Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Holly Branigan

Personal Chair in Psychology of Language and Cognition

Phone: 0131 651 3187

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh

Research Interests

My main research interests are in the psychology of communication, and the relationship between linguistic and psychological theories of syntax. As such, my research cuts across disciplinary boundaries, and is of relevance to researchers in theoretical and computational linguistics and computer science, as well as to researchers in psychology.

My primary area of research is language production, with particular emphasis on syntactic processing in both monologue and dialogue. Most of this work has been concerned with normal adult processing, but in recent years I have extended my work to a range of topics including bilingualism, the development of language and communication skills in young children, and language processing in dyslexic adults. Additionally, I conduct experimental work into human-computer interaction, with a particular focus on the extent to which linguistic behaviour is affected by characteristics of the intended addressee (e.g., native or non-native human, basic or advanced computer). The research involves a wide range of experimental methods (including picture description, sentence completion, dialogue games, and corpus analysis) and analytical techniques. I have also developed new experimental techniques, such as the use of confederate scripting to study dialogue in adults and children, some of which have now been widely adopted by other research groups worldwide.


How do people represent the grammar of their first language or a second language, and how do they choose between alternative syntactic structures? I'm also interested in dialogue, including human-computer interaction, and how factors such as speakers' personality traits and their beliefs about their listeners affect their behaviour. More recently, I've begun to work on language processing in children: do children represent and process language, particularly syntax, in the same way as adults? Another line of research investigates dyslexia, and the factors that underpin fluent reading. I am always happy to hear from prospective PhD students who would be interested in working on any of these (or related) topics.

Research Groups


University of York
B.A. Language & Linguistics, First Class Honours

Université de Lille III
Diplôme d’Etudes Françaises, Mention Bien

University of Edinburgh
MSc. Cognitive Science & Natural Language, Distinction

University of Edinburgh
Ph.D. Cognitive Science


2001-present Language Production course (MSc in Psychology of Language, 2001-2008)
Dialogue course (MSc in Psychology of Language, 2008-present)
Psycholinguistics of Language Production course (4th Year Honours).
Lectures on Introduction to Research Preparation and Presentation for Psycholinguistics (MSc in Psychology of Language, 2001-2010) and Professional and Generic Skills (MSc Programmes in Psychology) courses

MSc dissertation supervision
3rd and 4th Year Undergraduate project, literature review and dissertation supervision
4th Year tutorials -School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh 

Administrative Roles

Deputy Head of School [2016- ]

Member of School Management Committee [2016-]

Member of Senate [2011-]

Personal Tutor [2004 - ]

Member of Psychology Ethics committee [2007 - ]

Chair, Language, Cognition and Communication PhD progression committee [2006 - ]
Course organiser, 4th year Psycholinguistics of Language Production course [2004 - ]
Deputy Programme Director, MSc in Psycholinguistics [2004-2008]
Member of committee for developing Mind and Language degree [2004-2005]

Coordinator, PPLS Performance and Development Review programme [2009 - 2013 ]
Programme Director, MSc in Psychology of Language [2009 - 2013]
Member, PPLS Postgraduate Committee [2009 - 2014 ]
Selection panel for 3 Psychology lectureships [2011]
PPLS Academic Promotions committee [2011- 2013]
CHSS College Contribution Reward Panel [2011-12]

PPLS Deputy PG Director [2012- 2014]

Selection panel for Psychology lectureship [2013]


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