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, psychological problems and problem behaviours, 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 worked in the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (now closed), 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.

Koestler Parapsychology Unit 


Staff working in this area include:

  Research interests

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.

Professor Tim Bates

Genetics, Cognitive epidemiology, Cognitive potential, Personality, Group behavior, Dyslexia, Language impairment.
Dr Tom Booth Individual Differences, Health & Quantitative Methods.
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.
Professor Michelle Luciano Environmental and genetic factors contributing to cognition, personality and mood.
Dr Aja Murray Developmental aspects of mental health phenotypes and their comorbidity: in particular, ADHD, autism, and conduct problems; quantitative methodology.
Professor Caroline Watt Replication and methodological issues in parapsychology.

Postgraduate study

Meetings and events

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

Individual differences journal club