I’m James Coyne, Professor of Psychology, and this is how I work


James Coyne, AKA as CoyneoftheRealm in social media, is the author of over 400 scientific papers and has been recognized as one of the 200 most influential psychologists of the second half of the 20th century, slipping in at number 200. While he keeps publishing peer-reviewed articles, he now devotes time to blogging at PLOS Mind the Brain, Quick Thoughts, and occasionally the premier blog for skeptics, Science-Based Medicine. He is a regular presence on Twitter and Facebook. He uses social media to keep up on the latest ideas, to try out and refine his own, and for organizing campaigns and writing groups to improve the trustworthiness of psychology and biomedicine. He also gives workshops around the world on improving scientific writing and critical thinking skills, which he hopes soon to have available as webinairs.

Coyne promotes open access, data sharing, transparency, and good research and publishing practices. He detests p-hacking and questionable research practices, along with the questionable publishing practices that encourage and protect bad science. His blog posts identify these threats to the trustworthiness of the literature and he provide readers critical tools and practice detecting such problems for themselves. He has been known to organize sometimes quixotic campaigns to get conflicts of interest exposed and bad science retracted. Someday he might just succeed in getting some junk science actually retracted, but he keeps coming close. He has fun in the meantime.

Now Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Psychiatry in the Perlman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, Jim is a Professor of Health Psychology at the University Medical Ctr., Groningen, the Netherlands, where he commutes from Philadelphia 6-8 times a year. He is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institute for Health Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Psychology, Australian National University.

Location: Philadelphia, but I can almost as often be found somewhere in Europe or Australia.
Current Gig: Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Psychiatry in the Perlman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; and Professor of Health Psychology at the University Medical Ctr., Groningen, the Netherlands.
One word/phrase that best describes your work: Focused.
Current computer: Aging Dell Inspiron.

What apps/tools/software can’t you live without?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software and a Logitech headset are absolutely essential to how I write. Being a writer is central to my professional identity.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack? 

Writing times of a few hours punctuated by breaks in which I’m away from the computer. Breaks allow me to rethink what I’m writing, even though I seemed to put the writing out of my mind and I am focused on other things.

Sometimes I take my current writing project to a coffee shop or park, but on a beatup old iPad. I deliberately don’t learn how to edit on the iPad. I want to be able to a look at what I am working on without being able to do anything about it.

I don’t believe in binge writing. I believe it stifles creativity and drains writing of the fun it can be.

What’s your workspace set up like?

A four-foot marble perch at a window overlooking the corner below.


How do you keep track of things you need to do (any to-do-list apps)? 

Notepad on my iPhone. I also keep a mental procrastination list that tells me the next best thing to do when I don’t want to do what I need to do.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?

 A classic iPod with a portable Sony speaker linked by Bluetooth.

What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret?

I am self-conscious about being a writer in perpetual development. I read like a writer, constantly identifying what I like and don’t, and why. I am always looking to refine my skills and efficiency.

I use a quick, uninhibited writing strategy to produce free form first drafts. I follow this with multiple revisions until I get to a final crafted piece of writing of which I can be proud. This process could go on forever. Knowing when to keep at it and when to stop is critical.

I work on multiple projects at once and use quiet time when I’m not writing to reformulate what I’m working on.

What do you listen to while you work?

I’m eclectic to the point of promiscuous in my taste for music, drawing on an iPod loaded with two months of music ranging from classical to soothing jazz to 70s and 80s classic rock and beyond. Background music is important, but which music varies greatly with my mood and stage of writing.

What are you currently reading?

I like to read multiple books at a time, mostly on Kindle.

  • Rodrick Buchanan’s biography of Hans Eysenck, Playing with Fire.
  • John Williams’ Stoner.
  • Alice Drager’s Galileo’s Middle Finger.

How do you recharge?

Long walks, I try to log 4-5 miles a day, visiting favorite coffee shops, used CD stores, and foodie places like Philly’s famous Reading Terminal and open air and ethnic markets.

I often take breaks in the afternoon to catch recitals at the Curtis Institute or matinee art films.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Because I travel so much, I often don’t escape the influence of jet lag and time zone changes. I’m up at 5:30 or 6 AM writing, may take a short nap after one or after the 6:30 PM news. I make good use of waking up in the middle of the night to think about what’s going on in my life and I have learned not to get up then.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My mentor Paul Watzlawick telling me ‘the situation is hopeless but not serious.’


-James Coyne

Website: www.coyneoftherealm.com

Twitter: @CoyneoftheRealm

Facebook: facebook.com/james.c.coyne







  1. I love your writing process! Such good advice for scientists in getting quality output!


  2. […] I’m James Coyne, Professor of Psychology, and this is how I work […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: