UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Prof Joseph Devlin

Prof Joseph Devlin

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

Experimental Psychology

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st May 2007

Research summary

For years my central question was: Why is human language a unique ability in the animal kingdom? Although other animals certainly communicate, sometimes in fairly sophisticated ways, no other species uses such a rich, complex system, capable of conveying essentially infinite amounts of information. My research focuses specifically on the brain-basis of this difference. Interestingly, there is no single area of the human brain dedicated to language that differentiates us from other primates such as chimps. Instead, the differences may be related to how information is integrated across brain regions. My work aims to: i) determine how such information is represented and processed in human brains, ii) to identify how similar or different this processing is across species, and iii) to investigate potential differences in the wiring patterns in human brains that enable novel interactions which potentially give rise to human language.

More recently, I've become interested in how advances in neuroscience, psychology and behavioural sciences can be applied in real-world settings, especially in business.  My current research focuses on understanding experiences, whether these are the experience of being in an audience (eg. at the theatre, in a cinema, when watching TV), or consumer experience (e.g. digital, shop floor, or blended) or even employee experience (e.g. team work, leadership, well being).  Collaborating with industrial partners, my team works to solve real-world problems.


Joe's PhD is in Artificial Intelligence (AI) but he found himself much more interested in actual intelligence (the other AI) -- how the human mind works. After training in neuroimaging at Cambridge and Oxford, he established a reputation as a leading researcher in how the human brain processes language. He is a former Head of Experimental Psychology at UCL as well as the current Vice Dean for Innovation and Enterprise. He has collaborated on various projects with a variety of partners including Audible, Vue Cinemas, Finecast, Shiseido, NTT Data, the BBC, the Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph.