School of Psychology Research Groups:

The Public Understanding of Psychology


Professor Richard Wiseman

image of Wiseman and Winstin

Prof Richard Wiseman holds Britain’s only Chair in the public understanding of psychology. For the past twelve years, he has carried out a large number of high-profile activities designed to help promote the public understanding of, and involvement in, academic psychology. These activities have involved the following strands; mass participation experiments, talks, performances, and media appearances.

Mass participation experiments:

Prof Wiseman has developed an international reputation for devising and conducting public experiments involving large numbers of participants. These studies have tackled a diverse range of topics, including lying, facial expressions, and humour. The studies involved between 30,000 and 500,000 participants, and were carried out in collaboration with a science festivals and media partners, including BBC TV, The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist Magazine, The British Association for the Advancement of Science, and The Edinburgh international Science Festival.


Prof Wiseman has given a large number of high profile public talks, including those at The Royal Institution (2000, 2005), The Royal Society (1998, 2001, 2004), The Royal Television Society (1998, 2004), The Edinburgh International Science Festival (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005), The British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival (1997, 2002, 2003, 2005), and The Cheltenham Science Festival (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007). He was invited to speak at the California Institute for Technology (CalTech) in 2005, and in 2006 undertook a British Council funded speaking tour of Malaysia, New Zealand, and Japan.


In 2002, Prof Wiseman worked with Dr Simon Singh (author of Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book) to create the live science show entitled ‘Theatre of Science’. This show, part-funded by The Royal Society and The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, was performed to critical acclaim at London’s Soho Theatre (2002, 2005), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2005), and New York’s Theatre for the New City (2006). In 2003, he collaborated with a team of musicians to help stage 'Infrasonic' – a mass participation experiment designed to assess the effect of very low frequency sound on people's perception of a live concert of contemporary music. This work was funded by The sciart Consortium and staged at the Purcell Room on London's South Bank.


Prof Wiseman has a twelve-year track record of obtaining high levels of international, high quality, media attention for various research projects, resulting in appearances on over 150 television programmes, including, for example, Horizon (BBC2), Tomorrow’s World (BBC1), The Human Senses (BBC1), Bodyshock (Channel 4), and The Human Mind (BBC1). He has also made regular contributions to radio, including, for example, Radio 4’s Start The Week, Midweek, Front Row, and The Today Programme. In 2004, Radio 4 broadcast a five part series based around his research into the psychology of luck. His work is also frequently reported by the print media, including several features in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Independent, and The Guardian.

Professor Wiseman is one of only four British Fellows of The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Other fellows include Professor Steven Pinker and John Maddox, past editor of Nature. In 2000 he was awarded the CSICOP Public Education In Science Award (previous recipients include Professors Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould), in 2002 he was given the Joseph Lister Award For Science Communication from the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2005 was awarded a prestigious ‘Dreamtime’ Fellowship from The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

Research Leader