Writer on psychology, behaviour and wilderness
I have been writing, editing and consulting on science and development for 20 years, particularly in the fields of psychology and behaviour. For six years I was senior editor at New Scientist and am still a consultant there.
My latest project is Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way (Picador, March 2020), a book about the psychology of getting lost, how our brains make cognitive maps that tell us where we are (and, to some extent, who we are), and why some people are so much better at navigating than others. In North America this is published as From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Way (Harvard University Press, May 2020).
I specialise in social behaviour in a whole range of environments, from terrorist groups and explorer teams to communities and organisations. For several years I reported on suicide terrorism and conflict in the Middle East. You can find my articles in New Scientist, Nature, BBC Future, Huffington Post, Slate, Prospect, The Observer, The Times, The FT, The New York Times and elsewhere.
My two previous books are The Power of Others: Peer Pressure, Groupthink, and How the People Around Us Shape Everything We Do (Oneworld, 2014), which won the British Psychological Society 2015 book of the year award; and Way Out West (McClelland & Stewart, 2001), a travel biography about the settling of the Canadian prairies. I also work as an editor and consultant for businesses and agencies in the science and development sectors and am a founder member of the social problem-solving collective Common (details below).
Related to my interest in psychology, I founded a web start-up called 21Pictures which applies some of the principles of social psychology to online dating.
In addition to writing books, I work as an editor and consultant to various organisations in the science, development, policy, business and education sectors. I help them research issues in psychology and human behaviour or write or edit their reports and presentations.
Clients include the UN Environment Programme's Crisis Management Branch, the UK's Royal Society, the governments of Egypt, Qatar and the UAE, Weber Shandwick, Marks and Spencer, Brown and Hudson, 2CV (working with Transport for London), the architectural practice KKS, the Crowley Institute, LEAD International and the International Institute for Environment and Development.
I also work as a writer with the problem-solving collective Common, which was set up in 2018 to find solutions to complex social issues using skills in behavioural science, psychology, service design, statistics, market strategy, programming and communications.
21Pictures was one of my projects – a new kind of dating site based on insights from psychology. It was featured in the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard magazine and won recognition as a finalist in the UK Dating Awards in 2015.
21Pictures was designed to get people to make dating decisions intuitively, the way we do in the real world. You describe yourself using (up to 21) pictures of your life, and find people you like by looking at theirs. It’s like Instagram for dating. We also steer you towards others who share your values. We reckon it represents behavioural science’s best shot at finding someone compatible. We've had at least one marriage!
The site is currently dormant but you can see what it looks like and learn more about the thinking behind the project on our super-informative 21Pictures blog.