I am Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, affiliated with the Philosophy Department in the School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion; and with the Institute for Mental Health in the School of Psychology.
My research is in the philosophy of the cognitive sciences. I write about the limitations of human cognition and human agency, investigating faulty reasoning and irrational beliefs, delusions, confabulations, distorted memories, poor knowledge of the self, unreliable self narratives, self deception, inconsistencies between attitudes and behaviour, unrealistic optimism, and other positive illusions. I am also interested in the philosophy of medicine and how health, wellbeing, rationality, and agency interact.
From October 2014 to September 2019, I led a 5-year project on Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts (PERFECT), funded by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant. In January to March 2020 I worked with Sophie Stammers on a policy brief on the issue of mental capacity assessments, thanks to University of Birmingham QR funding. We made some recommendations based on project PERFECT research.
I recently edited Delusions in Context (Palgrave 2018) where I gathered new insights on delusions from experts in clinical practice, lived experience, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy.
A monograph entitled The Epistemic Innocence of Irrational Beliefs (Oxford University Press 2020) is the culmination of seven years of research into beliefs that are at the same time epistemically irrational and epistemically beneficial.
I share my research as widely as possible. In 2013 I founded Imperfect Cognitions, a blog featuring research updates, interviews with experts, first-person experiences of mental distress, and conference reports.
In May 2017 I presented a talk on optimism at the Hay Festival and in October 2017 I gave a TEDxBrum talk on the mental health stigma (click on the right to watch). In October 2018, with Valeria Motta, I presented at the Stories of Solitude event during the York Mediale Festival. In September 2020 I will participate in debate on whether the self is an illusion at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival.
I have written for Aeon, The Philosopher's Magazine, and IAI TV and I have been interviewed for newspapers, podcasts, radio and television programmes. In 2018 I was shortlisted for the University of Birmingham Impact Awards, for outstanding impact in society.