James W.A. Strachan

James W.A. Strachan

he/him 🏳️‍🌈

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf


I am an experimental cognitive scientist studying the links between joint action, communication, and learning. In particular, I am interested in how people acquire skills and technical know-how through social interactions with other people; how people use their existing skills and knowledge about the task and other people to encode and readout relevant information from instrumental movements, and the long-term consequences for this communication both at the individual level (e.g. how does online communication with a teacher affect what and how a student learns the skill?) and population level (how does the information change as it passes from person to person?)

I am currently a Visiting Scientist as the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, where I am supported by a fellowship for experienced researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation investigating the kinematic signature of pedagogical intentions in teachers' demonstrations.

  • PhD in Psychology, 2017

    University of York

  • MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, 2013

    University of York

  • BSc in Psychology, 2009

    University of York

Research Interests

Joint Action

How do we coordinate our actions with other people to achieve a joint goal?

Motor cognition

How are higher order intentions and mental states encoded and read out from movement kinematics?

Social learning

How do we acquire new skills and techniques from the people around us?


University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
Humboldt Research Fellow
Mar 2023 – Present Hamburg, Germany
Recipient of a research grant for experienced researchers awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to study kinematics of pedagogical actions during demonstration
Cognition, Motion, and Neuroscience Unit; Italian Institute of Technology
Jul 2020 – Dec 2022 Genoa, Italy
Postdoctoral research fellowship investigating movement-to-movement variability of upper limb kinematics in teaching interactions
Institutional webpage (archived)
MINDED Project
Social Mind and Body lab, Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University
Postdoctoral Researcher
Nov 2016 – Jun 2020 Budapest, Hungary
Postdoctoral researcher studying coordination and communication in joint action
Institutional webpage (archive)
Department of Psychology, University of York
PhD Student
Oct 2013 – Sep 2016 York, UK
Supervised by Professor Steve Tipper on thesis titled, Incidental learning of trust from identity-contingent gaze cues: boundaries, extensions and applications.
Find the thesis in the university repository

Recent Publications

See list of collaborators

(2023). Flexible cultural learning through action coordination. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

PDF Cite Project Source Document DOI Preprint

(2023). Flexible Social Learning of Technical Skills: The Case of Action Coordination. In The Evolution of Techniques: Rigidity and Flexibility in Use, Transmission, and Innovation, part of the Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology, forthcoming.

Cite Project


Cultural transmission of technical expertise
How do people acquire complex skills and techniques through social learning?
Cultural transmission of technical expertise
Deriving Social Information from Gaze
How do we make inferences about other people based on where they look?
Deriving Social Information from Gaze
Territory and the Self
How does the social relevance of a landscape affect how we process objects?
Territory and the Self