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One on one... with Maryon Tysoe

Fellow of the Society for her work on the dissemination of psychological knowledge, and a former Editor of The Psychologist

13 November 2013

One person who inspired you
George Miller, author of Psychology: The Science of Mental Life. This was the first book I ever read about psychology, in the 1960s, and that was it for me. Hooked.

One moment that changed the course of your career
When a university researcher in the late 1970s, I read an article in the sadly long-gone weekly magazine New Society, then the highly regarded social science equivalent of New Scientist. The article (by a non-psychologist) suggested that perhaps people developed racist attitudes much younger than was previously thought. But I remembered that social psychological research going back to the 1940s had clearly shown that such attitudes can be found in children as young as four. And I thought, what on earth is the point of researching human beings if we never let them know what we’ve found out? That flash powered my career for years to come.

One memory of your time with The Psychologist
The way people became so engaged in helping The Psychologist to evolve in new directions. For example, in 1998, I was working with a professional designer, the office staff and the Psychologist Policy Committee on a complete re-design of the magazine. I remember, in one PPC meeting, about eight brilliant psychologists passionately discussing typefaces. It was a lovely moment.

One thing you learned through your involvement with the Society’s media training
That people really can transform the way they present their work in a single day, from hiding their light under an over-complex and jargon-laden bushel to communicating a clear, powerful central message. Although I stepped down from media training at the end of last year (feeling that nearly 27 years was enough!), I still feel passionately about it as a service for members and its vital role in the diffusion of psychology.

One challenge you think psychology faces
To keep on increasing the communication of helpful evidence-based advice, information, insight and concrete suggestions for action to the public at large, or to targeted groups. But this is a challenge, given the serious constraints on so many people of time, demands and financial pressures.

One thing that you would change about psychology
Making the applications of psychological findings to people’s benefit as highly valued and visible as its research efforts.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
To aim for absolute clarity for your audience in your writing and speaking about your work. It’s a much tougher intellectual challenge to be clear about complex matters than it is to be abstruse about them, but infinitely worth the effort!

One cultural recommendation
Almost anything by P.G. Wodehouse: a writer of comic genius, with a superbly inventive use of language. My favourites are the tales of Jeeves and Wooster.

One alternative career path you may have chosen
Astronomy. When I was little, my father and I spent many happy hours peering at the night sky through a telescope poking out of our attic window; there wasn’t so much light pollution in the 1950s. Even now, I get terribly excited by new astronomical discoveries and robotic rovers crawling across the Martian landscape.

One thing that makes me laugh
Frasier. Still.


Online only questions 


One of my greatest achievements
I believe and hope that, a long time ago, through writing about psychological research in newspapers and magazines, books and broadcasting, I did play at least some initial part (as did others, of course, including the Society’s Press Committee) in the gradual transformation of psychology in the public’s mind. When I started out, a far too prevalent view of psychology was that it was a risible subject that was all about Freud – but it came to be recognised as the wide-ranging and research-based discipline that it is.

One treasured possession
A small oil painting of St Ives in Cornwall, a place I visit when I can and always find magical.

One thing that organised psychology could do better
Set up clearer systems so that evidence-based findings with potential practical applications can have their best shot at being actually applied for the public good, either by the relevant psychologists themselves or, if that’s impractical, by others. And as part of this, perhaps to be more proactive with such suggestions, rather than – as it seems to me – waiting quite so much to be consulted by policymakers.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Gradually, over many years, I believe it has played a significant role in making people much more psychologically aware and, for example, more likely than before to ask ‘I wonder why I/she/he/they did that?’ rather than to automatically leap to conclusions and cling on. 

One problem that psychology should deal with                              
Knowing when to feel confident that a particular conclusion is 'evidence-based': not always a straightforward matter.

One hope for the future of psychology
That it has increasing impact on policies with a chance of creating a happier, more integrated and equal society. No pressure, then.

One proud moment
Receiving a prestigious award for specialist writing in UK magazines, for articles on psychology when I was a journalist on the staff of New Society – the very magazine that had set me on my new path.