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Ray Bull
Legal, criminological and forensic, Memory

One to one ...with Ray Bull

With Ray Bull, Professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of Leicester

10 May 2009

One moment that changed the course of your career
Doing very well at maths in school came rather effortlessly to me (I inherited that from my father). It was expected that I would go to ‘a very good’ university to read mathematics. One day my girlfriend at that time said: ‘I don’t mind too much that you will be going away from London to university, but will you become even more boring than you are now? Can’t you study something interesting?’  I took this advice seriously and talked to my careers teacher. He read out a list of ‘boring’ subjects and at the end he added ‘Psychology’.
I said to him ‘What’s that?’ and he replied ‘I don’t know, no one from here has ever studied that, but Mr Jones has a friend who recently read it.’

One book that you think all psychologists should read
This has to be The Perception of People and Events (1968) by Peter Warr and Christopher Knapper. They showed how rigorous notions developed from basic research on the perception of objects could
be applied to the much more difficult and challenging topic of the perception of people/events.

One thing that you would change about psychology
To bring the fun back into research.

One challenge you think your specific area of psychology faces
How – ethically – to interview non-cooperative, highly resistant suspects.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and remain aware, in the face of adversity, that psychology is amazingly interesting.

One cultural recommendation
The first LP by The Doors, in 1967. It changed ‘rock music’ for ever.

One alternative career path
Mathematician or something relating to rock music (having been on the Student Union Social Committee for five years, I was offered such a job by a friend).

One great thing that psychology has achieved
Making many more people (both inside and outside psychology) realise how important it is to ask ‘Where’s the evidence and is it quality evidence?’.

One hope
That psychology continues its exponential growth in popularity and positive impact.

One hero from psychology past or present
Professor Elizabeth Loftus who also moved from mathematics to psychology and who conducts methodologically excellent work on real-world problems that she then disseminates widely with great flair.

One proud moment
In July 2008, receiving at the Annual Conference Dinner the ‘Lifetime Contribution Award’ from the European Association of Psychology and Law. It was so emotional for me that I still suffer from ‘encoding failure’ and can recall little of the evening. (I only had a couple of glasses of wine!)

One regret
That my thesis supervisor (Professor Tony Gale, who had great faith in me in the late 1960s and the 1970s) and my father died a few years before I received the EAPL Award (and a similar award from the BPS Forensic Division).