Brian Butterworth

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Brian Butterworth
Brian Butterworth

3 January 1944 (1944-01-03) (age 75)[1]
Alma materMerton College, Oxford[2]
Spouse(s)Diana Laurillard
Scientific career
FieldsMathematical psychology, Dyslexia and Speech science
InstitutionsInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London
Fellow of the British Academy

Brian Butterworth FBA (born 3 January 1944) is emeritus professor of cognitive neuropsychology in the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.[3] His research has ranged from speech errors and pauses, short-term memory deficits, dyslexia, reading both in alphabetic scripts and Chinese, and mathematics and dyscalculia. His book The Mathematical Brain[4] has been translated into four languages. He was Editor-in-Chief of Linguistics (1978–1983) and a founding editor of the journals Language and Cognitive Processes and Mathematical Cognition. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

In 1984 he diagnosed President Ronald Reagan on the basis of speech errors in his presidential re-election speeches in an article in the Sunday Times as having Alzheimer's disease ten years before this was formally identified.[5][6][7] He was a coauthor in 1971 of a pamphlet, Marked for life, critical of university examinations.[8]

He designed the world's largest mathematical experiment involving over 18,000 people at Explore-At-Bristol.[9] In the serious game for elementary school children with dyscalculia, Meister Cody, he lends his voice to Quoun, the Guardian of the Trees.[10][11]

Subitizing experiment[edit]

Subitizing concerns the ability to instantly identify the number of items without counting. Collections of four or below are usually subitised with collections of larger numbers being counted. Brian Butterworth designed an experiment that ran as an interactive exhibit at the Explore-At-Bristol science museum to find whether subitising differed between women and men. Participants were asked to estimate as fast as they could between one and 10 dots and press the answer on a touch screen. How long they took—their reaction time—was measured. Over 18,000 people took part—the largest number ever to take part in a mathematical cognition experiment.[12] He announced his finding that women were better than men at subitising at the British Association for the Advancement of Science's 2003 annual science festival.[12] He also found that people were six per cent faster on calculating the number of dots if they were presented on the left side of the screen (and so right sided lateralised in the brain) but only if there were five or more and so counted.[12][13]


The Mathematical Brain[edit]

(1999). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-76610-1

Published in the same year in the US as What Counts New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-85417-5

Italian translation. Intelligenza Matematica. (1999). Milano: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-88-7378-013-7
Japanese translation (Naze sugaku ga tokui na hito to nigate na hito ga irunoka? (Why are some people good, but others bad at maths?) (2001). Tokyo: Shufunotomosha.
Swedish translation Den matematiska människan. (2000). Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand. ISBN 978-91-46-17406-6
Chinese translation (2004). 200X Orient Publishing Company (Chinese)

Other books[edit]

Powell A. Butterworth B. (1971). Marked for life: a criticism of assessment at universities. London, Anarchist Group ISBN 978-0-901807-01-4

Butterworth B. (1980). Language Production Volume 1: Speech and talk Academic Pr ISBN 978-0-12-147501-7

Butterworth B. (1983). Language Production Volume 2: Development, Writing and Other Language Processes Academic Pr ISBN 978-0-12-147502-4

Butterworth B. Comrie B. Dahl O. (1984). Explanations for Language Universals Mouton De Gruyter ISBN 978-3-11-009797-9

Butterworth, B. (2004). Dyscalculia Guidance Helping Pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties in Maths. David Fulton ISBN 978-0-7087-1152-1



  • Shallice, T.; Butterworth, B. (1977). "Short-term memory impairment and spontaneous speech". Neuropsychologia. 15 (6): 729–735. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(77)90002-1. PMID 600367.
  • Butterworth, B.; Campbell, R.; Howard, D. (1986). "The uses of short-term memory: A case study". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. A, Human Experimental Psychology. 38 (4): 705–737. doi:10.1080/14640748608401622. PMID 3809577. PDF

Reading and dyslexia[edit]

  • Campbell, R.; Butterworth, B. (1985). "Phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia in a highly literate subject: A developmental case with associated deficits of phonemic processing and awareness". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. A, Human Experimental Psychology. 37 (3): 435–475. doi:10.1080/14640748508400944. PMID 4048548.
  • Yin, W. G. & Butterworth, B. (1998). "Chinese pure alexia". Aphasiology. 12 (1): 65–76. doi:10.1080/02687039808249444. OCLC 198414365.
  • Wydell, T. N.; Butterworth, B. (1999). "A case study of an English-Japanese bilingual with monolingual dyslexia". Cognition. 70 (3): 273–305. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00016-5. PMID 10384738.
  • Butterworth, B.; Wengang, Y. (1991). "The Universality of Two Routines for Reading: Evidence from Chinese Dyslexia". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 246 (1315): 91–95. doi:10.1098/rspb.1991.0129. PMID 1684672.
  • Yin W. Butterworth B. (1992). Deep and Surface Dyslexia in Chinese In Chen, H-C. & Tzeng, O. J. L. (eds.) Language Processing in Chinese. Amsterdam: North Holland/Elsevier. (1 MB)
  • Shibahara, N.; Shibahara, N.; Zorzi, M.; Zorzi, M.; Hill, M. P.; Wydell, T.; Butterworth, B. (2003). "Semantic effects in word naming: Evidence from English and Japanese Kanji". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A. 56 (2): 263–286. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/02724980244000369. PMID 12613564. PDF



  1. ^ BUTTERWORTH, Prof. Brian Lewis, Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2011, accessed 30 October 2012
  2. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 547.
  3. ^ Emeritus Staff – UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, accessed 30 October 2012
  4. ^ Butterworth, B. (1999). The Mathematical Brain. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-76610-1
  5. ^ The Sunday Times, 4 November 1984
  6. ^ Forbes-Mckay, K. E.; Venneri, A. (2005). "Detecting subtle spontaneous language decline in early Alzheimer's disease with a picture description task". Neurological Sciences. 26 (4): 243–254. doi:10.1007/s10072-005-0467-9. PMID 16193251. This reference discusses Butterworth's study on Reagan
  7. ^ Venneri, A.; Forbes-Mckay, K. E.; Shanks, M. F. (2005). "Impoverishment of spontaneous language and the prediction of Alzheimer's disease". Brain. 128 (4): E27. doi:10.1093/brain/awh419. PMID 15788549. Another mention of Butterworth's study
  8. ^ Powell A. Butterworth B. (1971). Marked for life: a criticism of assessment at universities. London, Anarchist Group ISBN 978-0-901807-01-4
  9. ^ The world’s largest maths experiment Archived 3 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Making of Meister Cody - Talasia Youtube. Retrieved 2015-09-21
  11. ^ ̪Two renowned cognitive psychologists lend their voices to help dyscalculic children. Meister Cody Homepage. Retrieved 2015-12-03
  12. ^ a b c BBC:Women beat men in maths test
  13. ^ New Scientist 11 September 2003

External links[edit]

in Italian
in Japanese
in Swedish