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Dr. Betty Rideout: Instructor, Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

September 22, 2012

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 1.A, Subject: Psychology

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Undergraduate Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: September 22, 2012

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2013

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,260

ISSN 2369-6885

Issue 1.A, Subject: Psychology

1.      Where did you acquire your education? How did you become interested in Psychology?

My first two years were completed at Kwantlen, back when Kwantlen first separated from Douglas college and was a series of trailers on 140th street.  I was a mature student (relatively speaking) and wanted a way out of the boring job I was in.  From Kwantlen I went onto UBC to complete my BA in Psychology (was tied for the governor’s general award at Kwantlen, GPA), but lost the award to another student because a few of my courses I had completed were taken at Cap College.  At UBC I went on to complete an MA in Counselling Psychology, and I recently completed a PhD through an interdisciplinary faculty in education, the Centre for Cross Faculty Inquiry, which was a more sensible choice for me than a PhD in Counselling Psychology since my research interests had long since strayed from psychotherapy.  My advisor though was the same advisor for my Phd as was for my MA, from Counselling Psychology.

2.      What topics have you researched in your career?

My Master’s degree looked at the influence of divorce on adolescents – this was in the 1980’s and there actually wasn’t a lot of research at the time on that topic.

3.      You recently earned your PhD.  What did you research?  How do the results extend into larger society?

My research looked at how young adults who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, assess and critically reflect upon their spiritual beliefs.  The research questions were twofold: what were young adults’ beliefs, and secondly, how did they critically reflect upon them.  The second research question utilized King and Kitchener’s reflective judgment model to interpret and assess participants’ beliefs.

How do the results extend into the larger society?  We found that participants scored at about the norm for their age and education level, but having said that, were alarmed at how participants’ beliefs seemed tentative and were not grounded into their personal philosophies.  Hanan Alexander (2002) points out that “today’s spiritual seekers experience their moral intuitions as fragmented and ungrounded” (p. x) and comments that part of a spiritual exploration is asking big questions, meaning of life  questions, the type of questions that typically include pondering the nature of goodness.  These sorts of questions, and the answers we decide for ourselves, seem particularly relevant for young adults since one’s idea of the nature of goodness can guide both their career and relationship choices.  It’s possible then that the kind of spiritual seeking that appears to be so common these days, without some type of intellectual support, inquiry, etc. may be one piece that contributes to the higher rate of depression and anxiety that we see in young adults today.  There’s no doubt that institutional religion is no longer a source of undisputed guidance and meaning, more and more people tend to pick and choose their favourite religious pieces, but how effectively can we integrate those pieces into a larger personal philosophy that coheres, has integrity and can provide an authentic source of guidance for ourselves?

4.      Other than the social domain, where would you like to take your research?

Well, I suppose the main thrust of my research is that I hope individuals will entertain the idea that one’s epistemological stance bears examination, and that the ideas and personal philosophies we hold outside of the academic world warrant just as much critical examination as the topics we prepare for in an examination.  Maybe even more, because, if spiritual beliefs tend to include a notion of what is goodness, then this is a foundational belief that can only benefit from close scrutiny in order to make that belief a lived experience.

5.      What do you consider the most controversial research in psychology? How do you examine this research?

In Psychology, hmm – I think actually I’d point to work in Philosophy and its influence on Psychology as a more significant source of controversy, particularly the work by post-modern theorists such as Foucault and Derrida.  They’re changing the nature of language and core social concepts – and that’s powerfully influential.  Foucault argued that the Social Sciences were the most influential academic area because it is the Social Sciences that produce and institute our cultural ideals, for better or for worse.

6.      How have your philosophical views changed over time – in and out of psychology?

I’ve changed from a simple naïve realist to someone who is much more open to ontological possibilities I never would have considered in my thirties.  I remain convinced that the method of science is the most powerful epistemological tool available to us, but wonder whether this method may evolve as well, and sometimes ponder whether there are possible realities that the human mind simply has yet to evolve the capacity to comprehend.

I’m also interested in Jonathan Haidt’s (2012) research – who points out that Psychology has solidly been influenced by a rationalist perspective from the time of Plato on – there is a direct line of influence to Piaget and Kohlberg.  He argues that so much of human processing is non-rational – and we rationalists overlook this at our peril.  My research falls squarely into a rationalist perspective; King and Kitchener were influenced by William Perry, who was influenced by Kohlberg, who was influenced by Piaget.  There are researchers who propose a personal epistemology that is more embodied, intuitive, and perhaps I’ve overlooked the importance of this given my rationalist bias.

7.      What advice would you give to undergraduate and graduate students aiming for a career in psychology?

Consider what your specific goal is, and if it includes working as a psychotherapist, make sure that you have had lots of opportunities to work in that kind of capacity before you commit.  Not everyone is ideally suited to working with other people’s painful experiences, and psychological change is a slow process, successes are measured out in teaspoons.

8.      What books, article, and/or people have most influenced your intellectual development?

I quite admire Jonathan Haidt – his book The Righteous Mind (2012) is a timely read given the polarization politically that is so dominant these days.

I admire Charles Taylor’s scholarship and ability to integrate diverse perspectives: A Secular Age (2007) and Sources of the Self (1989).

Foucault’s Madness and Civilization

Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo: The Future of Religion, argue a kind of post-modern update of religion, their ideas were brand new for me.

I still like Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents

9.      What do you consider the take-home message of your research?

Know thyself?  Perhaps not in the true Platonic tradition, but at least Jungian, and while we are blessed to live in multicultural times where the internet exposes us to lots of different perspectives, whatever ideals we choose we need to make our own, and that’s best achieved through the hard work of critical inquiry as well ensuring that our beliefs also become our lived experience.

License

Creative Commons Licence In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-sight, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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