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Research, Cognition and perception

Big Picture: Portraits of intelligence

Portrait of Professor Ian J. Deary (in progress), by Fionna Carlisle (pictured).

21 May 2013

Professor Ian J. Deary is Professor of Differential Psychology and Director of the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE). He has been collaborating with renowned artist Fionna Carlisle on a project to produce an exhibition of drawings and portraits of research participants and the scientists who are studying them. 'Portraits of an Intelligent Scotland' is exploring the fascinating story of research on cognitive ageing in Scotland.

On 4 June 1947, Scotland tested the intelligence of almost every child born in 1936: 70,805 of them (see News, December 2012). Professor Deary and colleagues rediscovered this test, the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947, in the late 1990s and recognised its potential for research into ageing. Since then these data have been used to study how people differ in their thinking skills across the lifecourse and why people with different childhood intelligence live longer.

Fionna Carlisle tells us: 'I became fascinated by the story of this unique group of research participants and the fact that Professor Deary and his team have discovered a slight but significant association between male facial symmetry and lifetime cognitive ageing. This single piece of research has brought artist and scientist together to reflect on our different approaches to deconstructing the human face and personality.

This photograph shows Carlisle with the portrait of Professor Deary, roughly half way through the painting. For more on her work, see

Download PDF for poster.