In the news: Richard Wiseman

December 8, 2000

Richard Wiseman, reader in the public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is on a mission to promote scepticism. His mammoth telepathy experiment in London yesterday, which involved asking 1,000 people to try to transmit an image projected onto a building into the minds of volunteers in a sealed room, is the latest in a series of well-publicised investigations into paranormal phenomena, psychics and superstition.

In the past, he has tested for the ghost of Catherine Howard at Hampton Court, and debunked fire-walking and psychic pets. His analysis of scientific investigations into telepathy concluded that there was nothing that could not be explained by coincidence.

Dr Wiseman started his working life as a magician and one of the youngest members of the Magic Circle. He then studied psychology at University College London - an understanding of psychology, he argues, is an essential tool for magicians - and graduated with first-class honours. After a doctorate at Edinburgh University, he was awarded a five-year Perrott Warrick Fellowship to research psychological phenomena and communicate the results to the public.

Dr Wiseman's research has featured on more than 200 television and radio programmes. He has appeared regularly on Tomorrow's World and was the resident psychologist on Angus Deayton's Lying Game .

He has accused the media of bias in favour of psychic phenomena, but insists that he keeps an open mind about the paranormal. All he wants to do is encourage scepticism. His work has included: analysing liars, bank statements and the reliability of memory; working out that Eurovision Song Contest songs listed number 13 in the final do worse than those at 12 and 14; and discovering that ugly criminals are more likely to be found guilty.

He also found that people who have been through higher education make better liars.

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