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Professor Geoff Beattie

Psychology Professor


A headshot of Professor Geoffrey Beattie

Department: Psychology

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Geoff Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University and Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) and Wolfson College, University of Oxford. He got a First In Psychology from the University of Birmingham and a PhD from the University of Cambridge (Trinity College).

His research focusses on the role of implicit processes in decision-making and behaviour: particularly the role of nonverbal behaviour in multimodal communication; implicit cognition in decision-making relevant to climate change, to help inform international policy and practice; and implicit cognition in discrimination, to help promote equality and diversity.

Beattie has published over 120 academic articles in journals such as Nature, Nature Climate Change, Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Semiotica. He was awarded the Spearman Medal by the British Psychological Society (BPS) for ‘published psychological research of outstanding merit’ and the Mouton d’Or for his work in semiotics. He was elected Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is also a Chartered Psychologist and a Chartered Scientist. His research has been funded from a range of sources, including research councils (ESRC; British Academy), the EU FP7, charities (Leverhulme Trust; Nuffield Foundation; Equality Challenge Unit) and from commercial sources like Tesco and Unilever.

He has also published twenty-six books on a range of topics (including two semi-autobiographical novels ‘The Corner Boys‘, Victor Gollancz, 1998, and ‘The Body’s Little Secrets’, Gibson Square, 2018). Two of his non-fiction books, ‘On the Ropes’ and ‘The Shadows of Boxing’, both about the lives of boxers in Sheffield and their extraordinary coach Brendan Ingle have been optioned for a movie by a Hollywood studio, AGC. The film is to be called ‘Giant’ – the Director is Rowan Athale, the Executive Producer Sylvester Stallone. The leading actors are Paddy Considine to play Brendan and Mena Massoud to play his protege Naseem Hamed. Beattie will be Consulting Producer. The announcement of the film appeared in Variety, Empire, Screendaily, IMDb etc.

A number of his books have either won or been shortlisted for major national or international prizes. ‘Talk: An Analysis of Speech and Nonverbal Behaviour in Conversation’(Open University Press) detailed the research that was awarded the Spearman Medal by the British Psychological Society. ‘We Are the People: Journeys Through the Heart of Protestant Ulster’ (Heinemann) and ‘The Corner Boys’ (Victor Gollancz) were both short-listed for the Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize. ‘On the Ropes: Boxing as a Way of Life’ (Victor Gollancz) was short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. ‘Trophy Hunting: A Psychological Perspective’ (Routledge) was shortlisted for the Taylor & Francis Outstanding Book and Digital Product Award. His books have been translated into Chinese, Taiwanese, Portuguese (for Brazil), Italian, Finnish, German etc.

As well as books on psychology, he has published several books of reportage, and a memoir (‘Protestant Boy’, Granta) – he grew up in a mill house at ‘the turn of the road’ in North Belfast and was the first in a generation from his primary school to pass the Eleven Plus. He attended Belfast Royal Academy and did his PhD at Cambridge. The memoir is about his Protestant working-class background and his move away from the turn-of-the-road gang. ‘Selfless: A Psychologist’s Journey through Identity and Social Class‘ (Routledge, 2021) also explores the discomfort of social class and education in more detail.

His most recent book is on the psychology of doubt explored through life histories. It considers self-doubt and the impostor syndrome as well as the weaponisation of doubt with respect to climate change and the marketing of cigarettes. He explores through an analysis of letters, diaries, conversations, autobiographies etc. how doubt develops and how the likes of Kafka, Jung, Picasso and Turing succumbed to doubt, or eventually learned to control it. He argues that doubt is central to the self; it can be either a safeguarding mechanism or a distraction, rational or irrational, systematic or random, healthy or pathological, productive or non-productive, but always critically important.

At Oxford, he is working on a new book on lies, lying and liars. His initial research has been focussing on historical and political autobiographies and biographies, philosophical texts and the core psychological literature, including sociobiological perspectives. He has background research material on individuals who live their lives though lies – conmen, ‘ten-bob’ millionaires, undercover police, cheats and adulterers. He is interested in the psychology of the liar, strategies of deceit, remorse or lack of it, emotion and rationalisations, pathological liars, the development of lying, lying and narcissism, functional and effective lies, big lies like those of Putin and how these are maintained, the consequences of lying, lie detection. There will be an element of personal reflection throughout the book. ‘I remember the first time my mother lied to me’ is the book’s opening sentence, moving then onto research in psychology on lies in everyday life, and why psychology has drawn the wrong conclusions from this research. His underlying assumption is that lying can only properly be understood in the context of individual lives, including his own. 

He is a keen athlete, and has written a number of books on the psychology of sport, principally boxing and running, with one book based on his radio series on the psychology of sport on BBC Radio 5-live, with interviews with leading sportsmen and managers including Alex Ferguson, Naseem Hamed, Kelly Holmes, Chris Boardman etc. In 2015, he was invited to write an introduction to W.T. Gallwey’s classic and multi-million selling book ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’. He discussed how Gallwey’s ideas resonated with (and predated) some of the most influential ideas in contemporary cognitive psychology on systems of thinking and human performance.


Multimodal communication:

His research on multimodal communication offers a major reconceptualisation of human communication, by focussing on the close connections between gestures, speech and thinking in linguistic generation (‘Visible Thought’, Routledge, 2003; ‘Rethinking Body Language’, Routledge, 2016), following the pioneering work of David McNeill from the University of Chicago.

The research shows that both verbal and nonverbal elements are critical to everyday semantic communication and that spontaneous iconic gestures reflect unarticulated aspects of thinking. This has major implications for how we must think about speech and human communication. He has researched how listeners decode iconic gestures and how, and why, certain gestures attract the gaze fixations of listeners and the implications of this for communicative effectiveness. He has investigated the possible applications of this theoretical perspective for deception, where gesture-speech mismatches may occur, along with structural changes in the phases of gestures. He has considered the implications of this close connection between speech and bodily movement for the organisation of conversations themselves and particularly for turn-taking in conversation. He has also explored the practical implications of this theoretical approach for the design of effective communication, and worked closely with ITV in the design of television commercials to test these ideas (outlined in ‘Rethinking Body Language’, 2016).

This research on multimodal communication has won a number of major national and international prizes including the Spearman Medal awarded by the BPS and the internationally acclaimed Mouton d’Or for research on the effects of deception on gesture production. His book with Andy Ellis ‘The Psychology of Language and Communication’ was republished in 2017 in the Psychology Press and Routledge Classic Editions series for ‘timeless classics in psychology’.  Rethinking Body Language’ was published in Mainland China by Post & Telecom Press in 2019 .

Climate change:

The work on climate change focusses primarily on the psychological barriers to climate change mitigation and the ‘value-action’ gap, this work is outlined in his books ‘Why Aren’t We Saving the Planet: A Psychologist’s Perspective’ (Routledge, 2010), ‘The Psychology of Climate Change’ (Routledge, 2018) and papers in various journals, including Nature Climate Change.

His research on climate change has reached major international audiences, and he has been invited to work with the U.N. in a number of capacities. He is a member of the International Panel on Behavior Change, which meets at UNESCO in Paris, and presented his research (with Laura McGuire) on why we need to target implicit, automatic associations in the fight against climate change at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. He also wrote a chapter for the United Nations International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice Report along with 40 other authors, both academics and practitioners, from across the globe. He has worked with the British Academy on this topic, as well as receiving research funding from them. He presented his research on optimism bias and climate change at the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018, and at a British Academy event on climate change at the Latitude Festival in 2019.

He has served as an external consultant to Unilever’s Leadership Vanguard (LV) with Paul Polman, then CEO of Unilever, and others. LV is a major global initiative that seeks to identify, support and mobilise future-fit leaders – all in the interest of reinventing growth. Inspired by CEOs such as Polman and Ajay Banga, and instigated by Xyntéo and DNV GL, the Vanguard partnership includes Unilever, MasterCard, Woodside, Singapore’s Economic Development Board, Ericsson, Energias de Portugal and the International Committee of the Red Cross. This organisation helps shape the sustainability policy of Unilever and other leading multinationals.

He is a counselor on the Executive Board of the International Interdisciplinary Environmental Association and a member of the International Advisory Board of the Japanese research organisation and think-tank ‘The International Academic Forum’. He has given a large number of international keynotes on this work, including a keynote at the National Geographic Science Festival in Rome in April 2020 on ‘optimism bias and climate change’. The Chinese translation of ‘The Psychology of Climate Change’ was published by the Shanghai Education Publishing House.

 Implicit racial bias:

He has also investigated the ‘value-action’ gap in other domains, including implicit racial bias and its implications for employment. He has explored how unconscious prejudice can operate in everyday life and how it can impact on the selection of candidates for various employment opportunities. This research suggests that if we really do want to do anything about racism in society, then we need to understand these implicit, unconscious processes and how to combat them. This work has been discussed in both ‘Our Racist Heart: An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life’ (Routledge, 2013) and ‘The Conflicted Mind’ (Routledge, 2018). ‘Our Racist Heart’  was ‘highly recommended’ in the American Psychological Association’s review journal Choice and selected as one of the editor’s highlights. He has given a number of keynote addresses on this theme at a variety of applied conferences, including the Annual Conference of the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Asian Fire Service Association National Conference, the Equality Challenge Unit Biennial Conference, the Respect Difference Conference, Police Service of Northern Ireland etc. ‘The Conflicted Mind’ was published in China by China Renmin University Press.


Books include:

Beattie, G. (2022) Doubt: A Psychological Exploration. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2020) Selfless: A Psychologist’s Journey through Identity and Social Class. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2019). Trophy Hunting: A Psychological Perspective. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. & McGuire, L. (2019). The Psychology of Climate Change. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2018). The Body’s Little Secrets. Gibson Square: London.

Beattie, G. (2018). The Conflicted Mind. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. & Ellis, A. (2017). The Psychology of Language and Communication. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2016). Rethinking Body Language. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2013). Our Racist Heart? Routledge: London.

Beattie, G and Beattie, B. (2012). Chasing Lost Times. A Father and Son Reconciled Through Running. Mainstream/Penguin: London.

Beattie, G. (2011). Get The Edge: How Simple Changes Will Transform Your Life. London: Headline: London.

Beattie, G. (2010). Why Aren’t We Saving The Planet? Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2004). Protestant Boy. Granta: London.

Beattie, G. (2003). Visible Thought. Routledge: London.

Beattie, G. (2002). The Shadows of Boxing. Orion: London.

Beattie, G. (1998). Head-to-Head: Uncovering the Psychology of Sporting Success. Victor Gollancz: London.

Beattie, G. (1998). Hard Lines. Manchester University Press: Manchester.

Beattie, G. (1998). The Corner Boys. Victor Gollancz: London.

Beattie, G. (1996). On the Ropes: Boxing as a Way of Life. Gollancz: London.

Beattie, G. (1992). We Are the People. Heinemann: London.

Beattie, G. (1990). England After Dark. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London.

Beattie, G. (1989) All Talk. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London.

Beattie, G. (1987). Making It. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London.

Beattie, G. (1986). Survivors of Steel City. Chatto & Windus: London.

Ellis, A. & Beattie, G. (1986). The Psychology of Language and Communication. Psychology Press: London.

Beattie, G. (1983) Talk. Open University Press: Milton Keynes.


Knowledge transfer:

He has always been keen to show the relevance of psychology to society in general and is an ex-President of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He is well known for bringing analyses of behaviour, and particularly nonverbal communication, to a more general audience by appearing as the on-screen psychologist on eleven series of Big Brother on Channel 4 in the U.K. and for explaining how psychology can be used by people in their everyday lives, for example, in the international bestseller ‘Get the Edge: How Simple Changes Will Transform Your Life’ (Headline).

He has given numerous keynote addresses to both academic and non-academic audiences including Unilever, P&G, ITV, HSBC, Tesco, Marketing Forum, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Annual Conference of High and Supreme Court Judges in Ireland, the Marketing Society, the Equality Challenge Unit, Malaysian Olympic Association, British Council, Samaritans and the Central Office of Information, public lectures at Gresham College, the International Psychology Conference in Dubai, the Psychology Teacher National Conference, the European Conference on Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences, Techkriti (the Annual Technical and Entrepreneurial Festival) Kanpur, India, both Houses of Parliament through the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum, the Star lecture at the University of Manchester etc.

He has also spoken at various music and book festivals including ‘The Secret Garden Party’, ‘Shambala’, Latitude, and the Edinburgh, Munich and Cheltenham Book Festivals and written extensively for The Guardian, The Observer, The Observer Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, the Independent on Sunday, The i, The New Statesman and The Conversation, as well as contributing to Granta magazine, over a number of years. He has published six books based on these collected journalistic pieces – ‘Survivors of Steel City’, Chatto & Windus, ‘Making It’,’ All Talk’, ‘England After Dark’ (all Weidenfeld & Nicolson),Hard Lines’ (Manchester University Press) and ‘We Are the People: Journeys Through the Heart of Protestant Ulster (Heinemann).

Some recent talks:

  1. He was invited to speak on the psychology of trophy hunting in the Houses of Parliament on 23rd November 2022 in advance of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill which had its second reading in the Commons. The event was organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Banning Trophy Hunting chaired by Sir Roger Gale MP (Con) with Co-Chair Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab). Other speakers included Ranulph Fiennes and Henry Smith MP who was introducing the bill. The Bill passed its second reading.
  2. UNAM, Mexico. He was a member of a ‘Climate Change Expert Panel’ alongside various members of the IPCC, hosted by the International Interdisciplinary Environmental Association and the Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad-IE at UNAM in Mexico, the largest university in Latin America.
  3. Beattie, G. (2019)The connection between iconic gesture and speech. Keynote at the launch of the new International Multimodal Communication Centre at Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA), University of Oxford, October 2019
  4. Beattie, G. (2019) How to avert a climate catastrophe, with Professors McGlade (Chair) Pope and Short, Museum of London, on behalf of Gresham College.
  5. Beattie, G. (2018) Revealing the secrets of body language. Funzing Talks, London.
  6. Beattie, G. (2018) How spontaneous gestures connect to thinking. Museum of London, on behalf of Gresham College.
  7. Beattie, G. (2017) The psychology of celebrity. Guerilla Science: Secret Garden Party Debate, funded by the Wellcome Trust, Huntingdon, Cambridge.
  8. Beattie, G. (2017) Rethinking body language: How hand movements reveal hidden thoughts. Psychology Teacher National Conference, London.
  9. Beattie, G. (2017) Hidden Thoughts: Do Your Hand Movements Reveal More About You Than You Think. European Conference on Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences, IAFOR, Brighton.


Presenter, Family SOS (BBC1). Two series.

Co-presenter, Life’s Too Short (BBC1).

Presenter, Dump Your Mates in Four Days (Channel 4).

Co-presenter, The Farm of Fussy Eaters (UKTV).

Presenter, The Body Politic (the body language of politicians, a slot on the ITV News during a General Election).

He was the on-screen psychologist on all 11 series of Big Brother on Channel 4.

He has also appeared as an expert commentator and analyst on BBC News, Euro News, ITV News, CNN, Sky News, BBC News 24, BBC World Service, News Asia, Russia Today, GMTV, Channel 4 News, Channel 5 News, BBC Breakfast, Good Morning America, Tonight with Trevor McDonald etc. and carried out media work (television, radio and press) on behalf of a wide range of organisations including ITV, Universal Pictures, DWP, NHS, Disney, Warner Brothers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office etc.


He has presented several radio series, including Head-to-Head on Radio 5 Live. This involved interviewing famous sports people and managers (including Alex Ferguson), all the interviews with a strong psychological slant. He was writer and presenter of The Ceasefire Generation, Radio 4, Documentary of the Week, Radio 4. His other radio interviews include the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour, Science Now, All in the Mind, Word of Mouth, Freewheeling and Midweek (all Radio 4), Nightwaves (Radio 3), Parkinson on Sunday (Radio 2), BBC World Service ‘World of Books’ programme, ‘This Week’ (RTE), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and numerous local radio stations.