Oliver James (psychologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Oliver James (born 1953) is a chartered psychologist, registered with the British Psychological Society. He is also registered as a Relational Psychoanalyst at the Bowlby Centre. He is an author, journalist, television producer and broadcaster.


Following a degree in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University, he trained as a child clinical psychologist at Nottingham University and worked for six years at the NHS Cassel Hospital in Richmond in a clinical psychologist post.[citation needed]

He has written columns for The Sun, the Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Express, The Independent, The Observer magazine and The Guardian Family section. He also contributes regularly to the Comment page of The Guardian, as well as occasional articles for the other broadsheets.[citation needed]. Currently, he writes a column in the Financial Times Wealth magazine.

Speaking on Channel 4's 2013 "Psychopath Night", James described the credit crunch as a "mass outbreak of corporate psychopathy which resulted in something that very nearly crashed the whole world economy".[1]


In 1982 James made his first television series, for Granada for the ITV network, about childcare (Under Fives). He made two further educational series, one for Channel 4 (Sex With Paula, 1987) and one for ITV (Men On Violence, 1988, for LWT). He originated and was associate producer of the ITV documentary "The Man who shot John Lennon". {see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFa4wuY1zgk}

He was the interviewer and producer of the 44 interviews in Room 113 for the two series of the BAFTA-award-winning Network 7 youth programme on Channel 4. Room 113 was the most popular slot in the programme[citation needed] and the interviews were described by Chris Dunckley in the Financial Times as "The most frank since John Freeman's Face-to-Face in the Fifties".[citation needed]

In 1990 he produced a documentary for Channel 4 about the Mail on Sunday and in 1992 he contributed three films, two as Producer and one as Producer-Presenter, to the BBC 2 Crime and Punishment season. Rape, for 40 Minutes, recorded the meeting of a rapist and a rape victim. Prisoner XYY/334422, also for 40 Minutes, was about the psychology of an imprisoned psychopath. Wot U Looking At?, for the science programme Horizon, presented his highly influential[citation needed] explanation (from his monograph "Juvenile Violence in a Winner-Loser Culture") for why the poor are more violent than the rich and why, at the time, violence had been rocketing since 1987 in the UK.

In 1995 he produced, directed and presented a forty-minute Late Show documentary for BBC2, Prozac Diary, in which artists took the drug to see how it affected their work. In 1997, he produced and presented The Chair, a 7-part interview series for BBC2, including one in which Peter Mandelson MP famously shed a tear.{see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFa4wuY1zgk}

In 1998 he was the presenter of a 2-part series about his book, New Britain on the Couch, for Channel 4, followed in 2000 by presenting a one-off documentary about infidelity, Affairs of the Heart. In each of 2004, 2005 and 2006 he has presented a series of programmes about childcare for This Morning, titled Through the Eyes of the Child.


His 2002 book "They F*** You Up" has sold over 150,000 copies, as did his book "Affluenza" (2007).

His 2009 book, Contented Dementia, has sold over 70,000 copies in the UK and is widely used by professionals and relatives in managing people with the illness,[citation needed] despite the extreme hostility displayed to the method by the Alzheimer's Society.[citation needed]

In his 2012 book, Love Bombing - Reset your child's emotional thermostat, he describes a technique for parents to help improve relationships between parents and children which is widely used.[citation needed]

In his 2013 book, Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks, he identifies each of the three dark triadic personality traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy) as being common amongst senior managers.

His book Not In Your Genes (2016) argued that no genes have been found which significantly explain our individual psychology, such as intelligence or mental health, and claimed that nurture is extremely important, explaining why siblings are different and why traits run in family. Also published in 2016, his book Upping Your Ziggy - How David Bowie Faced His Childhood Demons and How You Can Face Yours analyses how Bowie used his lyrics and stage personas to deal with his fear of madness, resulting from his family background. It explores the environmental causes of schizophrenia.


Stuart Ritchie, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, wrote a strongly critical review of James's book "Not In Your Genes". He described the book as a "straw man made flesh", "a compendium of psychological myths and legends", and "bending over backwards to avoid awkward conclusions". Ritchie wrote, "Few books risk such damage to the public understanding of science as those by Oliver James", and accused James of "scientific illiteracy".

Ritchie described the book's thesis as "children are born with brains of soft clay, their mental makeup unaffected by genes and infinitely mouldable by their parents", and that "DNA has no effect on the mind or mental health, whereas parenting reigns supreme". Ritchie described a variety of evidence which contradicts this view.[2]

Ritchie also responded to a letter from James in The Psychologist Magazine,[3] following which James and Prof Richard Bentall of the University of Liverpool engaged him in argument.[4]

James responded to Ritchie's criticisms in an article in the Guardian.[5]

List of books[edit]

  • James, Oliver (1998). Britain on the Couch – Why We’re Unhappier Compared with 1950 Despite Being Richer. Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-924402-0. 
  • James, Oliver (2002). They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life. Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-8478-8. 
  • James, Oliver (2012). Love Bombing - Reset your child's emotional thermostat. Karnac Books. 
  • James, Oliver (February 2013). Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks. Vermilion. ISBN 978-0-09-192394-5. 
  • James, Oliver (January 2014). How To Develop Emotional Health. School of Life/Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9780230771710. 
  • James, Oliver (March 2016). Not In Your Genes: The Real Reasons Children Are Like Their Parents. Vermilion. ISBN 9780091947668. 

James, Oliver (June 2017), Upping Your Ziggy - How David Bowie faced his childhood demons - and you can face yoursr, Karnac Books, ISBN 1782204903

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Psychopath Night, Channel 4 (2013).
  2. ^ Stuart Ritchie (2016-03-08). "On genetics Oliver James is on a different planet to the rest of us". Spectator Health (Health.spectator.co.uk). Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  3. ^ "Not in your genes | The Psychologist". Thepsychologist.bps.org.uk. 2015-12-28. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  4. ^ "Jump the gun and you will be shot down | The Psychologist". Thepsychologist.bps.org.uk. doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1112-4. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  5. ^ Oliver James (2016-03-30). "Sorry, but you can’t blame your children’s genes | Oliver James | Opinion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 

External links[edit]