Doreen Kimura


Behavioural Psychologist World expert on sex differences in the brain. Wrote the book Sex & Cognition, which argues that there truly is a difference between male and female brains.

"Don’t take too seriously the advice of people who supposedly know better than you do. As long as you are finding out things we didn’t know before, you are doing something right. "


So You Want to Be a Behavioural Psychologist


Assuming that a university education is in your future, Kimura does not recommend making career decisions as early as high school. She says, “I think the best method is to take a variety of courses in the first year or two of university, so that you can find out what you like and what you are good at.” If you end up in life working on things you enjoy and do well, she says, that’s as good as it gets. If you are interested in neuropsychology, you will need to take an introductory biology course and some further courses in physiology and neuroscience.

People who become psychologists often work in a clinical or academic setting. Neuropsychologists in hospitals assess patients with brain damage from accidents, diseases or birth defects. The precise description of a person’s abilities can help in planning his or her course of rehabilitation, for example, or to predict when she or he can go back to work. Neurological testing also helps to diagnose brain disorders and to decide whether surgery or some other therapy is required.

People who choose to become university professors or college instructors probably will do research similar to the work described in this chapter. They will teach courses to students,

as well as conduct seminars with graduate

All psychologists at a professional level must obtain a graduate degree, usually a doctorate. If they enter clinical fields, this will usually include a process of training and examination to become licensed or registered in the province or state where they work. The time from obtaining a bachelor’s degree to completion of a doctorate is variable but will be a minimum of four years, often longer. A PhD program requires research and the writing of a thesis (a book-length document) based on original research.

Kimura’s career began with an undergraduate honours program in psychology at McGill University, which she did not enter until the third year of a four-year program. She then obtained a master of arts (ma) degree on an aspect of brain asymmetry. Her PhD research

at the Montreal Neurological Institute involved the role of the temporal lobes of the brain in speech perception and in memory.

Like many young people, Kimura entered the field of psychology because she wanted to do something that would help people. “But once I started to do research I was far more interested in how things actually worked, so although I did some clinical assessment and enjoyed it, it became secondary to the research questions,” she says. She subsequently served as clinical supervisor at the University of Western Ontario, both as neuropsychologist at the University Hospital, where she studied neurological patients, and in the university’s Department of Psychology, guiding the training of graduate students in clinical neuropsychology. The university position was her main job.

Her research helped improve the diagnosis of disorders after brain damage. Several tests she devised became widely used in clinical neuropsychology, so she ended up helping people after all. Kimura says, “It is often the case that what we consider ‘pure’ research may become just as useful in helping people as activities specifically designed to help. This is one of the strongest reasons for supporting research that is not intended to be applied for any useful purpose, but is guided only by a search for truth.”

In an average day as a psychology professor Kimura prepares lectures for classes, conducts research at the university on “ordinary” people and at the hospital on neurological patients. She looks at data obtained from research and analyzes it to discover what might be happening — for example, how the level of certain sex hormones in an individual relates to his or her spatial perception ability. She also spends time writing up experimental findings for presentation at conferences and for publication in journals. Much of the research is conducted by graduate students, so as their supervisor Kimura needs to meet and confer with them over every step, and in this way the students receive training in academic research and writing.

The bottom line to Kimura: “A super day is one in which we discover something new from our findings. Looking at data is what I like most about my career. What I like least is the time spent preparing lectures, because this eats into research time.”

Career ideas:

  • Counseling (such as career, emotional, marital, teen, etc.)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Behavioral modification psychologist
  • Child psychologist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Cognitive psychologist
  • Developmental psychologist
  • Educational psychologist
  • Engineering psychologist
  • Industrial psychologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Organizational psychologist
  • Military psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Research psychologist
  • School psychologist
  • Social psychologist
  • Sport psychologist
  • Vocational psychologist

Other scientists who may be of interest:

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