Dr Alan MacPherson

Deputy Head of Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences (ISPEHS) / Programme Director: MSc Performance Psychology / Lecturer


Prior to working and studying at the University of Edinburgh I completed my undergraduate degree at Queen Margaret University College and did a Masters degree in Research methods in Psychology at the University of Strathclyde. In 2002, I started another Masters degree in Performance psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

Between 2003 and 2006 I completed my Phd in ‘Utilising rhythmicity to optimise the execution of gross motor function’, became accredited as a BPS Sport & Exercise Psychologist, started lecturing in the Institute for Physical Education, Sport and Health Sciences, and worked for the Rugby Football Union Elite Refereeing Unit. My main research interests are in optimising the execution of gross motor skills and in the study of the acquisition of decision making expertise across a spectrum of physical and social settings. In recent years I have undertaken significant research for UK Athletics and UK Sport and am currently responsible for masters level courses on the MSc Performance Psychology; BSc Applied Sport Science; and BEd Physical Education programmes.

I am a reviewer for three academic journals: the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, The Jounal of Sports Sciences and the International Journal of Sport Psychology

Postgraduate teaching

  • Dynamics in performance teams

Areas of interest for supervision

  • Individual Research Methods BSc (Hons) Thesis supervision
  • PhD Supervision

Current PhD students supervised

I currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Raymond Bobrownicki – ‘Utilising sources of information to assist in the learning and execution of gross motor skill.’

Research summary

Research Methodology Planning for performance Instructional Methods Decision making in Group Dynamics Expertise and decision making.

Current and recent research

  • Motor control: Preferred Cadence in expert and novice cyclists and their relationship with bioenergetic efficiency.
  • Examining patterns of movement in elite athletes with a view to optimising perceptual control. 
  • Determining optimal mental focus in the execution of self-paced motor skill.
  • Evaluating the effect of ‘sources of information’ on the learning and execution of gross motor skills.
  • Group dynamics and expert decision making

View all 22 publications on Research Explorer