Department of Psychology

Professor Max Velmans

Position held:
Emeritus Professor

+44 (0)20 7919 7870

+44 (0)20 7919 7873

m.velmans (

BSc PhD CPsychol FBPsS FAcSS

Consciousness, mind/body interactions, philosophy of psychology

Research interests

My main research interest is in the area of consciousness studies, with a particular focus on integrating work in philosophy, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, and mind/body relationships in clinical practice. From 1990 onwards, I have around 100 publications in this area, mostly addressing the trickier theoretical problems of consciousness in ways that try to bridge science, philosophy and "common-sense" (over 70 of these papers and chapters are available on-line, with explanatory comments at Many of the issues addressed are foundational for psychological science, for example, the relation of brain studies to individual experience, the nature of subjectivity, intersubjectivity and objectivity, how to avoid the mysteries of dualism and the implausibilities of reductionism, how to develop methodologies appropriate to the study of experience, and so on. Overall this amounts to a programme for a nonreductionist science of consciousness. Understanding Consciousness (Routledge/Psychology Press, 2000) (UK, USA) is my main book. This provides an appraisal of Consciousness Studies at the beginning of the 21st Century, along with an analysis of reflexive monism, a novel resolution of the "hard" problems of consciousness.  This work has now been deepened and updated for a 2009 second edition (reviews). How to Understand the Causal Relationship of Consciousness and Brain (Imprint, 2003) (UK, USA) provides additional in-depth discussions of one of the hardest problems. My jointly edited The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (Blackwell, 2007) ( UK, USA) surveys current scientific and philosophical thinking in this area, and the 1996 edited text, The Science of Consciousness (UK, USA), provides tutorial reviews for students and researchers. The edited collection Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness: New Methodologies and Maps (John Benjamins, 2000) (UK, USA) also examines methodological issues and suggests ways of integrating this interdisciplinary field. One of my recent projects focused on fostering "Monist Alternatives to Physicalism" which formed the basis of a Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2012, 19(9-10).  My research interests include the therapeutic and medical aspects of the mind/body relationship, the puzzles surrounding free will, the relation of psychology to physics, and, increasingly, how to relate Western to Eastern views of the nature of mind, consciousness and self. In 2014 for example I organised an International workshop on this last subject with a range of cutting-edge talks that are now online here. I am fascinated by the breadth and depth of this topic and enjoy the "grand debates."  I helped to form and, from 2003 to 2006, chaired the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (CEP). In 2007 I also co-founded a new form of “Consciousness Cafe”, in Totnes, where I now live. I have given over 150 papers and invited talks at national and international conferences in this area. One of these, on the "Unconscious Ground of Being", given at Cortona in Italy in 2009 can be seen here and another on "From West towards East in five simple steps" can be seen here. At present I am also Visiting Professor of Consciousness Studies in the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth and have been National Visiting Professor for 2010-2011 of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India.

My earlier research interests and publications include extensive work with the deaf resulting in around 20 publications. For example, I invented a new frequency transposing hearing aid, patented in 1974 in the UK, USA, and Japan, which was the subject of an extensive evaluation over a 10-year period (funded by the British Technology Group, The Department of Health and Social Security, and the Medical Research Council).

Selected publications


A fuller selection of my papers, including on-line publications


A sample of more recent publications

Velmans, M. (2014) What makes a conscious process conscious? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37:1, pp.43-44.

Velmans, M. (2014) Conscious agency and the preconscious/unconscious self. In S. Menon, A. Sinha, and B.V. Sreekantan (eds.) Consciousness and Self: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Berlin: Springer, pp. 11-25.

Velmans, M (2013) Sentient Matter. In G. Harvey (ed.) Handbook about Animism, E.J. Brill, pp.363-372.

Velmans, M. (2013) Preconscious free will. In H. Pashler (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the Mind. Sage, pp. 611-612.

Velmans, M. (2013) How to arrive at an eastern place from a western direction:  Convergences and divergences among Samkya dualism, Advaita nondualism, the body-mind-consciousness (Triden model and Reflexive Monism In B. S. Prasad (ed.) Consciousness, Gandhi and Yoga, New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, pp. 107-139.

Velmans, M. And Nagasawa, Y. (eds.) (2012) Monist Alternatives to Physicalism, a Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol.19 (No. 9-10). Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Velmans, M. And Nagasawa, Y (2012) Introduction to monist alternatives to physicalism. In M. Velmans and Y. Nagasawa (eds.) Monist Alternatives to Physicalism. Journal of Consciousness Studies Special Issue, 19 (9-10), 7-18.

Velmans, M. (2012) Reflexive Monism: psychophysical relations among mind, matter and consciousness. In Velmans, M. And Nagasawa, Y. (eds.) Monist Alternatives to Physicalism: Journal of Consciousness StudiesSpecial Issue, vol.19 (9-10), 143-165.

Velmans, M. (2012) The evolution of consciousness. In D. Canter and D. Tunbull (eds.) Biologising the Social Sciences. Special Issue of Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 7(2), pp. 117-138.

Velmans, M. (2012) Violence, the fragile ego, and the peaceful self. GITAM Journal of Gandhian Studies, 1(1), pp. 111-121.

Velmans, M. (2011) Can evolutionary theory explain the existence of consciousness? A review of N. Humphrey Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, 2010 London: Quercus. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18 (11-12), 243-254.

Velmans, M. (2011) A brief note on how phenomenal objects relate to objects themselves. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, (11-12), pp. 199-202.

Pereira, A., Edwards, J. Lehmann, D. Nunn, C., Trehub, A., and Velmans, M. (2010) Understanding Consciousness: A collaborative attempt to elucidate contemporary theories. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17 (5-6), 213-219.

Velmans, M. (2009) Understanding Consciousness, Edition 2. London: Routledge/Psychology Press.

Velmans, M. (2009) How to define consciousness—and how not to define consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 16(5), 139-156.

Hughes, G., Velmans, M. and de Fockert, J. (2009) Unconscious priming of a no-go response. Psychophysiology 46(6), 1258-1269.

Velmans, M. (2008) Reflexive monism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 15 (2), 5-50.

Velmans, M. (2008) How to separate conceptual issues from empirical ones in the study of consciousness. In R. Banerjee and B.K. Chakrabarti (eds) Models of Brain and Mind: Physical, Computational and Psychological Approaches. Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 168, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 1-9.

Velmans, M. (2008). Psychophysical nature. In H.Atmanspacher and H.Primas (eds.) Wolfgang Pauli's Philosophical Ideas and Contemporary Science. Springer, pp 115-134.

Bergstrom, Z. M., Velmans, M., De Fockert, J. and Richardson-Klavehn, A. (2008) ERP evidence of successful voluntary avoidance of conscious recollection. Brain Research, 1151, 119-133.

Velmans, M. & Schneider, S. (eds) (2007) The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. New York: Blackwell.

Velmans, M. (2007). Dualism, reductionism and reflexive monism. In M.Velmans and S. Schneider (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. New York: Blackwell.

Velmans, M. (2007). An epistemology for the study of consciousness. In M.Velmans and S. Schneider (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. New York: Blackwell.

Velmans, M. (2007). The co-evolution of matter and consciousness. Synthesis Philosophica, 44 (2), 273-282.

Velmans, M (2007) Dualist, reductionist, enactive and reflexive accounts of phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), 547-563.

Velmans, M (2007) How experienced phenomena relate to things themselves: Kant, Husserl, Hoche, and reflexive monism. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 411-423.

Velmans, M (2007) Heterophenomenology versus critical phenomenology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 221-230.

Velmans, M. (2004) Why conscious free will both is and isn’t an illusion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27(5), 677.

Velmans, M., Morrison-Coulthart, L.M., Colley, A., Foot, H, Foreman, N., Kent, G., Kwiatkowski, R. and Sloboda, J. (2004) Guidelines for Minimum Standards of Ethical Approval in Psychological Research. Leicester: The British Psychological Society.

Velmans, M. (2003) Is the brain in the world, or the world in the brain? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26, 427-429.

Velmans, M. (2003) Preconscious free will. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, 42-61.

Velmans, M. (2003) How could conscious experiences affect brains? Exeter: Imprint Academic. ISBN 0907845398.

Velmans, M. (2002) Could phenomenal consciousness function as a cognitive unconscious? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 357-358.

Velmans, M. (2002) How could conscious experiences affect brains? (Target Article for Special Issue). Journal of Consciousness Studies, 9, 3-29.

Velmans, M. (2002) Making sense of causal interactions between consciousness and brain. (reply to eight commentaries on my target article) Journal of Consciousness Studies, 9, 69-95.

Velmans, M. (2002) How could images heal anything? In A. A. Sheikh (ed.) Healing Images: The Role of Imagination in the Healing Process. Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, pp 53-71.

Velmans, M. (2001) Heterophenomenology versus critical phenomenology: A dialogue with Dan Dennett. On-line debate.

Velmans, M. (2001) A natural account of phenomenal consciousness. Communication and Cognition, 34(1&2), 39-59.




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