Charles Fernyhough's Psychology Homepage

I am a part-time (0.5) Reader in the Department of Psychology, Durham University. This page has information on my research interests and collaborations. Full contact details can be found on my page on the Psychology Department website. You can view a full list of publications here.

For information on my fiction and non-fiction writing, journalism, etc., please visit my main homepage.

Please follow the separate link for information on my book on children's psychological development, The Baby In The Mirror (Granta, 2008)/A Thousand Days of Wonder (Avery, 2009). You can also follow the link to my blog on child development, The Ladybird Papers.

Private speech and the development of verbal self-regulation

In a series of studies my colleagues and I have been testing Vygotskian hypotheses about the development of verbal mediation of cognition and behaviour. In one study (Fernyhough & Russell, 1997), we found evidence that children's private speech plays a role in their establishment of themselves as thinking agents. Another study (Fernyhough & Fradley, 2005) tested hypotheses about the relations among self-regulatory private speech, task difficulty and task performance, adding to the body of research that suggests that private speech can enhance children's cognition. In a cross-cultural study conducted in Saudi Arabia and the UK (Al-Namlah et al., 2006), we examined links between children's self-regulatory private speech and their use of phonological recoding on short-term memory tasks, concluding that private speech may be involved in an across-the-board shift to verbal mediation in the early school years. With my colleagues Adam Winsler and Nacho Montero I have edited a book for CUP on the topic of private speech.

Dialogic thinking

I am interested in one specific implication of Vygotsky's ideas about private and inner speech: namely, that thinking has a dialogic quality. In my first publication in this area (Fernyhough, 1996), I set out some of the implications of a dialogic approach to the higher mental functions for the development of executive functioning and theory of mind. I have since developed these ideas in BBS commentaries on Carpendale and Lewis (2004) and Tomasello et al. (2005). A new full statement of this position appeared in Developmental Review. I have also applied these ideas to the study of auditory verbal hallucinations (Fernyhough, 2004; Jones & Fernyhough, 2007).

Mind-mindedness in children and adults

With my colleague Elizabeth Meins I have been studying individual differences in parental mind-mindedness and their implications for children's development. Our aim in developing this construct has been to rethink maternal sensitivity in line with Mary Ainsworth's original conception (Meins et al., 2001). We were the first group to establish a longitudinal connection between security of attachment in infancy and children's later mentalising abilities (Fernyhough et al., 1995; Meins et al., 1998). To date we have published findings from two separate longitudinal studies linking maternal mind-mindedness to children's mentalising development (Meins et al., 1998; Meins & Fernyhough, 1999; Meins et al., 2002; 2003). In both samples we have found that mind-mindedness accounts for the observed relation between attachment security and children's later theory of mind performance. We have also found that maternal mind-mindedness at 6 months predicts security of attachment at 12 months more strongly than typical measures of maternal sensitivity (Meins et al., 2001). Recently we have begun to study individual differences in mind-mindedness in children, finding that such differences are unrelated to children's mentalising abilities (Meins et al., 2006). Coupled with findings of temporal stability in mothers' mind-mindedness (Meins et al., 1998; 2003), this suggests that mind-mindedness is a trait-like measure of individuals' motivation to deploy their mentalising abilities, rather than a measure of those abilities themselves (Meins et al., 2006). I am involved in the ESRC-funded Tees Valley Baby Study, a longitudinal study based in Stockton-on-Tees, in which we are examining developmental relations among a range of variables including child and adult attachment behaviours, mind-mindedness, and internal working models.

Cognitive-developmental approaches to psychosis and other disorders

We have also been considering whether our understanding of disorders that are typically viewed in the context of adult psychopathology can be enhanced by a cognitive-developmental approach. In collaboration with colleagues in Bangor and Manchester, I have been developing theoretical developmental models of specific symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations (e.g., Bentall et al., 2007). My main collaborator in this respect is Richard Bentall. A theoretical statement on this topic recently appeared in Schizophrenia Bulletin. With my graduate student Simon Jones I have been investigating cognitive correlates of hallucination-like experiences in clinical and non-clinical samples. In studies conducted in collaboration with colleagues from MACCS (Sydney, Australia), we have been investigating similar experiences in schoolage children (Fernyhough et al., 2007), as well as assessing typical inner speech in patients with schizophrenia. I am involved in a consortium of researchers studying predictors of depression in the ALSPAC sample.