Differential psychology

Edinburgh is home to the world's largest group dedicated to studying individual differences, from ageing to personality research

We use individual differences in behaviour as a window onto psychological mechanisms, including the genetic and environmental origins of individual differences in intelligence and personality. We work with diverse data, from brain imaging to reaction time; massive twin and epidemiology datasets, and high-throughput genetic sequencing.

We deliver world-leading research on longevity, health, education, social behavior, positive psychology and well-being and animal personality. Our research also addresses how individuals differ from themselves over time and across situations.

Several members of the individual differences group work in the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), funded to research healthy ageing, targeting the major determinants of health and wellbeing over the whole life course and reducing dependency in later life. We also host the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, investigating differences in paranormal belief.

Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology

Koestler Parapsychology Unit 


Staff working in this area include:

  Research interests
Professor Timothy Bates
Genetics, cognitive epidemiology, cognitive potential, personality, group behaviour, dyslexia, language impairment.
Dr Tom Booth Individual differences, health, quantitative methods.
Professor Ian Deary
Human intelligence differences, cognitive ageing, cognitive epidemiology, personality traits, medically unexplained symptoms, general psychometric research.
Professor Wendy Johnson Individual differences: structure of intelligence and personality, life-span development of intelligence and personality, health and ageing, genetic and environmental transactions and their influence on behavior, intelligence, and personality
Dr Michelle Luciano
Environmental and genetic factors in cognition, personality, mood, well-being, and the brain.
Dr Rene Mottus
Personality development in childhood and later life, computational modelling of person-environment transactions, within-individual variability of personality and its associations with situational circumstances and specific behaviours, and psychometrics.
Professor Caroline Watt Replication and methodological issues in parapsychology.
Dr Alexander Weiss
Personality and subjective well-being in humans, nonhuman primates, and other animals; the evolution of personality and subjective well-being, ageing and development, behaviour genetics, differential epidemiology, quantitative methods.

Postgraduate study

MSc Individual Differences

PhD and MSc by Research programmes

Meetings and events

The individual differences journal club meet weekly to discuss relevant readings.

Individual differences journal club

The cognitive ageing journal club also meet weekly during term time.

Cognitive ageing journal club