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Barry Beyerstein


Barry Beyerstein is Associate Professor of Psychology and a member of the Brain Behaviour Laboratory at Simon Fraser University. A native of Edmonton, Alberta, he received his bachelor's degree from Simon Fraser University and a Ph.D. in Experimental and Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley.
Dr. Beyerstein's research has involved a number of areas related to his primary scholarly interests: brain mechanisms of perception and consciousness and the effects of drugs on the brain and mind. His work in these areas and his interest in the philosophy and history of science have also led him to be skeptical of many occult and New Age claims. This has prompted him to investigate the scientific status of many questionable products in the areas of medical and psychological treatment, as well as a number of dubious self-improvement techniques. In these pursuits, Dr. Beyerstein serves as chair of the Society of B. C. Skeptics and he is a Fellow and a member of the Executive Council of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Headquartered in New York, CSICOP promotes scientific critiques of occult and pseudoscientific claims in the media, in academe, and in the marketplace. Dr. Beyerstein is on the editorial board of CSICOP's journal, The Skeptical Inquirer. He is also an elected member of the Council for Scientific Medicine, a US organization that provides critiques of unscientific and fraudulent health products and a founding board member of the group supporting evidence-based medicine, Canadians for Rational Health Policy. He is associate editor of the journal, Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and on the editorial board of the new journal, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Dr. Beyerstein has published in these areas himself and was an invited presenter on the topic of false memory syndrome before the Canadian parliamentary committee investigating the laws concerning child custody and access.
Dr. Beyerstein's publications in psychopharmacology (the area that studies drug effects on consciousness and behaviour) have included areas such as drug effects on mental processes, mechanisms of addiction, environmental effects on drug use, and social consequences of drug use. He has also been involved in issues related to how scientific data should inform drug policy and various aspects of legal approaches to drug regulation. Dr. Beyerstein is a member of the Advisory Board of the Drug Policy Foundation (Washington, D.C.) and a founding board member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (Ottawa, Ontario). He is a former contributing editor of the International Journal of Drug Policy (Manchester, UK). Dr. Beyerstein has testified as an expert witness in numerous civil and criminal cases. He has testified regarding drug effects on consciousness, memory, perception, aggression, etc., and on topics such as addiction and recidivism. He has also testified before and been consulted by various official boards and organizations in regard to urinalysis as a means of reducing drug abuse. Dr. Beyerstein was invited to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during their discussions leading up to passage of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the bill which replaced the Narcotics Control Act.
As a physiological psychologist and psychopharmacologist, Dr. Beyerstein has also looked into several areas of "alternative and complementary medicine" as well as various New Age psychological practices. His interest in experimental design has led him to look carefully at the evidence put forth by proponents of these practices. His investigations have convinced him that, at this time, most of these treatments lack sufficient empirical evidence to support their efficacy. Others, though unproven at present, bear watching and may prove their effectiveness in the future. As a psychopharmacologist, he is especially interested in those aspects of herbal medicine that can prove their safety and efficacy in properly controlled clinical trials.
In response to the question of why so many intelligent, well-educated people continue to believe in discredited medical and psychological practices when they consistently fail objective tests of their efficacy Dr. Beyerstein has also become an expert in the psychology of human error. I.e., how failures of memory and inference, and psychological processes such as self-deception and wishful thinking, can lead to false but comforting beliefs about the world. In dealing with various fringe claims, he has also developed an interest in deception and con-artistry. That is because a small percentage of those who sell worthless therapies do so in full knowledge that they are bilking an unsuspecting and vulnerable public. The majority of those who sell bogus products, however, are not deliberate frauds, but what Beyerstein calls "sincere but self-deluded."
In 1996, Dr. Beyerstein was invited by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology to participate in a scientific delegation that visted the largest centres of Tradtional Chinese Medicine in the People's Republic of China.
Dr. Beyerstein's teaching interests include courses on brain research, drugs, sensory psychophysiology, and consciousness, and the history and philosophy of psychological research. His awards include a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, the gold medal of the B.C. Psychological Association, and the Donald K. Sampson Award of the B.C. College of Psychologists. He has also held a visiting professorship at Jilin University in the People's Republic of China where he had the opportunity to interact with various practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Barry also edited The Write Stuff: Evaluations of Graphology - The Study of Handwriting Analysis.

Sponsored by CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
and by CICAP, the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal