The true meaning of love is often debated but for Lee Curley, the reason as to why he loves his research area is crystal clear. Here, he shares more on his passion for Psychology and explains how one quote from his Grandad has helped shape his approach to both his research and his life.

Date posted

13 February 2017


Last updated

14 June 2022

Can you tell us a little bit about your current research and what it entails?

In my current research I am looking into the implications that the Scottish verdict of not proven may have on jurors. By using mock juror simulations, I am comparing the effects that the Scottish three verdict system (guilty, not guilty, and not proven) has on the decision making processes, biases and outcomes of Scottish jurors in comparison to the Anglo-American two verdict system. In addition, I am currently using experimental methods to investigate the kind of biases and cognitive short-cuts that have an impact on a juror’s decision making process.

Why do you love your research area?

I love my research as it allows me to have an impact on society. My research has allowed me to test the negative effects that biases and stereotypes may have on society, which hopefully will allow me to make society just that little bit fairer. Also, I love solving problems and doing a PhD allows you to solve one very big problem for three years. My research has allowed me to do what I love, reading psychological theories, testing participants and using complex statistical procedures to test theory. Research is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night.

How did your passion for your research area develop?

I have always been interested in science. When I was at school, I loved biology and was the only person in my year to complete the advanced higher biology course. In addition, I have a passion for politics and social issues, which was ignited by my higher modern studies teacher. Therefore, I wanted to study a subject that had impact on policy and social issues, but still used the experimental method. Psychology was the obvious candidate. From then, my passion has grew and grew. My PhD supervisors Dr Rory MacLean and Dr Jennifer Murray have helped me channel that passion into my PhD research surrounding decision making and biases.

Apart from your doctorate, what do you hope to achieve with your research?

I hope to make an impact. I want to make the legal system fairer. I want to reduce the negative effects that some stereotypes and biases have on suspects and victims. I want to look at legal traditions, such as the not proven verdict and corroboration, and test their utility. In summary, I want to use my passion for science and psychology to have a positive effect on society and individuals.  My grandad, would tell me when I was a child that “a society has only formed when a person plants the seed of a tree, to which he will never see the shade”. I try to think of this quote when carrying out research, because I may never see the direct effects of my research, but I may indirectly have a positive influence on someone else.

Explain your educational background so far? 

I come from a small, ex-mining, town in East Lothian called Tranent. The school is relatively small, but does seem to attract some excellent teachers. I left school in 2010, and then went to Edinburgh Napier university aged 18, with the hope of becoming the next Sigmund Freud. I graduated in the summer of 2014, and started my PhD in 2015 (once again at Edinburgh Napier, they cannot seem to get rid of me). I am now in my final year, and hope to finish later this year. 

Why did you choose Edinburgh Napier as your place of study?

I chose Edinburgh Napier University for many reasons. Firstly, because it allows individuals like myself, who are not from privileged backgrounds, the opportunity to shine. Edinburgh Napier takes good students and makes them excellent. I can only speak for the science department, but the PhD students who did their undergraduate at the university seem to have something special about them; they thrive under pressure and are motivated to achieve the unthinkable.  

I also chose Edinburgh Napier because of its surroundings. Each of the three campuses are scattered around the city of Edinburgh, which is steeped in history and culture. My patriotism for Edinburgh, also made the university the clear choice when picking a location to study way, way back in 2009/2010.

What would you say to anyone thinking about undertaking a PhD research project?

I would say, do it! A PhD is an excellent opportunity. A PhD gives you the opportunity to voice your opinion (as I have written for the national press). A PhD allows you to change and have an impact though research and investigation. A PhD allows you to grow as an individual, it allows you to develop skills such as public speaking. Before my PhD I would get nervous speaking in front of five people, now I have lectured to around 100 individuals. In a poor attempt to paraphrase Trainspotting, choose academia.