Who are you, and what do you do?
I am Iain D. Gilchrist, I work as a Professor of Neuropsychology, at the University of Bristol UK and am Co-Director of Bristol’s Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRICBristol). I also run, along with David Leslie, Bristol’s Decision Making in an Unstable World Project. The group is also organising a conference in Bristol this September. The main focus of my research is in perceptual decision making and the specific problem of how we decide what to look at next and when to move our eyes. Humans make about three of these decisions a second and these decisions determine our visual experience. In the last couple of years I’ve been learning a great deal from mathematicians and biologist about how we should think about decision making problems and this has changed how I think about my work in a pretty profound way.
What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?
For me it has to be Matlab which is developed by Mathworks. Matlab is a very flexible platform that allows us to analyses and plot the date we collect and hopefully genuinely understand what is going on. You can also use it to control behavioural experiments on a computer using the amazing psychtoolbox. In the end theories will come and go – we can all be swept along by a beautifully crafted argument even if it’s wrong (!) but the data is the data and I think as a scientist that is where my loyalty and heart is.
What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?
Without a doubt my bus journey to work. It’s the space in my routine that allows me to plan the day, relax a little and reflect on what we are trying to achieve. I’m sure I would be far more easily distracted if I didn’t have space at the beginning of my day to think in this way.
What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?
Writing for me is a collaborative activity, so my tip would be to write with someone who’s thinking you respect and who will challenge what write and drive you towards greater clarity. I guess simple words in short sentences to explain complex ideas is the goal.
Iain’s favorite paper: