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