An interview with Dr. Stephen Lindsay

Guest post by Armin Bayati

I’m currently in the final semester of my undergraduate degree (Honours in Biology and Psychology) at UVic, and I’m using this time to learn more about the professors and researchers I’ve encountered throughout my degree.

I have been fortunate to have a multi-disciplinary education at UVic and to have had the privilege to work with researchers in various departments. I hope to be able to speak to several different faculty members at UVic regarding their education, research and their passions, in an attempt to inspire future UVic students.

My first interview was with Dr. D. Stephen Lindsay, a professor within the Psychology department at UVic. His journey to his current faculty position was riveting and has inspired me to pursue my own graduate education.

Here is an excerpt of my interview with Dr. Lindsay:

Can you tell me about your source of inspiration for pursuing psychology? Where did you do your undergraduate degree? What type of research did you do as an undergraduate student?

“My parents were interested in psychology, especially in humanistic psychology, so I grew up hearing discussions of self-actualization, the games people play, the inner child, etc. Then at Reed College I was exposed to psychology as a scientific enterprise.

Reed in the late 1970s was still heavily dominated by rigorous behaviourists. Each student at Reed is assigned a faculty adviser, and I had the great good fortune to be advised by Professor Carol Creedon. She was extremely intelligent, indeed wise, but she was also very kind and had a wonderfully dry sense of humour.

I was also strongly influenced by Colleen Kelley, who had herself graduated from Reed a few years earlier and took time out of her graduate program at Stanford to take a 2-year teaching position at Reed. I took both cognitive psychology and statistics with Colleen, and I enjoyed both courses.

In the cognitive course, in the second semester of my junior year, my main class project was on Piaget’s ideas about how children come to understand the principles such as the conservation of mass over displacements. The next year, Carol Creedon supervised my thesis project, which extended the work on Piagetian conservation that I had started in Colleen’s class.”

Where did you pursue graduate education? What type of research did you do as a graduate student? Was this line of research related to what you are doing now?

“When I graduated from Reed in 1981 I was sure that I was done with schooling. I was keen to get into the real world and do real things. But after some number of months of doing real things such as cleaning up small oil spills in Prudhoe Bay and carrying lumber in Anchorage, I eagerly accepted an invitation from Carol Creedon to spend the summer in Portland doing a research project (again on Piagetian conservation, but with a different method from my thesis work). 

That summer, Carol talked me into applying to grad schools (and gave me excellent pointers on how to do so, many of which contributed to my Tips document at ). 

I ended up going to Princeton. I had a somewhat mixed first two years, but things really took off at the beginning of my third year when I switched to Marcia Johnson’s lab. She is a superstar and a superb human being. Marcia’s expertise is human memory, and she had developed a set of theoretical ideas about “reality monitoring,” which has to do with distinguishing between memories of events that one actually experienced versus memories of purely mental events (thoughts, dreams, inferences). 

She and I elaborated the reality monitoring model into the much more general source monitoring framework, which attempts to explain the processes by which the mind/brain makes inferences about the sources or origins of its own contents (e.g., is this a new idea or a memory of an old idea? Is this a memory of something Sally said, or of something Juanita said? Is this a memory from yesterday or the day before? Did I see the movie or did I read the book? Did I see that the man had a gun or did I just hear another witness say he had a gun?). 

Pretty much all of my research is informed by the Source Monitoring Framework. We described it in a 1993 article that has been cited more than 4,000 times.”

What is your current source of interest?

 “These days my main interest is in improving the statistical rigour of psychological science.  I am the Editor in Chief of Psychological Science, the flagship journal of the Association for Psychological Science. You can learn about my thoughts on the “replication crisis” and how to respond to it by reading my editorial in the journal.  See “

Thank you, Dr. Lindsay, for sharing some of your thoughts and experiences. Best of luck with your research!

You may also like...