolution and shown its relationship to working memory (Ferreira, #1), complementing research in the HCN theme. Sturt (#2) applied advances in machine learning to produce a network model of ambiguity resolution.


Sturt (#3, #4) has shown how the comprehender decides whether or not an initial analysis is wrong and discovered that choices about reanalysis are resolved in similar ways to initial analysis; people do not necessarily abandon an initial analysis, even if it turns out to be incorrect (Ferreira, #4). Ferreira (#2) has shown that adults systematically misinterpret passives in comparable ways to children and aphasics. A recent ESRC grant (£408K) will help establish her research in Edinburgh. Sturt's research on reading and sentence comprehension has been supported by the Leverhulme Trust (2004-2007), co-held with the School of Informatics, and by an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship. 


Almost all work in language comprehension worldwide uses well-crafted written prose or citation speech. This contrasts with everyday comprehension, in which people successfully interpret utterances containing disfluencies of many kinds. Thus, the subgroup’s work on comprehension of disfluent utterances has been especially novel (Ferreira, #3; Corley, #4), and Corley’s work has attracted widespread media attention.


Language processing and communication in children, non-native speakers and special populations.

Corley, Ferreira, Kelly, McKinlay, Pickering, Santesteban, Simner, Widdicombe


Here issues from other subgroups are applied to diverse populations, e.g. whether child and adult grammatical representations are the same, how speakers use communication to express and develop their sense of identity, and how linguistic representations interact with other representations.


Santesteban (#1-#4) has used experimental methods to examine how bilingual speakers select the words in one language, avoiding interference of the non-target language. Pickering (#4) has demonstrated cross-linguistic syntactic priming in bilingual dialogue, and thereby argued that bilinguals can share syntactic representations between languages. Using eye tracking techniques Kelly (#1,#3, #4) has identified the extent to which dyslexic aberrant reading behaviour is linked to general cognitive or neurological impairments. In non-nominated publications, Ferreira has demonstrated changes in language processing with normal ageing, and has studied language in ADHD. The latter was supported by a NIH grant ($1.5m) at Michigan State. Using discourse-analytic methods, McKinlay (#1-#4) has examined how complex notions of identity are developed, focusing on the important question of how people deal with identities that are potentially socially problematic, for example migrants to remote Scottish island communities. Simner (#1-#4) reported that in tip-of-the-tongue states synaesthetes’ experiences are associated with particular phonemes. Her work has been supported by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, was published in Nature and has received widespread media attention.



Human Cognitive Neuroscience (HCN)


Abrahams, Bak, Brockmole, Bruce, McGonigle (publishes as Chalmers), Della Sala, Henderson, Logie, McIntosh, McKenzie, MacPherson, Morcom, Morris, Nuthmann


The HCN theme addresses research on executive impairments following stroke and in Alzheimer’s disease; perception, action and working memory in neglect; working memory function, limitations and theory; visual attention and processing of real-world scenes and of faces. The theme is a new topic for Edinburgh, with appointment of three professors (Logie-Jan 2004, Della Sala-April 2004, Henderson-2006) editors of three major journals, respectively QJEP(A)(until 2005), Cortex, and Visual Cognition, and linking with work by Bruce (appointed 2002). There are now 15 academic staff including a new senior lecturer (Abrahams), six new lecturers (Bak, Brockmole, McIntosh, MacPherson, Morris, Nuthmann), and an RCUK Fellow (Morcom). Abrahams and McKenzie are qualified clinical psychologists, Della Sala and Bak are qualified neurologists, Morcom is medically qualified with postdoctoral research experience in psychology, and all have research foci in cognitive neuropsychology. Morcom, Abrahams and MacPherson have fMRI experience, and Morcom has experience with EEG/ERP.


Basic research addresses cognition in healthy human adults and cognitive impairments following acquired brain damage in working memory, executive function, visual cognition, and perceptuo-motor control. Applied research involves development of neuropsychological tests and diagnostic tools for use with patients, computerised support for medical decisions, and techniques for improving face recognition.


Strong local links are being developed with Systems Neuroscience (UoA 9), the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Neuroinformatics, Neurology and Old Age Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology, Nursing, to complement existing national and international links. Abrahams runs a Memory Clinic allowing direct access to patients for research.


There is now a HCN community of 15 PhD students, and the theme has initiated (2006) a European PhD programme with students spending one year undertaking research at another European University. The PhD is awarded jointly between Edinburgh and the University visited. Students from other European Universities have reciprocal arrangements with Edinburgh. Six PhD studentships for this scheme (2007-2010) have been funded in Cognitive Neuropsychology by the Italian Ministry for Research, with two students based in each of the Universities of Edinburgh, Trieste and Naples.


In 2007 HCN hosted the joint EPS/Psychonomic Society conference (500 delegates), the first time that Psychonomics has met outside of North America.


One subgroup addresses cognitive impairment following brain damage with implications for functioning of healthy cognition. Subgroup two focuses on visual cognition and working memory limitations in the healthy brain. Main funding sources are MRC, EU, Alzheimer Society, CSO, ESRC, EPSRC.


Neurological disease, pathology and implications for healthy cognition

Abrahams, Bak, Della Sala, Logie, MacPherson, McGonigle, McIntosh, McKenzie, Morcom, P. Morris


Following appointment in 2004, Della Sala and Logie rapidly established links with a local stroke unit and old age psychiatry to continue their well established collaboration on unilateral spatial neglect following stroke (Della Sala #4), and executive impairments in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Logie #3). The latter was funded until 2005 by jointly held MRC grants transferred from the University of Aberdeen, continuing (2005-2008) with a EU grant to Della Sala on diagnosis and management of AD in Latin America, and 2007-2009 with a joint grant to Della Sala and Logie from the Alzheimer Society. Their research on AD has established a specific deficit in the ability to perform two tasks concurrently that is characteristic of AD and not of healthy ageing, and not due to general task difficulty (Logie #1, #3, #4; MacPherson #4). The deficit is separate from impairments of episodic memory that are sensitive, but not specific to the disease. It points towards a specific dual task co-ordination function in the healthy brain, and also suggests aids to diagnosis of the disease being developed in the new grant, and practical advice for carers. Their research on neglect following right hemisphere damage is funded by CSO (2005-2008). This work (Della Sala #4) has provided strong evidence that representational neglect (no perceptual neglect) can be explained as damage to visuo-spatial working memory not control of attention. This pointed to new research and hypotheses regarding the phenomenon of pseudoneglect and the formation of visuo-spatial temporary representations in the healthy brain currently being explored, complementing work by Bates (DHP theme). McIntosh (#1,#2,#3) has shown that some patients with perceptual neglect avoid obstacles even when unaware of those objects – separating conscious awareness and obstacle avoidance. Della Sala’s work (#3) has demonstrated that densely amnesic patients, who have minimal hippocampal damage, show a relative lack of forgetting if they can minimise interference. This points to a new interpretation of amnesia in terms of sensitivity to interference. Abrahams work (#1,#2, #4) represents a rare example of a longitudinal study with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients, demonstrating specific cognitive change, extra-motor functional changes and frontotemporal white matter changes in vivo. Bak (#1, #2) demonstrated links between specific impairments of verb processing and impairments in motor control, and has shown (Bak #3) how the Addenbrookes Cognitive Examination offers a more robust clinical assessment than the widely used MMSE. MacPherson (#2) reported evidence for a dorsolateral prefrontal theory of cognitive changes with age, rather than a global decline in frontal lobe function, and demonstrated a decline in executive function in mid life (#4). Executive function and executive disorders are also addressed by McGonigle (Chalmers #1-#4) ... using a comparative approach to develop methodologies for assessing executive function in non human primates, and in children with Autism/Asperger syndrome. This work on ageing and executive function complements the ERP and fMRI studies by RCUK Research Fellow Morcom (#1-#4) of episodic memory in healthy ageing, showing that cortical over-recruitment predominates in older participants when their memory performance is not different from that of younger adults.




Visual cognition and working memory limitations in the healthy brain

Brockmole, Bruce, Henderson, Logie, Nuthmann


Henderson’s high profile research on processing of real-life scenes has shown that eye movement techniques can be used very effectively with these complex stimuli. Key findings are that whereas point by point visual representations are not functional across saccades for complex scenes (#2, #3) relatively veridical scene representations are generated and retained (#2,#4). These results are instantiated in a computational model of attention and eye movement guidance in scenes based on a combination of global context and local saliency of features (#1). His work was funded by over $3 million in grants at Michigan State from NSF, NIH and the US Army. Brockmole has further shown the importance of global context in directing attention and eye movements during the identification of non salient targets (#2,#3). He used statistical modelling (#1) to demonstrate that visual features of objects are not lost from visual working memory piecemeal but are retained or forgotten as integrated representations and that integration of features is not disrupted by attentional distracters. Nuthmann (#1-#4) made major contributions to developing the SWIFT model incorporating properties of the oculomotor system to explain and predict saccadic control. Bruce (#2) has developed her well-known theoretical approaches to face processing using Garner's selective attention paradigm to test whether independent routes derive different kinds of meaning in face perception. Logie has substantially developed his theoretical views (Della Sala #4, Logie, non-nominated theoretical review in Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 2003) presenting visuo-spatial working memory as a workspace separate from perceptual input and perceptual processing, challenging core assumptions in models of mental imagery, and has demonstrated a dissociation between processing and storage elements of working memory span (Logie #2) challenging assumptions of several contemporary models of working memory as a single attentional resource or as activated long-term memory.


Engagement of Users, Impact on Practice and Public Dissemination


The DHP Scottish Mental Surveys and Quality of Life projects have engaged large numbers of elderly people and attracted research grants from funders that target the application of research for the direct benefit of older people. Staff have given numerous public addresses to older groups, at major conferences, and to major policy makers, most notably to key stake holders in Buckingham Palace, 2006 (Deary). Power’s work on measures of Quality of Life is feeding into WHO policies. Within LCC, Pickering and Branigan held two grants (total £279K) from Scottish Enterprise for application of Pickering’s (#3) interactive-alignment model of dialogue to human-computer interaction. Simner, Taylor and Corley had widespread media interest in their research. Other research in HCN and DHP focuses on developing aids to diagnosis and patient monitoring for use by practitioners and novel interventions and therapies. Logie is the only psychologist in an interdisciplinary group comprising computer scientists, doctors and nurses addressing a major problem of overload of working memory of staff on intensive care wards from large data volumes for each patient. Funding has come from ESRC/EPSRC 2001-2004 (Aberdeen then Edinburgh), and from two grants (total £500K) from EPSRC 2006-2009, one through Aberdeen, the other jointly with Nursing in Edinburgh. Outputs are computer interface guidelines, peer-reviewed journal articles for clinical and artificial intelligence communities, and changes to a commercial system (Badger) used in several UK hospitals. In 2006-2007 Logie ran Internet experiments on working memory following an approach by the BBC, yielding 160,000 participants from 150 countries. Preliminary results indicate dissociations between self reported and actual memory performance, dissociations between memory and processing in working memory span linking with Logie #2, and a differential decline with age across different cognitive abilities from as early as 25 years. He was main consultant for a BBC One programme on memory (2006). Bruce has pursued applied research as Co-PI (EPSRC through Stirling), using caricatures to aid constructions of composite faces (#4), and earlier work on face composites (#1) leading to changes in rules of evidence when using eyewitnesses for composite construction. Her other research (#3) has shown the limitations in the use of CCTV images for subsequent identification. Della Sala received EU funding for a large public exhibition on ‘The Mind that Lies’ within the European Science Festival, Genova 2004, and "From public understanding of science to scientists understanding the public”. His other talks and public events include the Edinburgh Book Festival (2007), and (with Bruce) ‘Tall Tales in Psychology’ in 2007 funded by Royal Society of Edinburgh. Many other staff had media coverage of their research, with examples among esteem indicators.


Research Context


The UoA is set in the context of a large number of cognitive scientists in neighbouring buildings, generating an extremely collaborative atmosphere, including staff in Linguistics, Informatics, Neuroscience, Education and Philosophy. Within Edinburgh there are many research active clinicians with collaborative research interests across the spectrum of Psychology, including health related behaviours, genetics, neuroscience, and brain pathology. Through this wider community, the UoA has access to a wide range of techniques to study human cognition and behaviour, notably formal and computational methods, neuroimaging and robotics, and its own major strengths in behavioural methods, eye tracking, neuropsychological and genetic approaches, clinical and self-assessment, and statistical modelling. Each theme and the UoA as a whole benefit from this extremely large, cross-disciplinary critical mass of researchers.


Psychology is within a School that includes Linguistics. This has benefited development of eye tracking and speech laboratories, and the volume and quality of administrative support, while facilitating inter-School and inter-College collaboration. LCC and HCN have ongoing collaboration with the School of Informatics through joint supervision of PhD students in the EPSRC/MRC Neuroinformatics Doctoral Training Centre, and joint projects. For HCN and DHP there are productive research collaborations with the College of Medicine (Genetics, Neurology, Old Age Psychiatry, Child Life and Health) and membership of Edinburgh Neuroscience – an umbrella group fostering cross College research. An example is Edinburgh Neuroscience Day, a large (300) annual conference to showcase the best neuroscience research across the University, from molecular and genetic levels through neuronal function, brain systems and pathways, to cognition and behaviour. Psychology is represented among speakers and posters each year and on the scientific management group.


A School Superintendent oversees research laboratories in Psychology and two School research secretaries assist grant proposal preparation. A senior academic is School Research Director with responsibility to encourage, facilitate and monitor research within the School and with cognate researchers elsewhere. He/she has a formal role previously within duties of Department Heads, is a member of the School management team and of the College Research Committee. The current School Research Director is the Psychology research adviser. There are research advisers for each discipline in the School (Psychology, Linguistics and Philosophy).


Staffing Policy


Strategic University investment allowed Psychology to build on major strengths highlighted in 2001, to create an additional major research theme, and to broaden the scope, volume and quality of research and research training. This resulted in substantial increases in staffing, replacement of retired staff, and improvements in infrastructure. New staff are appointed as research active and positions are targeted at each of the three research themes. The Research Director is part of the management team that selects the job specifications for each post.


New academic staff have a start-up budget for e.g. fMRI, computers, travel, to commence research on arrival. New senior staff have, in addition, University funding for research assistants and secretarial support for initial years of their appointment while they build a profile of externally funded grants. University funded lectureships have been allocated to themes linked with these senior staff as have two RCUK fellowships. University funds for pump priming give preference to junior staff. Newly appointed staff have light administrative and teaching loads during their first two years to encourage establishment of their research activity, and junior staff are encouraged to co-supervise PhD students with senior colleagues. New junior staff are assigned to a senior mentor to assist their academic development, and address concerns that might affect their retention.


The University runs monthly ‘learning lunches’ for academics and for research assistants/fellows, e.g. career development, writing grant proposals, presentations from funding bodies, and funding initiatives. All staff receive monthly e-mail lists detailing funding opportunities and deadlines for their areas of research interest. Staff may apply for one semester research leave to be taken after six semesters, with flexibility for strong applications starting earlier or for longer periods, and the School has a travel fund to support conference attendance, or short research visits. Staff are allocated a proportion of their grant overheads to support their research activities.


Research Training


Increased staff numbers stimulated increased research student numbers, with a community of 57 PhD students currently registered (29 in 2000-2001), and with 57 PhDs awarded since 2001 (these numbers do not include DClinPsychol students). Students are linked with one of the research themes, participating in weekly seminars involving both staff and student presentations. These events are frequently used for practice and feedback on oral presentations, and all students are expected to give presentations at major national and international conferences. University funds are available if needed for travel and research costs, and as part of  research training students are strongly encouraged to apply for external sources of funding.


There are multiple cases of joint supervision across themes, and with Linguistics, Informatics, Medicine and Education. Research students run a weekly research seminar cutting across themes. Each student has a dedicated desk and networked computer, and access to the pool of 40 bookable labs shared with staff. Several rooms have been refurbished to accommodate the expansion in MSc and PhD students. Research students are strongly encouraged to publish results of their research with examples indicated in RA2. Students have obtained post-doctoral fellowships from British Academy, ESRC, Royal Society of Edinburgh and Alzheimer Trust. Heywood and Taylor are Edinburgh PhD graduates included as Category A staff.


Category A research fellows and junior lecturing staff undertake co-supervision of research students with more experienced colleagues. Substantial further growth in research student numbers is planned as junior staff gain experience.


In 2006 two new MSc courses in Cognitive Neuropsychology (15 students 2007) and in the Psychology of Individual Differences (five students 2007) were launched. These provide research methods training and a summer project in HCN and DHP, and are part of our strategy to foster growth in PhD numbers. These follow the successful model for the established MSc in Psycholinguistics (LCC). The UoA contributes to the Scottish Universities Psychology Postgraduate Research Training network (SUPPORT) with focused training days for PhD students across Scottish Departments. PhD students and young post docs/research assistants attend MSc lectures relevant to their research training – e.g.  peer review, writing research grants, conference talks, eye movement techniques, brain imaging. The University was twice shortlisted for the THES Award "Outstanding Support for Early-Career Researchers".


Each academic supervises final year undergraduate research projects and offers a final year specialist option. This ensures that teaching is research-led and is taught by people who are contributing to current research. Psychology has a voluntary research assistant scheme with undergraduates (approx 20 per year) assisting staff with specific research projects independently of course requirements.


Future Plans


The UoA is around target size planned from University investment. With many staff appointed since 2004, we shall capitalise on the breadth of research talent to build on achievements, and pursue a set of research aims. Our strategy will centre on leadership from senior staff in each research theme, with a broader overview from the research director. The professional administrative infrastructure will expand further to ease administrative burdens on academic staff.


Major aims:


  Support new senior staff in building research teams, especially staff recruited from overseas. Recent examples are University funded lectureships, research assistants, PhD studentships and RCUK fellowships in research areas of senior researchers. Administrative support for research and research proposals will continue to be strengthened, and we will fully capitalise on laboratory space for Psychology in the new building as well as continue our programme of refurbishing laboratory and working space for PhD students and post-docs in the Psychology building.

  Encourage new and established collaborations within and between research themes to ensure ‘critical mass’ in each subgroup, through cross-theme (a) participation in subgroup-based seminars (b) supervision of research students (c) Annual Research Day with staff and PhD presentations.

  Encourage new special interest research subgroups which will naturally arise in a supportive and growing research environment. This strategy will help avoid isolation of promising researchers and help ensure their retention. The Visual Cognition and the Eye Tracking subgroups are examples already developed in this way. Areas of emerging strength will be supported, including targeting of new academic appointments.

  Support new junior staff in seeking early career grant funding and encourage collaboration with senior staff on larger grant applications. Senior mentors will highlight opportunities that arise for funding, and advise on the academic case for support. Administrative staff will assist with preparation of grant applications.

  Promote sustainable further growth in the PhD students as new staff become more experienced, aiming for an average of at least two PhD students for each member of the academic teaching staff. To ensure quality supervision and timely PhD completion, new junior staff will be encouraged first to gain experience through co-supervision with a senior colleague. Additional University funds will be directed towards studentships, and increased external grant funding will facilitate studentships from Research Councils and major charities. MSc courses will facilitate PhD recruitment.

  Increase involvement of staff in public dissemination of science/knowledge transfer. The University offers training on dealing with the media, and runs a programme of academics presenting in local schools. We will continue to take full advantage of the Science and Arts Festivals in Edinburgh, and Brain Awareness Week.

  Increase intensity and volume of interdisciplinary research capitalising on large communities of cognitive scientists, computer scientists, and linguists to be housed in the major new neighbouring building, as well as strong, substantial research communities in neurosciences and genetics elsewhere in the University. This will develop through co-supervision of research students across disciplines and mutual participation in research seminars, leading to joint research grants and publications.

  Develop electrophysiological recording through recently submitted bid for Neuroscan EEG/ERP 128-channel system, with multiple caps for testing children/adults, plus associated hardware/software for paradigm control and analysis to be housed in the new building. At least one eye tracker will be moved to integrate with ERP recording, focused on timecourse of linguistic and visual integration. Purpose designed and shielded space for MEG is part of the laboratory suite in the new building. Development of MEG is planned during the next review period.

  Build a community of researchers and expertise in brain imaging techniques taking full advantage of existing and upgraded fMRI facilities from the SINAPSE (£7 million) award. Recent Psychology appointments greatly increased local   expertise; SINAPSE will ensure a strong local infrastructure, upgraded facilities (3 tesla fMRI in Edinburgh), PhD studentships, and ready access to imaging and imaging expertise across Scotland.


ESTEEM INDICATORS (additional indicators in text above).


Five journal editors

Five Fellows Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE)

Two Fellows British Academy (FBA)

One Fellow Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci)

Research Fellowships/Readerships MRC, British Academy, Leverhulme, Marie-Curie.

Two RCUK Fellows

British Psychological Society (BPsS) President, Broadbent Lecturer, Fellows


Abrahams-Invited Motor Neurone Disease Association; Scientific Committee for  Frontotemporal Dementia, Canada 2007. Keynote British Aphasiology Society; Grant reviews Motor Neurone Disease Association. 

Austin-Associate editor, British J. Psychology; Personality Individual Differences; Visiting professor Saskatchewan, 2003; Invited Symposium Emotional Intelligence, Australia, 2005; Eysenck Memorial Scholarship 2003-4.

Bak- Keynote Indian Psychiatric Society 2007; External PhD Sydney 2006, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Visiting Scholar Max Planck Leipzig 2005.

Brockmole-Reviewer USA NSF; Consulting Editor Visual Cognition, JEP: General. Invited International Conference Memory, Valencia; Vision Sciences Society Research Award, 2002.

Bates-Editorial board Intelligence; Grants reviewer, Australian Research Council.

Branigan-Executive board, Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing conference; External PhD Cambridge; Invited University Geneva; Grant reviewer USA NSF.

Bruce-Michael Faraday Prize Committee Royal Society 2004-7; Consulting Editor JEP: General, 2003-2006; Hon DSc University of St Andrews 2006; BPsS Book Award 2001. FBA, FRSE.

Corley-Grant reviewer USA NSF; Invited Dutch Psychonomic Society 2003; Deputy organiser 2001 ESCOP/BPsS conference (600 delegates).

Deary-President 2001-2003 International Society Study of Individual Differences; FBA, FRSE, FMedSci;Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award 2003-2007; Spearman Lecture (2004) International Society Intelligence Research. New Orleans.

Della Sala-Editor Cortex; Associate Editor Neuropsychologia; FRSE, FBPsS; Adjunct Professor Padua, Italy and Perth, Western Australia.

Ferreira-Editor JEP: General, 2007-; Associate Editor J. Memory and Language 2001-2005; Grant Panel NIH 2001-2004; Keynote 2007 Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP) Finland. Fellow Association for Psychological Science

Gow-Invited European Conference on Personality 2006, Athens, Greece; media coverage on publication #2.

Haywood-British Academy Early Career Fellowship; Grant Reviewer USA NSF; Selected (10%) CUNY Conference, Cambridge, MA, 2003; Selected (10%) AMLaP-2004, Aix-en-Provence, 2004.

Henderson-Editor Visual Cognition 2005-; Keynote European Conference on Eye Movements 2003; Grant panels NIH (2002-2003), NSF (1999), NIMH (1996-1997). Fellow American Psychological Association.

Johnson-RCUK Fellow; Associate Editor European J. Personality; 2004 John B. Carroll Award Methodology Intelligence Research; 2005 Award Excellence in Research Mensa Education and Research Foundation; Best paper J. Research in Personality 2006; 2007 Early Career Award International Society Study of Individual Differences.

Laidlaw-Symposium organiser International Society of Quality of Life, San Francisco, 2005; Invited Gerontological Society of America, Washington 2004; Visiting Associate Professor Andrus Gerontology Center, UCLA, USA, 2007.

Lenton-International media coverage for PNAS publication (2007); Invited Conference Judgment and Decision Making, UK; Joint Organizer BPsS Social Psychology Section Conference Edinburgh, 2005.

Logie-Editor QJEP(A) 2002-2005; Consulting Editor JEP: General 2007-; Site assessor USA NSF Educational Neuroscience Program, 2006; Adjunct Professor Bergen, Norway and Visiting Professor Kyoto, Japan; FRSE, FBPsS.

McKenzie-Reviewer British J. Clinical Psychology; Invited BPsS Annual Conference Glasgow, 2001.

McKinlay-BPsS Social Psychology Section Committee; Editorial Board Social Psychology Review 2004-2006; Joint organiser BPsS Social Section Conference, Edinburgh, 2005; BPsS representative on JCPHE (2006-).

McIntosh-2005 Elizabeth Warrington Prize, British Neuropsychological Society; Invited symposiast European Neuropsychological Societies 2004 Modena; Invited 2006 Attention & Performance (unable to attend). Core Advisory Group European Research Network: Human Sensorimotor Function.

MacPherson-ESCOP Young European Scientist Fellowship Cognitive Psychology, Naples, Italy 2004.

McGonigle-Editorial Boards J. Autism and Developmental Disorders; Intellectual Disability Research; Symposium in her honour, Amsterdam, 2004; Keynote: international workshop autism and advanced technology, Cleveland, 2005.

Morcom-RCUK Fellow; Invited Human Brain Mapping 2007. Invited talks fMRI analysis Havana Cuba 2004, and New Haven (Yale) 2005.

Morris-Reviewer Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology; Invited talks to Scottish Neuropsychology Network.

Nuthmann -Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Award from the German Research Foundation.

Pickering-Associate Editor QJEP(A) 1998-2004, Language Cognitive Processes, and Psychological Science 2007-; Broadbent Lecturer BPsS 2006; British Academy Research Readership 2005-07; FRSE.

Power-Co-Editor Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy; Keynote Tokyo/15 other conferences; External PhDs in Sweden; Norway; Research Adviser Health Measurement - World Health Organization (2001-).

Santesteban-Guest editor Special Issue Bilingualism:Language and Cognition; Marie-Curie Fellowship.

Schwannauer-Keynote: BPsS London Conference, 2004; Aaron T Beck Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in Psychosis, Glasgow 2005; Action Editor Psychology and Psychotherapy.

Shillcock-Editorial Board Psychologia; Grant reviews ESRC; European Collaborative Research Programme Grant 2006-2009.

Shipley(Roberts in RA1)-MRC Early Career Fellowship; Invited Society for Social Medicine Glasgow, 2005 and European Conference of Personality, Athens, Greece, 2006; International  media coverage for publication #1.

Simner-British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship 2001-2004; Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship 2005-2007; Invited symposiast ESCOP 2005. Extensive international media coverage on publications #1-#4.

Sturt-Editorial Board J. Memory and Language 2007-; Organiser, AMLaP 2003 Glasgow; Invited ACL Incremental parsing workshop 2004; External PhDs Maryland, Cambridge, Exeter, Strathclyde.

Taylor-Organiser SUPPORT PhD meeting 2006; Invited 13th European Conference on Personality, Athens, Greece, 2006; Media coverage of publications #1,#2.

Watt-Scientific Board Bial Foundation (Portugal); Vice-President/President Parapsychological Association 2003-2005.

Weiss- Keynote Primate Society of Great Britain 2006, and Support for African/Asian Great Apes, Osaka, Japan, 2005.

Whiteman-External PhD UCL 2002; Invited European Conference on Personality 2006; BPsS Centenary Conference 2001. ESRC grant reviewer.

Widdicombe- Keynote Constructing Identities in Oral Discourse, Barcelona, 2004. Invited Symposiast Amsterdam, October 2001. External PhD Queensland, Australia; Goldsmiths College London. Grant reviews ESRC.