Trevor Harley

Trevor Harley
Born Trevor Harley
London, United Kingdom
Occupation Head and Dean of the School of Psychology at University of Dundee, Scotland
Known for Psychology of Language

Trevor Harley is a psychologist specializing in the psychology of language. He is currently Head and Dean of the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee, Scotland, where he holds the Chair of Cognitive Psychology[1] He is author of "The Psychology of Language", currently in its fourth edition, published by Psychology Press, and "Talking the talk", a book about the psychology of language (psycholinguistics) aimed at a more general audience.



Trevor Harley was born in 1958 in London and grew up near Southampton. He was educated at Price's Grammar School, Fareham. His undergraduate degree was in Natural Sciences at St John's College in the University of Cambridge. He stayed at Cambridge to study for his PhD under the supervision of Brian Butterworth. His PhD was on "slips of the tongue and what they tell us about speech production".[1]

For his PhD and later research he collected a corpus of several thousand naturally occurring speech errors, and focused on one word substitutes for another (e.g. saying "pass the pepper" instead of "pass the salt"). He concluded that speech production is an interactive, parallel process, leading him to an interest in connectionist modeling, and research on computational modeling, ageing, and metacognition.[1]

After his PhD he took a temporary lectureship at the University of Dundee. He then moved to the University of Warwick, where he stayed until 1996, then moving to a Senior Lectureship at Dundee. He was awarded a personal chair in 2003, and became Head of Department in the same year, and later Dean in 2006.

In addition to his academic work, he is an author of a novel, Dirty old rascal (ISBN 9781445226224), a fantasy about a cook set in the strange Castle where no misdeed goes unpunished. Harley has published an article, Why the earth is almost flat: Imaging and the death of cognitive psychology. He has recently performed as a stand-up comic, performing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013.

Research Interests

Harley's current main research interest is in metacognition, this interest grew out of his research on ageing and his interest in consciousness.[2] More topics about his research on metacognition is covered in his forthcoming book, Cognition: The mindful brain - why we behave as we do.[3] Another of his research interest includes how we produce language, although he now studies this in the wider context of how we represent meaning, how language is affected by brain damage, and by normal and pathological ageing (e.g. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases). He also works on how we control our own cognition, and how this ability changes with age. Underlying all his research is a belief that the mind is a parallel, interactive computer, best studied by experimentation and computational modeling. As well as his interest in language and computational modeling, he was also interested in the research of ageing and metacognition.[1]

He is also interested in the weather, and maintains a site about severe weather events in Britain and the British weather in general available from,[4] calling this role as a "psychometeorologist". He also carries out psychological research about the weather, including why are people so interested in the weather? He maintains a weather station at Lundie near Dundee.

He wrote a famous article called Promises, Promises in which he argued that cognitive neuropsychologists have increasingly deviated from the original goals and methods of the subject.[5]

The Psychology of Language

One of Harley's most famous publications is the book The Psychology of Language. In this book, he discusses psycholinguistics, which is the study of relationships that exist between linguistic behaviour and psychological processes. Harley discusses both the low cognitive level processes, including speech and visual word recognition, and the high cognitive level processes that are involved in comprehension.[6] The text covers recent connectionist models of language, describing complex ideas in a clear and approachable manner. Following a strong developmental theme, the text describes how children acquire language (sometimes more than one), and also how they learn to read.[7]

Selected publications


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Trevor Harley". Trevor Harley. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  3. "Cognition: The mindful brain - why we behave as we do". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  4. "". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  5. Harley, Trevor A. (2004). "Promises, Promises". Cognitive Neuropsychology. 21 (1): 51–6. doi:10.1080/02643290342000212. PMID 21038190.
  6. Coscarelli, C. V. (1997). The psychology of language: From data to theory. Applied Psycholinguistics, 18(4), 539-546.
  7. "The Psychology of Language From Data to Theory By Trevor A. Harley. - published by Psychology Press". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
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