Trevor Harley


I am Professor of Cognitive Psychology (the Chair of Cognitive Psychology) at the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee in Scotland. See here for my Wikipedia entry. I was Head of Department and Dean 2003-2014. I stepped down in 2014 to focus on my research.

I was born in those western fringes of London quickly destroyed by the Martians in H.G.Wells’ The War of the Worlds. I moved to Southampton just in time for the Great Freeze of 1962-63, and went to Price’s Grammar School, Fareham, in southeast Hampshire. They pulled the school down soon after I left. Leaving home (which they pulled down soon after I left), I took my undergraduate degree in natural sciences at the University of Cambridge, where I originally planned to specialise in physical sciences. I was soon attracted to psychology, thinking it would be all about Freud, sex, and violence. I discovered that it was in fact even more interesting, being the science of how the mind works (and fortunately that includes sex and violence).

I completed my PhD on slips of the tongue and what they tell us about speech production (that it’s a complex interactive process), some time ago, in the Experimental Psychology Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Brian Butterworth (now Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College, London). I chose speech errors because I seem to make a lot of them; my theory is that my mother dropped me down the stairs at an early age (I have a big scar on my thigh) giving me a bang on the head and leading to a general phonological deficit. After some years at the University of Warwick, I moved to Dundee in 1996. I have been Chair of Cognitive Psychology and Head of Department since 2003, and Dean of the School of Psychology since the University was reorganised in 2006, until 2014.

See my research page for more about my work in psychology. My main research interests are the psychology of language, sleep and dreams. computational modelling, ageing, and metacognition. I am also interested in the psychology of the weather. Note though that now I am Head of School I spend far more time filling out forms than I can manage to find to do research. See the research page too if you want to find out more about the talks I give. See my books page for more about my psychology books, and my novel page for information about Dirty old rascal. If you have come to this site looking for information about my British weather site (which I’m told now has a bit of a following), look here.

I consider myself to be an old-fashioned academic, and i am acutely aware that academics are paid for by the public, many of whom do not benefit immediately from universities. So we should say how society benefits from universities and science other than simply educating people; we can’t expect people to work it out for themselves. I also think it is our duty to say loudly what we think is right, however unpalatable some might find what we say. It’s part of what we’re paid for. Recent activities on this front include a talk at Dundee Café Science on the Science of self improvement, and a related article in the Dundee Courier.

See this page for some of my media appearances. I also offer consultancy on self-improvement for individuals and businesses; please contact me at the email address below.

When I can, I fit in time for my hobbies, including photography (obviously), playing the piano (not always that well, but I’m taking lessons), watching films, reading the complete Booker Prize shortlisted novels, and listening to music, especially classical. I have a fondness for Tuvan throat music few others understand. The natural world fascinates me; hence my interests in astronomy, the weather, geology, and bird watching. I also perform as a stand-up comic, including at the Edinburgh Fringe, and regularly at Bright Club.

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