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One on one - with Alan Baddeley

Professor of Psychology at the University of York

18 September 2008

One person who inspired you
I was inspired by Donald Hebb and his book Organisation of Behaviour, which I read as an undergraduate.

One moment that changed the course of your career
Being offered half a research studentship to work with Hebb. I knew I would not be able to find the other half. If I had, I might well now be working in a very different area.

One journal article or book that you think all psychologists should read
The book I have just published!

One thing that you would change about psychology
Journal publication habits. We are obsessed with being ‘archival’, tend to want papers that have large numbers of experiments, that must be regarded by multiple referees as unimpeachable. This leads to safe but boring work. This is not the case for other sciences.

One challenge you think psychology faces
Combining cognitive psychology with what used to be called orectic psychology involving the emotions, and conative psychology concerned with the will.
I think we are making real progress, and that this is an area in which both clinical psychology and neuroimaging are likely to be important.

One regret
Like Edith Piaf, I seem to have repressed my regrets!

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
The phrase I find myself saying most often as a research supervisor is ‘keep it simple!’ Unfortunately,
I don’t always follow the advice myself.

One cultural recommendation
The novels of Scott Fitzgerald.

One alternative career path you might have chosen
Had my post-A-level application to Cambridge been accepted, I would probably have become a geographer. Indeed, I regard myself as a kind of mental geographer, mapping some of the more striking and obvious features of the mind.

One hero/heroine from psychology past or present
I am not much into heroes, but have a great deal of respect for Sir Frederic Bartlett for his breadth of interest, his stimulating ideas and his commitment to combining theoretical and applied psychology.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
Avoiding the tendency of psychology to split into researchers and practitioners: not an easy task!

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Developing a cumulative scientific study of the mind based on empirically driven theories that link experience, behaviour and the brain.

One problem that psychology should deal with
A tendency to fragmentation that inevitably results from the growth and development of individual areas.

One hope for the future
That despite the tendency to fragmentation, psychology remains at heart a unitary discipline.