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Dr Richard Cook becomes the fourth Birkbeck academic to be awarded the British Psychological Society Spearman Medal

The medal is considered to be the most prestigious early career award in UK psychology.

Dr Richard Cook
Dr Richard Cook

Dr Richard Cook, Reader in Psychology, has been awarded the Spearman Medal to recognise his exceptional work seeking to reveal the cognitive mechanisms that allow humans to perceive and imitate others. 

Dr Cook has published over 60 journal articles on various aspects of social perception, and has made important contributions to the understanding of ‘mirror neurons’ (thought to play a key role in our ability to imitate and interpret the actions of others) and developmental prosopagnosia (a condition associated with lifelong face recognition difficulties).

The Spearman Medal, awarded annually for outstanding published work in psychology, is the oldest award of the British Psychological Society, having been inaugurated in 1965. The medal has been won by many of the major figures in UK psychology, including three other Birkbeck academics; Dr Iroise Dumontheil (awarded 2015), Professor Angelica Ronald(awarded 2012) and Professor Mike Oaksford (awarded 1995).

Dr Cook, who joined Birkbeck in 2017, said: “I’m extremely grateful to the British Psychological Society for this amazing honour; it’s wonderful to win such a prestigious award. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with some brilliant scientists, including Cecilia Heyes, Geoffrey Bird, Clare Press, Brad Duchaine, Katie Gray, and Harriet Over. Winning this award reminds me how much I owe them.”

This award builds on Dr Cook’s other notable successes, including being awarded a €1.5m grant in 2017 by the European Research Council to investigate the visual perception of social interactions, and being named as a Rising Star in 2015 by the Association of Psychological Science.

Professor Mike Oaksford, Head of the Department of Psychological Sciences who nominated Dr Cook for the award, commented: “Richard is a leading international figure in social cognition and social perception research and I’m delighted that his contribution to the field of psychology has been recognised.”

In the future, Dr Cook hopes to answer big questions about the understanding of social interactions.

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