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
Timothy Bates

Professor Tim Bates

Programme director

Genetics, Cognitive epidemiology, Cognitive potential, Personality, Group behavior, Dyslexia, Language impairment.
Tom Booth
Dr Tom Booth Individual Differences, Health & Quantitative Methods.
Ian Deary
Professor Ian Deary Human intelligence differences. Cognitive ageing. Cognitive epidemiology. Personality traits. Medically unexplained symptoms. General psychometric research.
Catharine Gale
Professor Catharine Gale The relationship between cognitive function and later health outcomes, the role of positive or negative wellbeing in later health outcomes, and lifecourse influences on frailty in older people.
Wendy Johnson
Professor Wendy Johnson Individual differences: structure of intelligence and personality, life-span development of intelligence and personality, health and aging, genetic and environmental transactions and their influence on behavior, intelligence, and personality.
Michelle Luciano
Dr Michelle Luciano Environmental and genetic factors contributing to cognition, personality and mood.
Rene Mottus
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.
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; aging and development; behavior genetics; differential epidemiology; quantitative methods.

Postgraduate study

MSc Psychology of 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