Dr Tim Auburn

Dr Tim Auburn

Honorary Research Fellow

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health)

Tim can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Criminal justice
  • Discursive psychology
  • Analysing conversation


Associate Professor. My responsibilities are to enable learning in the areas of Social Psychology; conduct research (see Research profile) and act as School tutor to our cohort of students studying psychology as their minor subject


I obtained my first degree in Psychology from the University of Leeds in 1977. From there I went to study on the M.Sc. in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey which I successfully completed in 1978.

I then spent two years as a Research Assistant in the Department of Applied Psychology at the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) where I worked with Dr. Dylan Jones and Dr. Tony Chapman. The project on which I worked concerned the effects of noise on human performance and social behaviour. I registered for a Ph.D. on this topic which I eventually completed in 1985.

Since 1980 I have worked as a lecturer/senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth mostly teaching aspects of Social Psychology and Environmental Psychology

Professional membership

I am a graduate member of the British Psychological Society. I am a teaching fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Teaching interests

I teach social psychology and environmental psychology on the psychology degree programme, specialising in 'sociological' approaches to social psychology, social interaction, discursive psychology, conversation analysis and discourse analysis. I also teach qualitative research methods at undergraduate and post-graduate level.

Staff serving as external examiners

I have acted as external examiner for the MSc in Social Psychology and the MSc in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey. I have also acted as external examiner for Ph.D.'s in the Department of Social Science, Loughborough University as well as external examiner for the recently developed MSc in Conversation Analysis

Research interests

My research interests centre on discursive psychology and social interaction particularly in relation to institutional contexts such as the criminal justice system. Most recently I have been involved as Principal Investigator with colleagues in the School of Law (Jill Annison and Daniel Gilling), on a 2 year ESRC funded project examining the operation of the Community Justice court at Plymouth. This project is investigating in detail how this court works including its relationship with other public and third sector organisations and how problem solving works as a unique practice within the court. We are applying a number of largely qualitative methods to this investigation including qualitative interviews with key participants, ethnographic observations, and conversation analysis.

More recently in collaboration with Christianne Pollock I have been investigating how children with severe autism interact with their teachers, parents and therapists. I also have research interests in the psychology of place within the field of environmental psychology.

My research interest in conversation analysis and discursive psychology entails the detailed examination of how social interaction unfolds moment to moment. This examination produces an understanding of how particular contexts are brought into being and rendered meaningful through people's engagement with one another. Particular research projects in which I have used this approach are:

  • Examining the social organisation of police-suspect interviews.
  • The analysis of prison-based sex-offender treatment groups for how treatment is oriented to and accomplished.
  • How students construct the experience of a placement year and the effects of this year on their subsequent course of study.

I am also interested in understanding how people can be persuaded to adopt pro-environmental behaviours. A recent project examined how visualising heat loss in domestic residences can be a persuasive prompt for behaviour change.

My other main area of research interest is in place. With Beccy Barnes, who undertook a Ph.D. on Place and Citizenship, I have been interested reconceptualising the traditional environmental psychology idea of place. To this end we have examined how place is 'storied into being' and what follows from or is consequential for, particular versions of place. This research has been published in the British Journal of Social Psychology and the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Barnes, R. Losing Ground: Locational Formulations in Argumentation over New Travellers. Ph.D. Awarded December, 2000

Grants & contracts

Plymouth Community Justice Court: A Case Study of Problem Solving Interventions, Reducing Re-offending and Public Confidence. Dr. T. Auburn (PI) School of Psychology, Dr. J. Annison & Dr. D. Gilling, Plymouth Law School, Dr. G. Hanley Santos, Research Fellow. ESRC, August 2012 to August, 2014.

Evaluation of a Magistrates' Court-based Community Advice and Support Service. Funded by Prison Advice and Care Trust, October, 2006 to September, 2007

Research groups

  • Centre for Research in Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (CBCB)
  • Behaviour

Key publications are highlighted

Clarke A, Mitchell A, Williams L, Kirk A, Auburn T, Price L, Shorrock J & Chester L 2019 'Key experiences of primary social groups in Unspecified Kidney Donation' Journal of Renal Care 45, (3) 171-184 , DOI
Smart C, Froomberg N & Auburn T 2018 'What a discursive understanding of interprofessional team meetings might reveal: an exploration of intellectual (learning) disability managers' performances' Journal of Interprofessional Care 1-10 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Blanchard G, Auburn TC & Dallos R 2015 'Playing the 'Blame Game': Accounting and the construction of disruptive behaviour in family interviews' Human Systems: the Journal of Therapy, Consultation and Training 26, (1) 44-65 Publisher Site PEARL
Williams L & Auburn T 2015 'Accessible polyvocality and paired talk: how family therapists talk positive connotation into being' Journal of Family Therapy 38, (4) 535-554 , DOI PEARL
Thompson C, Bacon AM & Auburn T 2015 'Disabled or differently-enabled? Dyslexic identities in online forum postings' Disability and Society 30, (9) 1328-1344 , DOI
Goodhew JA, Pahl S, Auburn T & Goodhew S 2014 'Making Heat Visible: Promoting Energy Conservation Behaviors Through Thermal Imaging' Environment and Behavior , DOI PEARL
Auburn T, Hay W & Wilkinson T 2011 'The place of an advice and support service in a magistrates’ court' Probation Journal 58, (2) 112-125 , DOI
Auburn TC 2010 'Cognitive distortions as social practices: An examination of cognitive distortions in sex offender treatment froma discursive psychology perpective' Psychology, Crime & Law 16, (1-2) 103-123 Publisher Site , DOI PEARL
Auburn T 2007 'Identity and placement learning: student accounts of the transition back to university following a placement year' Studies in Higher Education 32, (1) 117-133
Auburn T & Barnes R 2006 'Producing place: A neo-Schutzian perspective on the ‘psychology of place’' Journal of Environmental Psychology 26, (1) 38-50 , DOI
Auburn T 2005 'Narrative reflexivity as a repair device for discounting 'cognitive distortions' in sex offender treatment' Discourse & Society 16, (5) 697-718
Barnes R, Auburn T & Lea S 2004 'Citizenship in practice' British Journal of Social Psychology 43, (2) 187-206 , DOI
Barnes R, Auburn T & Lea S 2004 'Citizenship in practice' British Journal of Social Psychology 43, 187-206
Auburn T & Lea S 2003 'Doing cognitive distortions: A discursive psychology analysis of sex offender treatment talk' British Journal of Social Psychology 42, 281-298
Lea S & Auburn T 2001 'The social construction of rape in the talk of a convicted rapist' Feminism & Psychology 11, (1) 11-33
Lea S, Auburn T & Kibblewhite K 1999 'Working with Sex Offenders: The Perceptions and Experiences of Professionals and Paraprofessionals' International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 43, (1) 103-119 , DOI
Auburn T, Drake S & Willig C 1995 '`You Punched Him, didn't You?': Versions of Violence in Accusatory Interviews' Discourse & Society 6, (3) 353-386 , DOI
Auburn T, Ley A & Arnold J 1993 'Psychology undergraduates' experience of placements: A role-transition perspective' Studies in Higher Education 18, (3) 265-285 , DOI
Auburn TC, Jones DM & Chapman AJ 1987 'Arousal and the Bakan vigilance task: The effects of noise intensity and the presence of others' Current Psychology 6, (3) 196-206 , DOI
Miles C, Auburn TC & Jones DM 1984 'Effects of loud noise and signal probability on visual vigilance' Ergonomics 27, (8) 855-862 Author Site , DOI
Jones DM, Auburn TC & Chapman AJ 1982 'Perceived control in continuous loud noise' Current Psychology 2, (1-3) 111-122 , DOI
Jones DM, Chapman AJ & Auburn TC 1981 'Noise in the environment: A social perspective' Journal of Environmental Psychology 1, (1) 43-59 , DOI
Annison J, Auburn T, Gilling D & Santos GH 2017 'The ambiguity of therapeutic justice and women offenders in England and Wales' Evidence-Based Skills in Criminal Justice: International Research on Supporting Rehabilitation and Desistance 397-419
Auburn TC, Smart C, Hanley Santos G, Annison J & Gilling D 2016 'Discovering Mental Ill Health: 'Problem-Solving' in an English Magistrates' Court' in O'Reilly M; Lester J The Palgrave Handbook of Adult Mental Health: Discourse and Conversation Studies Basingstoke, UK Palgrave Macmillan 633-652 Publisher Site PEARL
Auburn TC & Pollock C 2012 'Laughter and competence: Children with severe autism using laughter to joke and tease' in Glenn P; Holt L On Laughing: Studies of Laughter in Interaction Continuum Books Publisher Site
Auburn TC 2007 'Narrative Reflexivity as a Repair Device for Discounting Cognitive Distortions in Sex Offender Treatment' in Potter J Discourse and Psychology Sage Publications Author Site
Auburn TC, Lea S & Drake S 1999 'It's your opportunity to be truthful: Disblief, mundane reasoning and the investigation of crime' in Willig C Applied Discourse Analysis: Social and Psychological Interventions Buckingham, UK Open University Press 44-65 Publisher Site
Auburn TC, Goodhew J, Goodhew S, de Wilde P & Pahl S 0 'A preliminary investigation of the potential for thermographic images to influence householders' understanding of home energy consumption' in Dainty B Proceedings of ARCOM conference 2009 971-979 PEARL
Conference Papers
Smart CA, Froomberg N, Parish N, Aikman L & Auburn T 2015 'Clients bringing professionals together: Affiliation and alignment in psychology involved healthcare MDT meetings' British Psychological Society Social Section Conference 09/09/2015 11/09/2015 PEARL
Barnes R & Auburn T 2002 'Discursive Practices in the Construction of Citizenship' Paper International Conference on Conversation Analysis, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Auburn TC & Pollock C 0 'Joking in teaching contexts by children with severe autism' International Conference on Conversation Analysis University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany 04/07/2010 08/07/2010
Auburn TC & Pollock C 0 'Laughter is the shortest distance between two people: Laughter in the interaction of children with severe autism' Conference on Laughter and Humour in Interaction University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK 24/06/2009 25/06/2009
Auburn TC, Goodhew J & Pahl S 0 'That's it we're having more insulation: Will householders change behaviours and attitudes after being shown an infrared image of their homes leaking heat?' XXIX International Congress of Psychology University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany 20/07/2008 25/07/2008 PEARL
Auburn TC, Pollock C, Clibbens J & Phillips C 0 'Interactions of Children with Severe Autism' International Meeting for Autism Research London, UK 15/05/2008 17/05/2008
Auburn TC 0 'Social organisation of sex offender treatment groups(or cognitive distortions as the discursive psychologist sees them)' Sex Offenders: New Perspectives New Approaches Conference University of Leicester, Leicester, UK 15/12/2006 15/12/2006
Auburn TC & Barnes R 0 'Warranting actions through speaker investment in place' International Conference on Conversation Analysis University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland 10/05/2006 14/05/2006
Auburn TC 0 'Place as an interactional resource' British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section Annual Conference University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK 30/08/2005 01/09/2005
Speer S, Lea S & Auburn T 0 'Conversation's Been Struck Up': The Organisation of Agency and Responsibility in a Rape Narrative' Language and Therapeutic Interaction Conference, Brunel University 30/08/2001 31/08/2001
Auburn TC, Hay W & Wilkinson T 2007 Evaluation of the Community Advice and Support Service (CASS) at the Magistrates Court in Plymouth and Bodmin. Prison Advice and Care Trust; Devon and Cornwall Local Criminal Justice Board

Other academic activities

Qualitative methods
Conversation Analysis
Social Psychology
Aspects of community justice