About Me

Early life

I was born in Enfield, North London and my family later moved to St Austell, Cornwall – which I always regard as “home”. The picture below is of Charlestown – St Austell’s port. Back in the 1960s large ships used to use the port for the export of china clay. It was amazing watching them squeezing into the harbour at high tide by bouncing off the stone wall on the right of the picture. However now it’s all tourism and Poldark.

Exeter

I went to Exeter University, initially studying Chemistry. However after reading Hans Eysenck’s books “Sense and Nonsense in Psychology” and “Fact and Fiction in Psychology” I was hooked on psychology – particularly the idea of applying the methods of physics to understanding human behaviour. What I did not know when I changed course was that the Exeter Psychology department then had a leading expert in this field. Exeter was then a small, friendly university, where Paul Kline and Ian Gordon were great influences, role models and (later) friends; in those days there were only 30 students in each year, and so staff got to know students as individuals. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

As an undergraduate I was pleasantly surprised to find that theories tended to be built on hard data, rather than unsystematic observations. I became increasingly interested in individual differences – the study of the basic processes which led people to develop in different ways. After graduating I worked for the Ministry of Defence as a psychologist, but realised that the longer I stayed there, the focus would switch from psychology to management – and I did not want that. I therefore returned to Exeter to study for a PhD, and stayed on as a research fellow for three more years. Whilst my work was tremendously enjoyable, exploring the Devon countryside was a dream.

Seeing otters playing on the river bank near the tent, or coming face to face with a stag in the early morning mist (I don’t know who was the more surprised) are memories which endure.

Coleraine

University lectureships were scarce in the mid-1980s (thanks to Mrs T) so I was fortunate to be appointed to one at Coleraine, Northern Ireland. It was another small, friendly department in a beautiful (albeit remote) part of the country.

And because of “the troubles” hardly anyone went there. How things have changed! Though still cannot quite fathom the university’s logic of building a tower-block in the middle of a peat bog. (The results were quite predictable, and say something about the quality of the administrators, not bone fide academics, who ran the place.)

Belfast

Six years later I moved to Queen’s University, Belfast where I remained for 20 years, researching and teaching individual differences and psychometrics. It was a much larger department in a good university which joined the Russell Group. In its early days it was a far more traditional university – run by genuine academics, who were not pressured into treating education like a business, or to do things differently for the sake of doing so. However I never quite understood why, in later years, the value of research seemed to be measured by the amount of money required to do it rather than the quality of outputs which it generated. Surely sound, cheap, efficient research is preferable to obtaining huge grants which produce little of value? Apparently not.

Canada

In 2012 I took early retirement, and emigrated to Canada. We first lived in Picton (Ontario) mainly because it was close to the beaches and dunes at Sandbanks.

Sandbanks in summer

The 50-or-so nearby wineries were also an attraction!

(Canada has hot summers; it isn’t always -20). But then the area became busy with visitors from Toronto, and it became impossible to get to the beach in summer, so we moved to London (Ontario) which offers quite a lot more culture. Or at least it did, before Covid-19 happened.

Television

Test the Nation” was fun, and (hopefully) taught the millions of participants something about intelligence, and something about themselves. In 2002 I was contacted out of the blue by a TV production company who had bought the rights to produce a programme delivering a validated IQ test over the TV and internet. The only problem is that it had to be broadcast (live) in 12 weeks – and they had no test. I developed one, had it administered it alongside a standard IQ test to random samples of the population in various regions of the UK, and enjoyed 90 minutes appearance on live TV. It was so popular that we repeated it three more times.

Here’s a reminder of what it was all about.

Test the Nation IQ test clips

But now I’m taking life easier – relaxing with Wes and our two cats (Lucky & PussPuss), drinking (and making) wine, taking walks down the trails at the end of the road, editing, writing… and learning WordPress!