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Chris French

Christopher French
photo of Chris French in 2011 at a Skeptics in the Pub event held by the Merseyside Skeptics Society
Chris French at a Merseyside Skeptics Society Skeptics in the Pub event in April 2011
Born Christopher Charles French
(1956-04-06) 6 April 1956 (age 59)
Residence Greenwich, London, England
Nationality British
Education B.A., PhD, CPsychol, FBPsS, FRSA
Alma mater Helsby County Grammar School for Boys 1967–1974
Occupation Psychologist
Employer Goldsmiths
Birkbeck College
University of London
Organization Anomalistic psychology Research Unit
Known for The Skeptic (UK) magazine
Awards Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association
Goldsmiths Home Page

Christopher Charles French is a British psychologist and vocal skeptic specialising in the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences, cognition and emotion.[1]


He is currently Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, is head of their Anomalistic psychology Research Unit[2] which he founded in 2000. On the importance of Anomalistic psychology he said in an interview on The Skeptic Zone,

French is also the former Editor-in-Chief of The Skeptic (UK) magazine.[4] He presided over a relaunch, in 2009, in which the magazine expanded to 40 pages and assembled an editorial advisory board, including many big names (e.g. Tim Minchin, Stephen Fry, Richard Wiseman, Simon Singh).[3]

He teaches a course entitled Psychology, Parapsychology and Pseudoscience as part of the BSc (Hons) Psychology programmes at both Goldsmiths College and Birkbeck College. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.[2] He has authored or co-authored over 80 articles and chapters dealing with a wide variety of subjects in psychology, his work has been published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, the British Journal of Psychology and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology.[5]

The focus of his current research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences.[6] In addition to academic activities, such as conference presentations and invited talks in other departments, he frequently appears on radio and television presenting a sceptical view of paranormal claims.[6] He has been consulted as an expert on a wide range of such claims including psychic abilities,[7] recovered memory,[8] telepathy, faith healing,[9] past life regression,[10] ghosts,[11] UFO abductions,[12] out-of-body experiences,[13] astrology[14] and so on.[15] In 2004, French and colleagues conducted an experiment involving electromagnetic fields (EMF) and extremely low frequency sound waves (infrasound) phenomena that have been associated with allegedly haunted locations, the experiment did not establish a causal relationship between these phenomena and experiences of the subjects.[16] A study, led by French and published in 2008, explored the psychology of people who believed they had been abducted by aliens.[17] He has appeared on various science programmes (e.g. Equinox, ScienceNow, All in the Mind) and documentaries (e.g. Heart of the Matter, Everyman) as well as numerous discussion programmes (e.g. Esther; The Time, The Place; Kilroy; This Morning).

During his 2014 interview for the Skeptic Zone Podcast, Chris acknowledged that, as a skeptic, he believed in paranormal activities until he became more aware of the psychology behind why people believe, a point made clear to him through a book written by Professor of Psychology James Alcock:

In 1997, he was one of three sceptics sitting on a panel for a 90-minute live debate on UFOs broadcast at peak viewing time by the Strange but True? team to mark the 50th anniversary of UFOs.[19] In 1998, he took part in an investigation of reincarnation claims amongst the Druze people of Lebanon, broadcast as part of the To the Ends of the Earth series. This involved spending around three weeks in Lebanon with a film crew.[20]

File:Chris French World Skeptics Congress Berlin 2012.jpg
Chris French at the 2012 World Skeptics Congress in Berlin

In August 1996, he organised and chaired an integrated paper session on the topic of The Psychology of Paranormal and Pseudoscientific Beliefs at the XXVI International Congress of Psychology in Montreal.[21] He also contributed to a symposium on The Psychology of Anomalous Experience at the British Science Association annual British Science Festival at the University of Birmingham in September 1996.[22] In July 1997, he chaired a symposium on The Psychology of Paranormal Belief at the Fifth European Congress of Psychology in Dublin. He presented a paper at a conference on Paranormal and Superstitious Beliefs: A Skeptical Examination at Manchester Metropolitan University on Friday 13, November, 1998.[23] In February 1999, he contributed to a symposium of the Royal Statistical Society (which he co-organised). In July 1999, he co-organised and presented a paper at a half-day conference on Parapsychology: Current Status and Future Prospects at Goldsmiths College and gave a paper at the Sixth European Congress of Psychology in Rome.[23] In February 2001, he gave an invited presentation to the Institute for Cultural Research[5] at the Royal Society of Medicine and he has organised two symposia at major conferences (Glasgow, March 2001; London, July 2001).

He made regular appearances on ITV's programme Haunted Homes. He also makes appearances in the Channel 4 documentary series 'Tony Robinson and the Paranormal'.[20]

Since 2009, French has been a columnist for The Guardian newspaper exploring scepticism and anomalistic psychology.[24][25]

In January 2010, French was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry[6]

In November 2013, French was featured as the keynote speaker for the 2013 Australian Skeptics National Convention in Canberra.[26]



—; Stone, Anna, eds. (2014). Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience. London: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 9781403995711. 

Co-edited book

—; Grossman, Wendy M., eds. (2010). Why Statues Weep. The Best of The Skeptic. London: The Philosophy Press. ISBN 9780953761128. 

Selected book sections

— (2004). "Parapsychology". In Kuper, Adam; Kuper, Jessica. The Social Science Encyclopedia. London: Routledge. pp. 702–703. ISBN 9780415320962. 

— (2004). "Skepticism". In Henry, Jane. Parapsychology. Research on Exceptional Experiences. London: Routledge. pp. 80–89. ISBN 9780415213608. 

—; Santomauro, J. (2007). "Something Wicked This Way Comes. Causes and Interpretations of Sleep Paralysis". In Sala, Sergio Della. Tall Tales About the Mind and Brain. Separating Fact from Fiction. Oxford University Press. pp. 380–398. ISBN 9780198568773. 

—; Wilson, Krissy (2007). "Cognitive Factors Underlying Paranormal Beliefs and Experiences". In Sala, Sergio Della. Tall Tales About the Mind and Brain. Separating Fact from Fiction. Oxford University Press. pp. 3–22. ISBN 9780198568773. 

— (2009). "Anomalistic Psychology". In Cardwell, Mike; Clark, Liz; Meldrum, Claire; Wadeley, Alison. Psychology for A2 Level for AQA (A) (4th ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 472–505. ISBN 9780007255030. 

— (2010). "Reflections of a (Relatively) Moderate Skeptic". In Krippner, Stanley; Friedman, Harris L. Debating Psychic Experience: Human Potential Or Human Illusion?. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 53–64. ISBN 9780313392610. 

— (2010). "Missing the point?". In Krippner, Stanley; Friedman, Harris L. Debating Psychic Experience: Human Potential Or Human Illusion?. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 149–152. ISBN 9780313392610. 

Selected articles

—; Beaumont, J. Graham (March 1984). "A critical review of EEG coherence studies of hemisphere function". International Journal of Psychophysiology 1 (3): 241–54. doi:10.1016/0167-8760(84)90044-8. 

—; Beaumont, J. Graham (November 1987). "The reaction of psychiatric patients to computerized assessment". British Journal of Clinical Psychology 26 (4): 267–78. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1987.tb01360.x. 

Richards, Anne; — (1991). "Effects of encoding and anxiety on implicit and explicit memory performance". Personality and Individual Differences 12 (2): 131–9. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(91)90096-T. 

Richards, Anne; — (1992). "An anxiety-related bias in semantic activation when processing threat/neutral homographs". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Section A: Human Experimental Psychology 45 (3): 503–25. doi:10.1080/02724989208250625. 

Richards, Anne; —; Johnson, Wendy; Naparstek, Jennifer; Williams, Jane (November 1992). "Effects of mood manipulation and anxiety on performance of an emotional Stroop task". British Journal of Psychology 83 (4): 479–91. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1992.tb02454.x. 

French, Christopher C.; Richards, Anne; Scholfield, Emma J. C. (November 1996). "Hypomania, anxiety and the emotional Stroop". British Journal of Clinical Psychology 35 (4): 617–26. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1996.tb01217.x. 

Hadwin, Julie; Frost, Susie; —; Richards, Anne (August 1997). "Cognitive processing and trait anxiety in typically developing children: Evidence for an interpretation bias". Journal of Abnormal Psychology 106 (3): 486–90. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.106.3.486. 

Keogh, Edmund; — (March–April 2001). "Test anxiety, evaluative stress, and susceptibility to distraction from threat". European Journal of Personality 15 (2): 123–41. doi:10.1002/per.400. 

Richards, Anne; —; Calder, Andrew J.; Webb, Ben et al. (September 2002). "Anxiety-related bias in the classification of emotionally ambiguous facial expressions". Emotion 2 (3): 273–87. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.2.3.273. 

Keogh, Edmund; Bond, Frank W.; —; Richards, Anne et al. (2004). "Test anxiety, susceptibility to distraction and examination performance". Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal 17 (3): 241–52. doi:10.1080/10615300410001703472. 


  1. ^ Wignall, Alice (18 January 2005). "What it's like to work at... ...Goldsmiths College, University of London". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Professor Chris French". Goldsmiths College, University of London website. Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Kylie Sturgess (5 February 2010). "The Skeptic Zone #68" (Podcast). Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit". Goldsmiths College, University of London website. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  5. ^ a b French, Christopher C. (2011), Paranormal Perception: A Critical Evaluation (PDF), Monograph 42, London: Institute for Cultural Research, ISBN 9780904674347 
  6. ^ a b c "Sixteen notable figures in science and skepticism elected CSI Fellows". Skeptical Inquirer. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Matthews, Robert (8 March 2001). "Spiritualists' powers turn scientists into believers". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
    Sample, Ian (31 October 2011). "Sally Morgan rejects Halloween challenge to prove her psychic powers". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
    Gayle, Damien (1 November 2012). "Two professional mediums fail test to demonstrate their psychic powers under laboratory conditions". Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Storr, Will (10 December 2011). "The mystery of Carol Myers". The Observer. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Chris French". Episode 184 series 2. Channel Four Television Corporation. 24 January 2012. Channel 4. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Lawrence, Julia (3 December 2010). "Has Marilyn Monroe been reincarnated as a shop assistant called Chris? Meet the Britons who are convinced they've had bizarre past lives...". Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Sample, Ian (13 January 2005). "Do the dead contact us through tape recorders?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
    "Ghosts in the machine". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 4 January 2005. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Alien abduction is all in the mind says expert". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 26 October 2005. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Rowlands, Barbara (17 November 2001). "In the dead of the night". The Observer. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Stewart, Joseph V. (1996). Astrology: What's Really in the Stars. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. p. 129. ISBN 9781573920773. 
  15. ^ Jha, Alok (16 August 2009). "What would an alien look like?". Science Weekly. The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
    French, Chris (21 April 2011). "Haunted houses, telepathy and UFOs: Investigating the extraordinary". Liverpool Skeptics in the Pub. Merseyside Skeptics Society. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Marcus, Adam (27 October 2008). "Ghost lusters: If you want to see a specter badly enough, will you?". Scientific American. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Waterhouse, Rosie (13 October 2008). "Weird ... or what?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Saunders, Richard. "The Skeptic Zone #292 25.May.2014". Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  19. ^ "Strange But True – Season 3, Episode 11: Strange But True? Live". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Chris French at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ French, C.C. (convenor) (1996). "Psychology of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs" (INTEGRATED PAPER SESSION). International Journal of Psychology 31 (3–4). doi:10.1080/00207594.1996.19960819. 
  22. ^ French, Christopher C. (10 September 1996). "Parapsychology and the paranormal" (PAPER PRESENTED AT THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF SCIENCE). Atheism Central for Secondary Schools. Alan Urdaibay. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  23. ^ a b "Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit: Conferences and other Presentations". Goldsmiths College, University of London website. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  24. ^ Jha, Alok (29 March 2009). "Sceptical thinking makes a comeback". Science Weekly. The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "Profile: Chris French". The Guardian. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  26. ^ "Australian Skeptics National Convention 2013 Speakers". Retrieved 18 January 2014. 

External links