Individual differences

Differential Psychology explores the ways in which people differ from one another, alongside their measurement, causes and consequences.

World leading work in Edinburgh focuses on a broad range of topics, including lifelong personality development, measurement and links with important life outcomes; cognitive abilities (intelligence) alongside their change (including ageing) and links with life outcomes; psychopathology; primate psychology; and positive psychology.

Research is published in prestigious journals, often in collaboration with graduate students.

The work involves a wide range of techniques, including reanalysing data from existing large databases, large-scale data collections, multinational collaborations and advanced statistical modelling. Graduate students can take part in vibrant journal clubs and join a large research community with links across many countries.


Staff working in this area include:

    Research interests
Rene Mottus

Dr Rene Mottus

Programme Director

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.
Timothy Bates

Professor Tim Bates

Genetics, Cognitive epidemiology, Cognitive potential, Personality, Group behavior, Dyslexia, Language impairment.
Tom Booth
Dr Tom Booth Individual Differences, Health & Quantitative Methods.
Wendy Johnson
Professor Wendy Johnson Individual differences: the structure of intelligence and personality, life-span development of intelligence and personality, health and ageing, genetic and environmental transactions and their influence on behaviour, intelligence, and personality.
Michelle Luciano
Dr Michelle Luciano Environmental and genetic factors contributing to cognition, personality and mood.
Dr Aja Murray
Dr Aja Murray Developmental aspects of mental health phenotypes and their comorbidity: in particular, ADHD, autism, and conduct problems; quantitative methodology.
Caroline Watt photo
Professor Caroline Watt Replication and methodological issues in parapsychology.
Alexander Weiss
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.

Recent/current PhD topics in this area

  • Cognitive ageing
  • The Biology of Coalition Affiliation
  • Depression and personality
  • Early effects on final Social Status
  • Primate personality
  • Symmetry, cognition, and health
  • The genetics of human language
  • PositivePsychology: The Good life (Eudaimonia) and Hedonic Wellbeing
  • Modelling the effects of education


Administrative questions should be directed to the Programme Secretary, Katie Keltie.

Katie Keltie

To discuss academic matters, contact the Programme Director, Rene Mottus.

Rene Mottus

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Fees, funding, and how to apply