Professor Geoff Beattie © Edge Hill University

A leading psychology expert from Edge Hill University has written a memoir entitled Selfless: A Psychologist’s Journey through Identity and Social Class, just published by Routledge, in which he  explores his own background in order to reflect on class, identity and psychology as a discipline.

Professor Geoff Beattie takes the reader on a journey through his early life in working-class Belfast, his PhD at Trinity College Cambridge and subsequent academic and professional career.

Reflecting on his childhood Professor Beattie said:

“I passed the Eleven-Plus, the first in a generation from my primary school in North Belfast, my older brother like everyone else had failed. ‘You know something,’ he said, when I got the news. ‘You’ll be studying Latin in a few months’ time in a class full of wee snobs. They don’t use Christian names; nobody will call you “Geoffrey” any more. You’ll just be “Beattie”.

 ‘Don’t talk like that,’ my mother chided him. ‘Our Geoffrey won’t become a wee snob. Will you, son? And you can speak Latin if you want to – around the houses at least, even though you’re a Protestant. Just don’t let any of the neighbours hear you.’

She shouted up at my father who was still in bed. ‘Geoffrey’s passed the Eleven Plus. Bill says he’s going to have to speak Latin to us all.’”

Professor Geoff Beattie in his youth

Professor Beattie movingly details how his life was changed through education and the resulting psychological pressures when his drive to learn led him to leave Ireland and his working-class background behind. He also looks at how his social background and class have affected his academic work and his view of psychology throughout his career.

“Passing the Eleven-Plus was the start of my personal journey,” Beattie added. “But I never did became a wee snob, thankfully. Education for me was a life-saver but I’ve always been very conscious of my social and economic background and the tensions that can arise when you become educated and start to change and how that move away affects those that you love most.”

Throughout the memoir Professor Beattie takes a critical look at psychology offering his thoughts on how psychology as a discipline is conducted, how it prioritises objects of study, how it uncovers psychological truths about the world.

The engaging and often witty book offers general readers, students, and academics fresh insights into psychology, adaptation and personal change showing how early experiences and their influence continues throughout life.

Reviews of the book by world-renowned academics and practitioners have been excellent.

The occupational psychologist Professor Binna Kandola wrote ‘Identity is at the heart of many conflicts that we see in society today and yet one of the most difficult to discuss rationally. This book brings clarity to this sensitive subject with its powerful mix of psychological research, intellectual rigour and personal insight. I totally loved it.’

Professor Marcel Danesi from the University of Toronto commented: ‘What is the Self? How is it related to consciousness? This dilemma has entertained some of the greatest minds of human history. This book contributes in a significant way to that history, written by one of today’s great thinkers, Geoffrey Beattie. It is required reading by anyone interested in understanding what consciousness is and how it emerges throughout the life cycle.’

Professor Hongbing Yu from Ryerson University wrote ‘This book is a deeply moving and encouraging, autobiographical narrative and has the potential to contribute to relevant fields of inquiry in the same way Oliver Sacks’ books did to neurology and the history of science.’

Professor Beattie is now an internationally acclaimed psychologist, author and broadcaster. He is both a Chartered Psychologist and a Chartered Scientist. He is also a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an ex-President of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (B.A.).  

To find out more about the work of Professor Beattie and his research interests, visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/psychology/people/academic-staff/professor-geoff-beattie/

If you are interested in studying Psychology at Edge Hill, the University offers a variety of courses including BSc (Hons) PsychologyBSc (Hons) Educational Psychology and BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology.