Hotseat – Laurence White

Check out Laurence on the university website – and head over to Laurence’s website Psychoprosody, where he puts his research papers and (very occasionally) popular science writing about language research. The name “psychoprosody” was made up by Laurence, “prosody” being the music of speech, which is his main area of research, and “psycho” being self-explanatory!

Laurence was an undergraduate at Oxford where he studied chemistry for a year, during which he became less interested in going to the labs every day and getting a headache from inhaling chemical fumes in failed experiments. He enjoyed talking to people who were doing different subjects – arts, languages and philosophy as well as sciences – which led him to consider psychology.
If Laurence did something other than academia, he would have considered a career in professional football: he lacked any talent for it, but the work is outdoors, well paid and you get most afternoons off.

Laurence would sit on a bench with John Keats because he is very interested in poetry, and finds Keats an interesting character who was precociously prolific. Laurence is intrigued about where his genius came from. He would also like to know how his poetry would have developed had Keats had not died so young.
Laurence doesn’t watch so many films these days, so he gave me his favourite reads instead. His favourite author is Anthony Burgess, most famous as the writer of A Clockwork Orange, but he recommends lots of his other books, including Earthly Powers and Kingdom of the Wicked. Like Laurence, Anthony Burgess was very interested in language and music, and how they relate to each other. Laurence talked to him once over a glass of wine, many years ago: he signed a book and spelt Laurence’s name wrong. Laurence also recommended a book called True History of the Kelly Gang, about the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. He read this on sabbatical in Australia last year, where he gave talks at universities in Sydney and Melbourne, spent a lot of time discussing infant-directed speech with researchers there and some spare time (body-)surfing on Bondi Beach, walking through eucalyptus forests and meeting kangaroos on early morning runs.

Laurence told me he enjoys running regression analyses in his spare time!!!! However, after suggesting I did not believe him, he said he enjoys being outside walking and also really like cooking and eating.

I asked Laurence about the Psych Shed ( It’s a blog about psychology research, particularly recent work at Plymouth, which he has enjoyed researching and writing, although it’s difficult to find the time these days.


Choc or vanilla?- Chocolate

Winter or summer?- Summer
Day or Night?-Day

Comedy or Mystery?- Comedy
Wine or Beer?- Both

Red or White?- Champagne (!)

Crossword or Sudoku?- Crossword

Sausage or Bacon?- Bacon (useful in cooking as long as it is ethically-sourced!)
Ice-cream or yoghurt?-Yoghurt

Bond or Bourne?- Bond

Star Wars or Star trek?- Star Wars
Adventurous or cautious?- Adventurously cautious

Saver or spender?- Spender
Leather or denim? -Leather

If he were an alcoholic drink, Laurence would be a gin and tonic because it cranks you up at the start of an evening.
Laurence was a lot of fun to interview, he is very funny! I suggest if anyone has time to chat with him you definitely should.

Thank you Laurence,

Zoe Higgins –  Stage 2

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