Interview with Prof. Daniel Simons

Daniel Simons is Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. His lab does research on visual cognition, attention, perception, memory, change blindness, metacognition and intuition. He is especially well known for his experiments on inattentional blindness, e.g. the famous invisible gorilla experiment.


What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher … I get the most enjoyment from analyzing new data to see what we found. That moment when you learn what you found continues to be rewarding no matter how many studies you’ve done. I also enjoy writing and editing. There are few aspects of the research process I don’t like, actually.

The biggest challenge in my career so far was … I’m not sure that there’s one single challenge I can point to. I’d say that the time of greatest anxiety was my first job search, not knowing whether I would get a job or where it would be. I guess the greatest personal challenge for me was getting used to rejection. Most academics go into academics because they have been successful as students and are used to getting positive feedback on their performance. Yet, once you start doing research, the accolades are rarer than rejections. All academics have papers, grants, and proposals rejected regularly, and succeeding in academics requires perseverance in the face of fairly constant rejection. There are plenty of positives, but getting used to rejection and not taking it personally was a big challenge.

One research project I will never forget is… I’ve had several experiences in conducting research that were unforgettable. I like conducting studies that involve actual interaction with participants, and it’s those interactions that are memorable. If I had to pick one study, it was a collaborative project with Daniel Levin in which we swapped one experimenter for another in the middle of an interaction and many people didn’t notice that they were talking with someone else. The study took extensive staging, including finding a place to hide the experimenters and a big wooden door behind some bushes. The first time I asked a participant if they had noticed anything unusual and realized that they had no idea that we had swapped actors was magical.

What I look for in a student who wants to work under my supervision … For undergraduates interested in working with me, I look for good performance in relevant classes, conscientiousness, and enthusiasm. Everything else can be learned. For graduate students, I look for students who are self-motivated and who come to my lab with their own ideas. I don’t want my graduate students to be clones of me, and I encourage them to develop an independent line of research early in graduate school.

Student research could be improved by … I think all students would benefit by trying to conduct a direct replication of a study that interests them before they start trying to develop their own studies. The experience of trying to replicate another study provides training with all aspects of the research process. It even helps students learn what information to include in a writeup of their own research (by seeing what information was missing from one they tried to replicate).

Academically, I most admire … If I had to pick one academic I admire most, I’d choose Ulric Neisser. Throughout his career, he conducted truly original research. But, more importantly, he was willing to challenge his own claims. He loved a good argument.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career … I had great advisors throughout my career, and I don’t feel like I missed out on any important advice. The only thing I wish I had done as an undergraduate or graduate student is to have devoted more time to becoming a better programmer. That would have opened up more possibilities for me, and it would have sped up the research process in some cases.

The largest changes in psychological science in the next 10 years will be … I think we’re on the cusp of a number of big changes in the field. I expect to see major changes in how science is communicated, including some big changes to the traditional journal outlets. I’m hoping that most journals will shift to online formats, with many of them becoming open access. I’m also hoping we’ll see pre-registered studies become more commonplace, with better data sharing practices by most researchers. So, I guess if I had to predict how the field will look in 10 years, I would expect to see much greater transparency and openness in both the research process and publication/dissemination of research.

Interview with Prof. Ralph Hertwig

Ralph Hertwig is director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He is well known for his interdisciplinary research on cognitive search, judgment, and decision making under risk and uncertainty. To this end, his lab uses a wide array of methods, ranging from experiments, surveys, and computer simulations to neuroscientific tools. 

Ralph Hertwig

What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher … What I most enjoy is the opportunity to team up with people from other fields or schools of thought and produce something I could never have come up with on my own. Continue reading

Interview with Prof. Steven Luck

Steven J. Luck is Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Center for Mind & Brain at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Luck is known for his research on the neural and cognitive mechanisms of attention and working memory in healthy young adults and dysfunctions of attention and working memory in psychiatric and neurological disorders. He is also a leading authority on ERP research and leads ERP Boot Camps.


What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher … What I enjoy most is designing experiments.  We can’t see or touch the human mind, so it is a great challenge to figure out creative ways of testing hypotheses about cognitive processes.   Continue reading

Interview with Prof. Daniel Gilbert

Daniel T. Gilbert is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is a social psychologist known for his research on affective forcasting, with a special emphasis on cognitive biases such as impact bias. He is the author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, which has been translated into more than 25 languages. He is also very well known for his TED talks, which were watched over 10 million times.


What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher … is working with my collaborators, who range from undergraduates to full professors. Spending your life exploring ideas is a pleasure, but spending your life exploring them with friends is a joy. Continue reading

Ethics – The Science of Morals, Rules and Behaviour


ethicsEthical boards are in place to evaluate the ethical feasibility of a study by weighing the possible negative effects against the possible positive effects of the research project (Barret, 2006). When designing your research project, it could be that you need to apply for ethical approval. This is a challenging task as there are strict guidelines to abide to when drawing up a proposal. This is where your supervisor can help – with their experience, they have a clear idea of what would be accepted for someone applying for ethical approval for an undergraduate or master study. There is a great importance to abiding by ethics, in research and in practice.The importance lies in the fact that care is taken for the participant, researcher and wider society. It creates a filter for good standard of research with as minimal harm being done as possible. Continue reading

”Writefull” Can Help Your Academic Writing!

Have you ever done a Google search to check if your writing is correct? Many of us do it all the time – especially when writing in our second language. The idea behind this approach is simple: The more results Google gives us (i.e. the more often our chunk is found on the Internet), the more ‘accepted’ it apparently is. For example, if we are not sure if the correct form is ‘looking forward to seeing you’ or ‘looking forward to see you’, Google will tell us it might be better to use the first (148,000,000 versus 15,800,000 results). This way, Google can serve as an incredibly useful tool to help us in our (academic) writing. Continue reading

Engaging in a Research Project with an International Team – Opportunities and Problems

ID-100160549Doing science is great, but doing it together with people you can learn from and who share your research interests – that’s fantastic! Add the cross-cultural dimension to the project and it grows even better! Why doesn’t everyone do that? Regrettably the projects involving collaborative work with other young scientists and/or students who love research can often be hard to begin and even tougher to maintain. Although undeniably rewarding, working in a traditional team already has a number of difficulties, while doing it with people who you can’t communicate with face-to-face adds a whole new pile of concerns. Let’s face it – even with a great concept writing a paper doesn’t always go smoothly and it can turn into tough, uninspiring work; keeping up with an international team and all the things that come with being part of one (things we often don’t even have to think of when working alone, such as communication problems, file storage, different ethics procedures than these in our academic institution, other people’s needs, skills and motivation, etc.) can quickly turn our initial enthusiasm into disillusionment.  Well, thanks to the advances in technology and some good old tips and ideas – it doesn’t have to be so bleak and discouraging! Read on for some useful strategies, ideas and tools to help start off your collaboration efforts, keep your team together, your productivity high and your experiences positive while conducting cross-cultural research with peers from abroad!  Continue reading

Why Would Researchers Skip Peer-Review? Media Reports of Unpublished Findings

‘You love your iPhone. Literally.’ ‘This is your brain on politics.’ ‘Overclock your brain using transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).’ There are many other claims in psychology which have been publicised by the media, yet remain unchecked by academic experts. Peer-reviewed publications – papers which have been checked by researchers of similar expertise to the authors – are produced very slowly and only occasionally make instant impacts outside the walls of academia. In contrast, media publications are produced very quickly and provoke immediate reactions from the general public. Continue reading

Twitter in The University: How Using Twitter Can Benefit Students and Early Career Researchers

Twitter is stereotypically portrayed as a website for following celebrities and posting mundane tidbits. Recently, I realized that Twitter could be used as an academic tool – to share and receive ideas and information in an educational context. Indeed, students and early career researchers should be capitalizing on Twitter to learn new information, connect with others, and share interesting thoughts. Continue reading

Applying for a PhD in the UK in 387 easy steps

ID-10071734You cannot get enough of all the research and had such a blast writing your bachelor or master thesis? You want to join the scientific side of things (although they don’t have many cookies), and pursue a PhD? You also want to enjoy cricket, tea and Kate Middleton? 

Continue reading