Interview with Dr. Deirdre Barrett

Dr. Deirdre Barret is a researcher and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She is well known for her research on dreams, hypnosis, and imagery. More recently she has written about evolutionary psychology and technology. She has also written severa successful books for the general public. deirdre barrett outside ucl 3a

What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher …  Any questions I have—in my case about dreams—I can come up with a way to operationalize the question and get an answer.

The biggest challenge in my career so far was … my ongoing interest in research and psychotherapy and teaching and writing books. All these things compliment each other in practical ways, but professionally, you don’t get rewarded in one sphere for work in another. It’s more work than focusing on any one of them exclusively—but worth it in my opinion.

One research project I will never forget is… my study of dreams in Kuwait right after the first Gulf War. I was brought there by the Kuwaiti government to teach a course on treating PTSD, but also took advantage of the opportunity to collect post-traumatic ,,American groups I’d just been working with—so similar in many ways, but also with differences growing out of varying cultural beliefs about dreams.

What I look for in a student who wants to work under my supervision … someone who’s passionate about their subject (dreams, hypnosis, imagery in terms of what I’ve supervised) and an original thinker.

Student research could be improved by … more opportunities for students to work on whatever question they’ve come up with. I think too many student projects are just chunks of a faculty member’s research; this doesn’t let psychology take full advantage of all the new perspectives in the field.

Academically, I most admire … Steve Pinker…  because …. he does such a great job of juggling roles as an major academic researcher, prolific popular writer, and professor.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career … that committees and administrative duties will take as much time as you let them.

The largest changes in psychological science in the next 10 years will be … all the hi-tech biological measurements available for research. Brain imaging has already revolutionized how we study mental processes—and that will continue to expand. Genetic analyses aren’t as widely used in psychology research yet as they are in medicine, but I think they’ll be a major tool in psychology within a decade.

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas is a Senior Editor at the Journal of European Psychology Students. He is currently a PhD student in psychological methods at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For further info see

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