Dr Warren Mansell BAHons (Cantab) DPHil DClinPsy CPsychol

Honorary Reader

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Following a PhD at University of Oxford, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, I came to the University of Manchester where I worked as a Reader in Clinical Psychology.

Currently, I am Professor of Mental Health at the School of Population Health, Curtin University, Perth, Australia. email: warren.mansell@curtin.edu.au

The focus of my research is transdiagnostic interventions for mental health problems (e.g. A Transdiagnostic Approach to CBT using Method of Levels Therapy), and Perceptual Control Theory, including research and applied work on robotics, communication in dementia, and consciousness. 


My research takes many forms, but I now subscribe to an ideal for research in the behavioural sciences influenced by the work of William T. Powers (1926-2013) and his collaborators on Perceptual Control Theory (PCT; Powers et al., 1960a, b; Powers, 1973, 2005, 2008). Below are a number of propositions of PCT that inform theory, research and practice in the behavioural, social and life sciences: 

1) Humans and other animals purposefully seek out, select, control, manipulate and influence their own perceptual input from the environment. This is the function of what we call 'behaviour'. Behaviours are not triggered, learned or planned, but emerge dynamically through constraints within the current moment in an attempt to control current perception. 

2) The default functioning of humans and other animals is an unbroken system of parallel, hierarchically organised, continuous, 'closed' loops between perception, comparison with reference values for that perception, action, the environment, and (again) perception. Therefore, it is impossible to 'independently manipulate' thoughts, feelings, behaviours, physiology or the environment.

3) Despite all behaviour being purposeful, control can be executed automatically (i.e. outside 'conscious awareness'), and this process can be understood in quantitative terms that facilitate computer modelling and prototype testing of models of an individual to compare with the real system. The functioning of an accurate model of an individual, generated by a correct theory, would have a near perfect match with the real system.

4) Given the above propositions, empirical research that studies groups of individuals and aims to examine the statistical relationship between 'Independent Variables (IVs)' in the environment and 'Dependent Variables (DVs)'  - measured as behaviour or other observable properties of individuals - has limited validity. This linear model is ideal for physical systems that do not control (such as a moving object), but do not apply to living systems (or control systems designed by humans), because of their intrinsically purposeful nature. 

5) Researchers can use an alternative research paradigm - the 'Test for the Controlled Variable', which examines the perceptual variables that an individual is controlling using their behaviour through its manipulation of the environment, despite other aspects of the environment that disturb these attempts at control. There are many published papers demonstrating this approach, even though the 'IV-DV' approach currently dominates. The aim of this manifesto is the adjust this balance in order to raise the scientific credibility of the behavioural sciences. 

For more information, see www.pctweb.org, which provides links to the key papers supporting this approach. Please feel free to contact me concerning this manifesto.      

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • Co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the Annual Conference of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) 2008-2013
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of the Annual Conference of the British BABCP 2000-2013
  • Chair of the BABCP Special Interest Group on Control Theory
  • Member of the British Psychological Society; Chartered Clinical Psychologist
  • Member of the University of Manchester Division of Clinical Psychology Research Subcommittee
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy Barcelona 2007
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy Boston 2010
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal, Cognition and Emotion
  • Associate Editor of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • Associate Editor of British Journal of Clinical Psychology
  • Member of the Conference Referee Panel of the International Conference on Cognitive Modelling (ICCM 2009)
  • Member of Association of Psychological Science

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

Sustainable Development Goals

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