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"I had applied on the presumption that I would gain some mystical insight into people's souls; instead I was introduced to science and discovered how it is not a set of disciplines like Physics or Biology but a systematic way of checking theories against facts. I realised how lazy it is to base ideas on anecdote and supposition and how misguided we can be by intuition. I learned how vulnerable humans are to misperceptions, misremembering and to social pressure. And to my chagrin I discovered that my colleagues who came from a science background often cared as much for theatre, music or culture in general as those who, like me, had majored in the humanities and arts - whereas we were could barely explain scientific fundamentals, such as how a radio signal gets through walls.
"Eventually I was distracted from my career path - I had been determined to become a clinical psychologist and hoped to work with children and adolescents. Instead I drifted into broadcasting, encouraged by my head of department, Professor Seth ("You can come back to Psychology whenever you like; you might never get a chance in radio or TV again"). I always maintained that when I grew up I would get a proper job and that I really would go back to be a psychologist for real. Instead, what I learned at Queen's has shaped my whole career, with a constant quest for evidence rather than mere opinion."
"One teaching lab was housed in a single-story building under the spreading limbs of an impressive red-leaved tree, a beech perhaps, between two of the villas. Private manicured grounds linked the villas. The psychology library was in a large light coloured room with large windows on the ground floor of the first villa on Lennoxvale, on the right as you entered the road. The doors to the library had cut-glass panels. The room had a series of tables, where we sat and read voluminously, as you might put it, and the walls were lined with books and journals. You only had to lean back to pick one out of curiousity. We all read ad lib a lot as well as covering assigned texts.
"We would be given essay topics and told to come back in two months with our essay. Dutifully, we complied. I picked "Pain" one term. I learned so much I decided to offer two lectures on the topic. The honours school my year had about 16 lively students. I booked a room and posted a note about my lectures. The honours students turned up en masse and listened thoughtfully. Trevor Rentoul went on to graduate work in Poland on learning theory and then to Goldsmith's. Victor Johnson and Ron Bradley went to Scotland and then to sweet Alabama. Karen Trew became faculty at QUB, where she is still and doing well. Daphne Alexander went to Connecticut. Janet Potter went back to London. Betty Moore joined the civil service. Others went into clinical work, like a student from Nigeria we liked a great deal. One student -- a superb athlete -- went to Aberdeen. I went to Cornell and then Harvard and Toronto.
"When I was still in grammar school, and before coming to QUB I asked for an appointment with George Seth, the Professor, probably in 1960.
"I had read something about intelligence tests and was fascinated. I'd read Robert H Thouless's little book on thinking, and was impressed.
"He was very cool on television. I'd also read Knight & Knight's Introductory Psychology text. I told Professor Seth I had read the Intro text. I asked "is that all there is to it?" It seemed pretty straightforward to me. (Grammar school A level Physics and Calculus were tougher, I felt.) Seth told me Queen's had a very good Psychology department and I should come as a student. It has taken me a career to realize no-one I have interviewed as a possible student seems to have read an Intro text, let alone off their own bat. Now I know what Seth was actually saying. He was recruiting.
"The department was smaller then, and still it treated its students "like gold" as assessors said of Psychology later. We were called Mr and Miss and treated with great respect. We returned the favour with remarkable manners. We opened doors, quite literally. If Seth approached a door and there was a student near, the student rushed over to open the door for him. Peter McEwan was my Advisor for theses in perception, before he took off for Stirling, and was very patient. Bob Rodger, swirling the stage in a black robe, taught stats and criticized H. J. Eysenck wonderfully and rhetorically in the Whitla Hall. "What Professor Eysenk doesn't seem to realize..." one ear-catching sentence began. I wanted to applaud. He took off later for Eastern Canada, possibly Dalhousie. Dick Gilbert spent patient hours discussing things with me and forcing me to consider my definitions. He came to Toronto.
"Mrs Seth. McHugh. Shouksmith. The learning theorist Roger Stretch (who also went to Canada). Others besides are vivid in my memory. Little do we faculty know how strong the imprint can be.
"We had no idea at the time that we were at, what for a while might have been the most beautiful place to study Psychology. We imagined what we had was likely found elsewhere. Seth said to the VC once, at a Psychology Club formal dinner, that someday Queen's would suddenly realize what Psychology had in Lennoxvale and he would have to fight to keep it.
"I know how he felt."
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