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Dr. Maryanne Garry: Psychology Professor, Victoria University of Wellington


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/12/15

1.  What academic positions have you held? What academic positions do you currently hold?

I was a postdoc at the University of Washington, working with Elizabeth Loftus and Alan Marlatt, and then I came to Victoria University of Wellington in 1996. I’ve been there ever since. I’m a Professor of Psychology here.

2. In brief, how was your youth? How did you come to this point? 

I’m really a first generation college kid. My parents grew up in the Great Depression and thought college was the way you get a high paying job that gives you lots of security. They were never thrilled with my interests in academia.

3.  When did Psychology interest you?

Well, from the time I was about 8, I wanted to be a forensic scientist. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate from a forensic science program as an undergrad did I learn that I would not be able to pass the eye text to be an FBI agent. Back then, the FBI was suspicious of contact lenses. So I used my forensic and chemistry degrees to teach high school, and then I became interested in cognition, and I realized that I could still tackle forensic problems via cognitive psychology.

4. Where did you acquire your education?

I did my PhD at the University of Connecticut and my Forensic Science and Chemistry degrees at the University of New Haven.

5. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?

I’ve done research on eyewitness memory, implanted false memories, expectancy effects, truth effects, and some educational research.

6. If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

I’m doing a lot of work with my grad students.

7. If you had infinite funding and full academic freedom, what would you research? 

Probably the same thing I do now. I really like  human memory.

8.  Since you began studying Psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics? How do you examine the controversial topics?

Without a doubt, in my field it’s been the drama about repressed and recovered memories. But across psychology, I think the controversial topic is what’s happening now with respect to null hypothesis testing; replications; low ns producing quirky results, etc.

9.  How would you describe your early philosophical framework? Did it change? If so, how did it change? 

The classes I had with Mike Turvey as a grad student had an enormous impact on the way I think, or at least try to think. I know a lot of people think the Gibsons and their wider ecological approach is some kind of wacky cultish thing, but I don’t. In this big picture sense, I think my frameworks haven’t changed that much. On other levels, yeah, they’ve changed. It’s a mix of hilarious and painful for me to pick up my dissertation and read any random page. For one thing, I didn’t know anything. That’s the great myth of getting a PhD: that you’ll leave with your degree knowing what you’ll need to know for the future. For another thing, I am much more dedicated to well written manuscripts. The day is too short to slog through papers that make your eyeballs bleed.

10. What advice do you have for young Psychology students?

Without a doubt, here are the three pieces of advice that probably account for 90% of the variance in success:

  1. Learn to write. Nothing else matters if you write like crap. Think of the last few truly engaging scientific articles you read. Were they in a journal? Probably not. They were probably in Scientific American, or New Scientist. Learn to write like that.  If you have been told that “good data speak for themselves,” guess what? They don’t. Likewise the idea that you need to write in polysyllabic passive prose. Ugh.
  2. Write an hour or two every day. Without fail. Mark it in your calendar, and treat it the way you would any other important appointment. You wouldn’t not show up to teach class. Show up to write. The most productive writers write every day, whether they think they have anything to say or not. It turns out they always have something to say. Don’t think you’re a writer? That’s the first hurdle you need to get over: you are. So yep, turn off Facebook, staple your ass to a chair, and write.
  3.  Master the technical side of research. That means taking stats classes, and learning to program. Don’t leave grad school until you know something about multivariate techniques, and can program an experiment.

11. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any seminal books/articles?

I had a few influential professors in grad school. From my advisor, Scott Brown, I learned how to be a good advisor. From Mike Turvey, I learned the importance of good teaching and the well-crafted lecture. From Beth Loftus, I learned that how you say something is as important as what you say.

12. Where do you see Psychology going?

Away, finally, from slavish reliance on null hypothesis testing and goofily erratic effects. At least I hope so.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’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 Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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