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Biography

For the last 30 years, my primary research focus has been autism. My work has explored the nature of social understanding in neurotypical development and ‘mentalising’ difficulties in autism. I’m also actively engaged in studies of abilities and assets in autism, and their relation to detail-focused cognitive style. Some of my most recent work focuses on mental health on the autism spectrum, and under-researched subgroups including women and the elderly. My research methods have spanned cognitive experiments, functional neuroimaging, exploration of acquired brain lesions, and behaviour genetic approaches. I am a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences, past-President of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR; 2013-2015), and have been fortunate to receive the British Psychological Society Spearman Medal, the Experimental Psychology Society Prize and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award. I am co-author/editor of two new books appearing in 2019 – Autism: A New Introduction to Psychological Theory and Debate (with Sue Fletcher-Watson), and Girls and Autism: Educational, Family and Personal Perspectives (with Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton), both published by Routledge.

Research interests:

  • Autism 
  • Social cognition 
  • Configural-featural processing and individual differences 
  • Acquired brain injury/stroke and social/emotional difficulties 
  • Design of novel socio-cognitive tasks and measures 

Research groups:

Lead the Social Relationships Study with Dr Emma Colvert 

Part of the Mental Health & Justice Wellcome Trust Strategic Award network 

Part of eLIXIR, Early Lifecourse data Cross-Linkage in Research partnership 

Expertise and Public Engagement:

Television appearances including BBC QED, Open University, and Horizon. Radio interviews for, e.g. World Service, BBC, ABC. 

Subject of a Channel 4 documentary in the 4Learning ‘Living Science’ series and accompanying information for schools (http://www.acclaimscientists.org.uk/index.htm). 

Articles for The Daily Telegraph (science section), Observer, Independent, La Repubblica and New Scientist.  On-line opinion pieces in Guardian and LiveScience (http://www.livescience.com/50753-autism-truths-and-myths.html).   

Invited book reviews/opinion pieces for Science and Times Literary Supplement (e.g., https://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6255/1455.summary,  https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/immutable-beauties-autistic-spectrum/ ). 

The Brain and the Mind film and debate (2013)  http://www.thebrainandthemind.co.uk/The_Films/Film4/ 

Delivered King’s Rosalind Franklin Lecture 2014 at Hay Literary Festival. 

Royal Society ‘Science Stories’ short film on Identity with Karl Friston for 350th anniversary of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society https://royalsociety.org/journals/publishing-activities/publishing350/science-stories/ 

Co-Founder (with Barry Carpenter CBE and Rona Tutt OBE) of the National Forum for neuroscience and Special Education, under the auspices f the national Association of Head Teachers (NAHT):  https://www.naht.org.uk/about-us/our-councils-committees-and-forums/national-forum-for-neuroscience-and-special-education/ 

Teaching:

I teach autism-related topics across a variety of courses including BSc Psychology, BSc Neuroscience, MSc Genes, Environment and Development in Psychology and Psychiatry (GED-PP), and MSc Developmental Psychology and Psychopathology (DEV-PP)