In the HotSeat: Tim Hollins

So here it is, the first of many. I wasn’t at all nervous….eep!

Welcome to the HotSeat Tim Hollins, Head of school Plymouth University school of Psychology.


Head of School Plymouth Psych since January 2017
Member of Psychology School faculty since 1999
Professor of Experimental Psychology

At different times in his career, Tim has been:

  • The associate editor of 3 different journals: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Applied Cognitive Psychology, and Memory,
  • The Honorary Treasurer of the Experimental Psychology Society
  • A member of the governing board of SARMAC.
  • Undergrad external examiner at the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Essex
  • A PhD examiner around the world.

Tim started out at Newcastle University studying Electrical Engineering in the hope it would land him a job at a time when unemployment was high. However, he didn’t find the work challenging enough and nor did he enjoy it. But after borrowing a Psychology book by Hilgard and Atkinson, he decided Psychology was much more exciting and started the new year as a psych student.

He then went on to gain a PhD, teach at Liverpool Uni, Bristol Uni, and now Plymouth. I asked why he chose teaching. He replied that, earlier in his career, it was a great way to get paid whilst doing research – his real source of enjoyment. Tim has a particular interest in metacognition research (the knowledge of one’s own memory), as well as eyewitness long term memory, recollective experience and memory adjustment. However, now he talks excitedly about how he changes persona in lectures and loves to get involved with the subject he is teaching. He explains how important it is to make it interesting, and how rewarding it is to write references for students he has convinced not to quit when they felt they couldn’t continue. Tim has no plans to leave his current role as Head of Psychology.


Tim is married with 2 sons, Jake and Sam. He moved to Plymouth when his youngest son was 3 months old and is now taking his A-Levels. He changed his name from Perfect to Hollins which is the name of the rest of his family. When I asked him about it, he simply said he hated it and he was sick of the response he got whenever he gave his old surname! I unfortunately fell into this category by suggesting ‘you can’t get better than perfect!’

In his spare time Tim enjoys cricket, running (when not injured), village cricket (when not raining), gardening, theatre, travel, and reading.

Random Questions 

I worked out what his super hero name would be by asking what colour crayon he would be and what he last ate… he would be Deep Red Tom Yung Gung (noodle soup)… though when I arrived he was eating Bronte biscuits, we both felt the above was much more exciting!

If you could spend an hour on a bench with anyone past or present who would you choose?

At first he said there were many people he would like to talk to and narrowed it down from cricketers to the Marx brothers and then to Ray Charles. But he was concerned that meeting these heroes may result in having to take them off the pedestal he put them on.

Later in the interview he proclaimed quite loudly JAMES RANDI!!!!!! (a member of the magic circle). He said he would like to sit on a bench with James Randi because he put a million dollars of his own money to anyone who could convince him they were psychic, and he still has this money today. He would also be able to do magic tricks, which Tim loves.

Interesting Facts

  1. James Randi also featured in the interesting fact that I asked Tim to give. Tim once appeared on James Randi’s TV show as a participant in a (failed) psychic experiment.
  2. The second interesting fact involved a story about some students at Bristol who managed to recruit Alan Baddeley to take part in their study of working memory. I suggest you ask him about the story he told should you get the chance!

Thoughts on Feedback…

I cautiously asked Tim about feedback (not wanting to end on a sour note). He suggests it is a challenge in all institutions, at all levels. One individual cannot mark 250 pieces of work in a reasonable time. On the other hand, if the marking is done by multiple markers, then there are inevitably differences in style. Regardless of how hard the school tries to make marking equivalent. He insists that all comments made by us regarding feedback are considered. Tim admits that the current feedback sheet is too broad, and would much rather look at a piece and be able to say “well you’ve missed that but this part is really good”. He was involved in introducing the reflective feedback, which I personally find really helpful!

Tim went on to explain that he wants to bring some excitement into the School, so that we all – both staff and students – feel part of something valuable, and are proud of our achievements.

Quick-Fire Questions!

To end I asked a quick fire round he answered something like this:

  • Eat in or eat out                           Out
  • Lion or wolf                                 Lion
  • Red wine or white wine           Both
  • Beer or spirit                              Beer
  • Chicken or fish                          Fish
  • Horror or comedy                     Comedy
  • Bob Dylan or Beatles               Bob Dylan
  • Bieber or 1D                                Neither
  • Fact or fiction                            Fiction
  • Chocolate or vanilla                Chocolate ( ice cream if he had to choose)
  • Rocky or Rambo                       Neither
  • Summer or spring                   Summer
  • Night or day                              Day
  • Pizza or burger                           Pizza

Final Thoughts!

Overall, Tim was very down to earth and he becomes quite animated when discussing Psychology. He didn’t even wince at sharing a selfie!

Thank you Tim 🙂

Y6Zoe Higgins



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