Ivett Interviews : Clare Allely

1. How did you get into Psychology?

I have always been interested in why people do things and disorders such as autism so psychology seemed the most appropriate degree to study!

2. Who is your favourite Psychologist and why?

One of my favourite psychologists is Professor John Read based at the University of Liverpool. Professor Read’s research shows that genes are not the main cause of schizophrenia and that drugs should not be the automatic treatment of choice. In fact, he shows that some two-thirds of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have suffered physical or sexual abuse which is, if not the major, then a major cause of the illness.

Here is a link to Professor Read’s research publications.

3. What psychological concept/topic/issue are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about developmental psychology and forensic psychology and bringing these two specialist fields of research together. Currently there are enormous gaps in our understanding of the actual mechanisms underlying the development of a serial killer or mass murderer and this is what I am currently investigating.

4. What makes Psychology Department at Salford unique?

What definitely makes the Psychology Department at Salford unique is how is combines technology and media into psychology. The department really encourages the application of the theory to real-world settings.

5. If you could work anywhere, which University would you pick and why?

If I had to work in a place other than Salford University, I would have to say Harvard University. The field of Psychology first emerged at Harvard in the late 1800’s under the scholarship of William James, and ever since then Harvard has been at the forefront of the field. So many of the most prominent psychologists have worked in the psychology department at Harvard over the years including: B.F. Skinner, Gordon Allport, Jerome Bruner, George Miller and Henry Murray.

6. What was the most fascinating research/project you were involved in/conducted?

The most fascinating project I was involved in was one which investigated the neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers. The work was published in the Journal of Aggression and Violent Behavior and since its publication I was invited to become a member of a team of serial murder experts who participate in the Multidisciplinary Collaborative on Sexual Crime and Violence. One product of the collaboration is the Serial Killer Database Project, a catalogue of serial murderers who fit the FBI definition. It really is amazing where research can lead and the connections and collaborations which can result!

7. What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a really interesting empirical project with colleagues from the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre including Professor

David Cooke; Dr Sebastian Lundström; Dr Eva Billstedt and Professor Christopher Gillberg looking at the rate of psychopathy traits and neurodevelopmental disorders in an adult prison population and an adolescent population. The data is derived from Swedish data records.

I am also working on a number of book chapters in a variety of areas including one for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development which is looking at damage resulting from perinatal complications and childhood accidents. Another explores the neurobiology of single and multiple homicide and brain injury for The Wiley Handbook of Forensic Neuroscience.

8. If you could choose another Profession, what would it be?

It would probably be a Forensic Psychologist. I just completed my masters in forensic psychology earlier this year but realised I loved research and teaching too much!

9. Do you have a favourite quote?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Albert Einstein).

10. Facebook or Twitter?

Currently Facebook but I just got a Twitter account this summer so I suspect that might change.

11. Which book is a must have for Psychology students?

I would have to recommend three.

For the statistics part of the psychology programme, while other SPSS books are recommended, I have personally found ‘SPSS for

Psychologists’ written by Nicola Brace, Rosemary Snelgar and Richard Kemp to be particularly helpful and an absolute must have:

Another book I would recommend is ‘Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind’ by Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran. I read this myself while a first year student and found it fascinating! It is now available as an audio download: ….or you can watch him online giving a TED talk:

A book I would recommend based on my own area of research is one called ‘The Autisms’ written by Mary Coleman and Christopher Gillberg. It explores autism from a number of different fields including neuropsychology; neuroanatomy and genetics.

12. What advice would you give to SalfordPsych students?

Don’t leave things to the last minute! Start well in advance. This allows you time to reflect on what you have read and written. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice.

It is a good idea to build up work experience as soon as you can. In most cases you will have to gain experience on a voluntary basis before you can apply for a paid position. Consider what type of people you want to work with, whether it be with young offenders or individuals with depression and/or anxiety and contact relevant local organisations and charities. When I was an undergraduate student I was a volunteer for Headway which is an organisation for individuals with acquired brain injury. I found the experience invaluable.

13. What do you hope for Psychology in the future?

More psychology in the courtroom!

Professor Penny Cooper (Kingston Law School, Kingston University London) has invited me to collaborate with her as a ‘research expert’ for The Advocate’s Gateway ( in order to raise awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders amongst legal practitioners. The field of developmental forensic psychology, in particular, is an area that really deserves more research attention and one of my main aims is to increase understanding of the importance of focusing on this area (primarily due to the importance of developing early identification and early preventative measures).


If you would like to know more about Clare Alley, please check her Profile out on the Hub. You can also find Clare on Twitter @ClareAllely .