David Clarke: CV

Prof David D Clarke

MA PhD (Cantab), MA DPhil (Oxon), CPsychol FBPsS

Emeritus Professor of Psychology,

University of Nottingham

School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD


• University Education etc

University of Cambridge (Haswell Exhibitioner, Sidney Sussex College)

2nd MB 1970; BA (Medical Sciences & Psychology) 1971; MA 1975; PhD (Social & Political Sciences) 1987

University of Oxford (St John's College)

MA 1976; DPhil (Psychology) 1976

British Psychological Society

FBPsS 1985; CPsychol 1988; CSci 2007-15

• Appointments Held

University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology

1975-76 Research Associate; 1976-83 Research Officer; 1983-87 Senior Research Officer

University of Oxford, Wolfson College

1976-82 Junior Research Fellow; 1982-87 Research Fellow; 1987- Member of Common Room; 1992 Visiting Scholar

University of Cambridge

1976 & 1977 Visiting lecturer in Social and Political Sciences

University of Nottingham, School of Psychology

1987-91 Lecturer in Psychology; 1987-2015 Director, Action Analysis Group; 1987-2015 Co-Director, Accident Research Unit; 1991-99 Reader; 1999-2015 Professor of Psychology; 1999-2000 Director of Teaching; 2000-01 Chair of University Postgraduate Studies Committee; 2001-05 & 2009-10 Head of School of Psychology; 2007-2009 Chair of University of Nottingham Transport Research; 2007-2015 Professor of the Institute of Mental Health; 2008-2015 Member of University Council; 2015- Emeritus Professor of Psychology.

• Research Interests

"Of all the truths relating to phenomena, the most valuable to us are those which relate to the order of their succession. On a knowledge of these is founded every reasonable anticipation of future facts, and whatever power we possess of influencing those facts to our advantage."

(John Stuart Mill, 1851)

My research is about sequences of actions and events. Partly this is for practical reasons - patterns of events, if understood appropriately, can be steered towards good outcomes and away from bad ones. Partly it is for theoretical reasons - the sequence of events produced by any system can tell us a lot about its internal processes. This provides a good way of doing research even when experiments as such are impossible, sometimes because the topic involves behaviour or events in the past, or else because the interesting causal factors are too difficult or too vital to manipulate for experimental purposes.

There are three general objectives. One is to find new, different and better ways to extract patterns from sequences of events. The second is to find out more about the processes which make the sequences as they are. The third is to exploit the practical applications of these methods and findings.

There is no particular topic. This approach works with events in the short term, such as episodes of human-computer interaction, or in the long term with life stories and relationships; with practical problems such as work-place violence, or theoretical ones such as language change. In part it is a 'holistic' approach. Episodes of behaviour often have to be pieced together to see what they are part of, as much as taken to bits to see what they are made of.

There are three terms for the distinctive aspects of this approach:

Natural psychology - The reintegration of scientific and everyday psychological ideas. As well as the conventional approach to psychology, which starts with a certain view of science and applies it to 'human nature', we need the complementary approach, starting with our understanding of human nature and working to make it more systematic and scientific. I think this is a pressing need for some parts of psychology. If we cannot find room for the lay person's psychology in what we do, there is not much chance of them finding room for our psychology in what they do.

Extended sequence analysis - The methods and research possibilities that lie just beyond the basic stochastic techniques of sequence analysis - exploring and extending the 'zone of proximal development' of this approach.

Structured judgement methods - Research approaches that rely on expert interpretation of (sometimes qualitative) data, but framed within rigorous standardised procedures to increase reliability and validity.

A group of us who all do Research in Behaviour Sequence Analysis have got together to form 'ReBSA'. We collaborate on various research projects and papers; exchange and develop research methods; and advise other researchers and groups on ways of using Behaviour Sequence Analysis in their work. Details of who we are and what we do are here. An illustration of the importance of sequence analysis is here.

Some of my thoughts and ideas on the nature of psychology are summarised in a list of aphorisms.

• Recent Activities

My recent work has been mainly on road accidents, reconstructing the sequential patterns in several thousand accidents from police case-files, in major projects for the Department for Transport.

For a time I also chaired UNTR (University of Nottingham Transport Research). This involved over 100 researchers across the Faculties of Science and Engineering, attracting around 8 million pounds a year in research grants and contracts, with 30 million pounds worth of research ongoing in Aerospace alone. As well as funding from research councils and government departments, there were strategic alliances with Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, GE, Highways Agency, Honda, Jaguar, Network Rail, Rolls-Royce and Shell, together with 6 EPSRC Platform Grants related to transport research, in addition to the Nottingham IMRC and collaboration in the Rail Research Centre, FP7 Clean Sky Initiative, and the ECON2 Marie Curie Fellowship Programme.

I was a founder member of the University of Nottingham 'Institute for the Study of Genetics, Biorsisks and Society' (IGBiS), which later became the 'Institute for Science and Society' (ISS). This multi-disciplinary institute began by studying the psychological, social, legal, and historical implications of the new biological techniques of genomics, genetic modification, cloning, and other developments in biotechnology, as well as contemporary biological hazards like prion diseases, and the current risks in agriculture and food production. As ISS, the Institute went on to provide a focus on the socially responsible use of innovations in clinical and biological sciences and their associated technologies, including clinical genetics; the cloning of domesticated animals; functional foods; and the impact of environmental change. The University had long been a centre of excellence in researching these areas and was able to bring the disciplines of social science, law and the humanities into the arena as well. The Institute's core staff were funded by a programme grant from the Leverhulme Trust but it also received significant funding from the Wellcome Trust and from ESRC, making a portfolio of research funding worth around £3 million.

With Dr (now Prof) Ellen Townsend (formerly of IGBiS), I did some studies on the ways in which emotional responses to risk can frame belief and decision-making.

Some of my research students studied episodes of violent crime, including rapes, sexual assaults, and pub fights, looking for predictable patterns and 'switch points', which could be used help us prevent or contain serious incidents, as well as a variety of other topics, including moral reasoning and attitudes to Carbon Capture and Storage.

I am also interested in the processes controlling the serial organisation of behaviour, including some aspects the relation between emotion, cognition and action; and a peculiar temporal asymmetry that occurs in some behaviour sequences, which we call the 'super-reversal effect'.

In retirement, there are more challenges I still want to tackle. I want to develop a version of this distinctive sequential approach to behavioural research that works with single cases, and not only with recurring patterns in large sets of similar cases, as in the past. I also want to work with, and develop, the new ReBSA group, and its work on various topics including drunk driving, sexual assault, and problem gambling.

• Research Grants

These include projects for a variety of funding bodies, including . . .

The Economic and Social Research Council

  • 'The sequential structure of social behaviour applied to social skills and group conflict' (1975-80)
  • 'The social psychology of long-term relationships' (1980-85)
  • 'The role of emotion in processes of high-level interaction and control' (1985-87)
  • 'Configurations for autonomous development in cognitive systems' (1985-88)
  • 'Attribution theory in transport research' (1988-89).
  • 'Understanding new forms of digital record for e-Social Science' (2005-2008) - a 'node' of the ESRC 'National Centre for e-Social Science' based in Manchester, with colleagues in Computer Science, English, and Psychology
  • 'New methods for predicting violent incidents in clinical settings' (2007-2010): 'CASE' studentship

The Joint Research Councils' Initiative in Cognitive Science and Human-Computer Interaction

  • 'A multidisciplinary exploration of the problem of joint action' (1990-92),

The Department for Transport (formerly TRL / DETR / DTLR)

  • 'The analysis of pre-accident sequences' (1989-91),
  • 'Causal mapping of selected road accident cases' (1992-95)
  • 'In depth accident causation study of young drivers' (1998-2001)
  • 'In depth study of motorcycle and work related accidents' (2001-2005)
  • 'In depth study of trends in fatal accidents' (2005-2006).
  • 'Car driver skills and attitudes in relation to motorcycle safety (Phase 1)' Co-investigator. (2006)
  • 'A detailed analysis of the circumstances surrounding child-pedestrian road-accidents in the Greater Manchester area' (2006 - 2007), with NRSI and Greater Manchester Police Authority
  • Grant to establish Transport Research as a strategic priority of the University (2007-2008) from University of Nottingham Research Committee, and the Schools of Civil Engineering; Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering; Psychology; Electrical & Electronic Engineering; and Computer Science & Information Technology.
  • 'Driver Behavioural Profiling - Feasibility Study' (2007) Co-investigator. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.
  • 'Analysis of deprivation in fatal road-traffic accidents' (2007).
  • 'In-depth study of road traffic accidents involving older drivers' (2007-09).
  • 'Car driver skills and attitudes in relation to motorcycle safety (Phases 2-5)' Co-investigator. (2007 - 2009)
  • Grant from Transport for London for a case-study of cyclist fatalities. (2008)
  • Grant from Transport Research Laboratory Ltd for feasibility study of analysis methods for fatal road traffic collisions. (2009)
  • Project on the link between criminality and fatal collisions for Department for Transport, led by South Yorkshire Police. (2011-13).

The Department for Health

  • The 'Listen-up!' project - understanding and helping looked-after young people who self-harm. Department for Health. Co-applicant. (2013-2016)


  • 'Public Perception of Carbon Capture and Storage: A vignette study approach'. Higher Education Innovation Fund. (2011) Co-applicant.
  • PhD studentship. Natural Environment Research Council and British Geological Survey. Co-applicant. (2011-14).
  • Young People, Gambling, and Gambling-Related Harm Research: Pathways into and out of danger. Responsible Gambling Trust. Co-applicant. (2016-17).

• Selected Recent Papers

Clarke, D. D., Ward, P. J., Bartle, C. and Truman, W. A. (2010) Killer Crashes: Fatal Road Traffic Accidents in the UK. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42(2), 764-770.

Clarke, D. D., Ward, P. J., Bartle, C. and Truman, W. A. (2010) Older drivers' road traffic crashes in the UK. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1018-1024. ISSN 0001-4575.

Lawrence, C., Fossi, J. and Clarke, D. D. (2010) A sequential examination of offenders' verbal strategies during stranger rapes: the influence of location. Psychology, Crime & Law, 16(5), 381-400. ISSN: 1477-2744.

Shahar, A., Alberti, C. F., Clarke, D. D. and Crundall, D. E. (2010) Hazard perception as a function of target location and the field of view. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1577-1584. ISSN 0001-4575.

Shahar, A., Poulter, D., Clarke, D. D. and Crundall, D. E. (2010) Motorcyclists’ and car drivers’ responses to hazards. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 13(4), pp 243-254. ISSN: 1369-8478.

Shahar, A., Clarke, D., Crundall, D. (2011) Applying the motorcyclist's perspective to improve car drivers' attitudes towards motorcyclists. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43 (5), pp. 1743-1750.

Crundall, D. E., Crundall, E., Clarke, D. D. and Shahar, A. (2012) Why do car drivers fail to give way to motorcycles at t-junctions? Accident Analysis and Prevention. 44 (1), pp. 88-96.

Nerlich, B., Forsyth, R.S., and Clarke, D. D. (2012) Climate in the news: How differences in media discourse between the US and UK reflect national priorities. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 6(1), 44-63.

Shahar, A., van Loon, E., Clarke, D. D. and Crundall, D. E. (2012) Attending to overtaking cars and motorcycles through the mirrors before changing lanes. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 44 (1), pp. 104-110.

Lawson, G., Sharples, S., Clarke, D. D. and Cobb, S. (2013) Validating a low cost approach for predicting human responses to emergency situations. Applied Ergonomics, 44, 27-43. ISSN 0003-6870.

Ferguson, E., Buttery, A., Miles, G., Tatalia, C., Clarke, D. D., Lonsdale, A. J., Baxendale, B. and Lawrence, C. (2014) The Temporal Rating of Emergency Non-Technical skills (TRENT) index for self and others: psychometric properties and emotional responses. BMC Medical Education, 14(1), 240 - 251.

Harré, R., Clarke, D. D. and De Carlo, N. (2015) Motives and mechanisms: An introduction to the psychology of action. London: Routledge. Hardback and e-book editions. Republication of 1985 Methuen edition in the Routledge 'Psychology Revivals' series. ISBN 978-1-13894776-4 & 978-1-315-66945-8.

Wadman R, Clarke D, Sayal K, Vostanis P, Armstrong M, Harroe C, Majumder P, Townsend E. (2016) An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of self-harm repetition and recovery in young adults. Journal of Health Psychology. doi 10.1177/1359105316631405.

• Further information

More publications.

Research grants.

Successful PhD students.

Contacting me.