Aidan Feeney


  • Room 03.507 - David Keir Building

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Thinking and reasoning and their development Beliefs about social categories The psychology of debt and indebtedness


Research output per year

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Personal profile


I finished my first degree at Trinity College Dublin in 1992, and after a year spent in France, went to the Centre for Thinking and Language at the University of Plymouth where I was awarded a PhD in 1997. In 1998 I moved to the University of Durham where I was first a lecturer, and then from 2005, a senior lecturer. I came to Queen’s in February 2009.

Research Interests

I am interested in the role of thinking, sometimes referred to as high-level cognition, in everyday life. I have studied how we generalise on the basis of specific evidence, and how we reason deductively. I also have strong interests in judgement and decision making, including how we think about how things might have been different had we decided differently. Such alternative outcomes are known as counterfactual alternatives. Considering counterfactual alternatives is related to the experience of emotions such as regret and relief. With Professor Teresa McCormack (Queen's) and Dr Sarah Beck (Birmingham), I have recently completed an ESRC-funded project which examined the relationship between regret and decision making in children. Withe Professor Christoph Hoerl (Warwick) we have just begun a project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, on the nature and function of relief. The researchers on the project are Dr Agnieszka Jaroslawska and Matthew Johnston, who is working on a PhD.

I am also interested in the role played by essentialist beliefs about social categories in how we think about other people. Essentialism is the belief that all members of a category share a common but hidden essence which explains their visible similarities. Essentialism is said to be a bad philosophical theory but a good psychological theory of people's beliefs about category membership. With Professor John Coley (Northeastern) I have been studying the role played by education and culture in determining which social categories are essentialised.

More recently I have developed interests in the role played by advice in decision making. In particular, I am interested in people's decisions about whether to adhere to advice. With Dr Nicole Andelic, who is a current NINE Doctoral Training Partnership Postdoctoral Fellow, I have studied the role played by advice in the decisions made by people with problem debts about availing of formal debt solutions. Our business collaborator in this work is Aperture IVA, the second largest provider of formal debt solutions in the United Kingdom. One of our current questions concerns the role played by future thinking in adherence to formal debt advice. In a parallel project, with Robyn McCue (a PhD student in the School of Psychology) and Professor Jame McElnay (Pharmacy, QUB), Teresa McCormack and I are examining the role played by future thinking in decisions made by chronically ill adolescents about adhering to their medication.



I am the Director of Education for postgraduate taught courses in the School of Psychology. In addition, I convene two final year modules, PSY3114 Psychology Thesis and PSY3118 Using Nudges to Change Behaviour. I also contribute to introductory modules at Level 1.

Whilst I was Director of Education for undergraduate degrees in the School, I led on setting up PSY3100 Psychologists at Work: Insights into Graduate Employment, which allows our final year students to spend time on placement as part of their undergraduate degree. 

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Research Output

The development of essentialist, ethnic and civic intuitions about national categories

Feeney, A., Dautel, J., Phillips, K., Leffers, J. & Coley, J., 01 Mar 2020, (Accepted) Advances in Child Development and Behavior. Rhodes, M. (ed.). Cambridge MA: Elsevier, Vol. 59.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • Evidence for communicative compensation in debt advice with reduced multimodality

    Andelic, N., Feeney, A. & McKeown, G., 14 Oct 2019, ICMI '19 2019 International Conference on Multimodal Interaction. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), p. 210-219

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    Open Access
  • 58 Downloads (Pure)

    Experiencing Regret About a Choice Helps Children Learn to Delay Gratification

    McCormack, T., O'Connor, E., Cherry, J., Beck, S. R. & Feeney, A., Mar 2019, In : Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 179, p. 162-175 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Managing a moral identity in debt advice conversations

    Andelic, N., Stevenson, C. & Feeney, A., 01 Jul 2019, In : British Journal of Social Psychology. 58, 3, p. 630-648 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 2 Citations (Scopus)
    145 Downloads (Pure)

    Regret and Decision Making: A Developmental Perspective

    McCormack, T., Feeney, A. & Beck, S., 17 Dec 2019, (Accepted) In : Current Directions in Psychological Science.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Activities

    Time and Counterfactuals - Sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust

    Agnieszka Jaroslawska (Organiser), Teresa McCormack (Organiser), Aidan Feeney (Organiser)
    Sep 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Phew! Well that’s a relief for you – understanding relief in others

    Matthew Johnston (Speaker), Teresa McCormack (Contributor), Aidan Feeney (Contributor), Agnieszka Jaroslawska (Contributor), Christoph Hoerl (Contributor), Sarah Beck (Contributor)
    05 Sep 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

    It could have been worse - validating a distinction between counterfactual and temporal instances of relief.

    Agnieszka Jaroslawska (Presenter), Teresa McCormack (Contributor), Aidan Feeney (Contributor)
    Sep 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


    Future Thinking and Medicine Adherence: A Study of Typically Developing and Chronically Ill Adolescents

    Author: McCue, R., Jul 2020

    Supervisor: McCormack, T. (Supervisor), Feeney, A. (Supervisor) & McElnay, J. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy