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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