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Homepage / Cranfield’s women in defence: Dr Marie Cahillane, Head of the Applied Psychology Group

Cranfield’s women in defence: Dr Marie Cahillane, Head of the Applied Psychology Group


Working in defence and security isn’t all about weapons and blowing things up. To coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March and this year’s #ChooseToChallenge theme, we hear from three of Cranfield University’s experts working in a variety of roles in the sector.

Marie is a cognitive psychologist and an innovator in applying cognitive science to improving skills retention among the defence and security workforce.

“I never thought I’d conduct research for defence or the Government. Applying my skills in cognitive psychology to different domains within defence is most compelling – it’s all about making a difference. For me, memory, and more broadly human information processing, underpins everything,” said Marie.

Marie’s work has involved the development of innovative methods that facilitate optimisation of military training programmes, minimising costs for maximum retention of safety-critical, routine and non-routine defence and security skills. Her research has also informed better decision-making, policy development and equipment design.

Marie leads innovative research into the exploitation of cognitive vulnerabilities online, addressing gaps in understanding how ‘cognitive hacking’, through manipulation of informational and contextual features, may influence human decision-making and subsequent behaviours. Other research has involved the development of intelligence gathering and threat assessment methods that reduce cognitive bias.

“What I really like about Cranfield is that it bridges the gap between academia and industry. Its diversity initiatives and shared core values underpin its commitment to equal opportunities. I could not have wished to be in a better position than working at Cranfield Defence and Security on applied research with defence and security stakeholders and industrial partners. I get to do my hobby for a living!”

Dr Marie Cahillane

Written By: Cranfield University

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