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.
I am currently working on a project called Agency, Justice and Social Identity in Youth Mental Health, led by Rose McCabe at City University and funded by the Medical Research Council.
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. Two books have emerged from that:
Delusions in Context (Palgrave 2018) is a collection of four papers where I gathered insights on delusions from experts in clinical practice, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy. Open access.
The Epistemic Innocence of Irrational Beliefs (Oxford University Press 2020) is a monograph on beliefs that are at the same time epistemically irrational and epistemically beneficial.
I wrote a textbook in the philosophy of psychology with Kengo Miyazono for Polity, published in May 2021, and I am writing a book entitled Why Delusions Matter for Bloomsbury.
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. I edit the blog with Kengo Miyazono.
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 September 2020 I participated in a debate on whether the self is an illusion at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival.
I have written for The Conversation, Aeon, The Philosopher's Magazine, and IAI TV and I have been interviewed for newspapers, podcasts, radio and television programmes.