Psychologist Karen Pine is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Pine is a Professor at the Universities of Hertfordshire (Psychology) and Istanbul Bilgi (Psychology of Fashion), she writes popular books, articles and gives inspiring talks.
She is also a member of the Professional Speakers Association and the Global Speakers Federation for Professional Speakers and has worked on a number of advertising and PR campaigns for major brands.
Karen features in the BPS top 100 list of Psychologists who tweet and has also been named in the Online Schools list of 50 psychology professors you should follow on Twitter.
Pull up a seat and be inspired.
Describe a typical day for you?
I’m not a morning person. I’d like to say that I leap out of bed with a spring in my step. In truth I drag myself up like a bear coming out of hibernation. My lovely husband Ben coaxes me awake with a mug of earl grey tea and Mozart’s Reuiem on the stereo. He’s a psychology professor too. Some people wonder how we live and work together but we wouldn’t have it any other way. As a team we are even better than the sum of our individual parts.
Breakfast is usually something home-made, I love cooking, maybe home-made yoghurt with fruit, and honey made by my friend Andie, or an egg from her hens. If it’s sunny we’ll have breakfast in the garden, or go out to a local organic café.
My work, although I have various roles, is wonderfully flexible. Sometimes I’ll be writing at home – we live in a 17th century cottage in a rural part of Hertfordshire on a beautiful estate once owned by the film maker Stanley Kubrick. If I’m working on an important article or book I retreat to a summer house at the bottom of the garden (where I can’t get internet access, so no distractions!). My friend Jessica calls it the Zen Den, it’s all ethnic textiles, candles and big cushions – a real sanctuary. I’ve written tons of articles and books there.
My current book is about the psychology of fashion. When doing research in my role as a psychology professor I came to realise that clothing has a hugely powerful effect on how people think and feel. It’s such a fascinating topic so I’m absolutely loving writing about it. I also happen to love clothes, and how people develop their personal style fascinates me too.
If I’m not writing I’ll either be popping in to one of the universities I work at, probably to see one of my PhD students, although increasingly they seem to like to come to me and loll in a hammock in the garden! Other days I’m often in London either doing PR work – I work for quite a few big brands acting as press spokesperson and communicating the psychology behind their message – or going to meetings. Although our company, Do Something Different, is based in Brighton the team often meets up at the Groucho Club in London, as Ben’s a member there. I love the bright minds I work with at Do Something Different. I always come away with a huge grin on my face afterwards, buzzing from all their positive energy.
Another passion is art so if we’re in London Ben and I will always try to get an art-fix at one of the galleries. The Saatchi gallery is one of my favourite places in the world.
Evenings are a wind-down time for Ben and I. When we got together ten years ago we decided we would never have a TV. And when we developed Do Something Different we decided that we would have to live it! So we don’t watch TV, we cook from scratch, enjoy a glass of wine or two and often have four hour long converations in the evening. If we have a real insight we write it on the dining room ceiling, which never ceases to amuse dinner guests and has sparked some mind-boggling conversations!
We also go to tai chi classes and spend an evening a week in the ceramics studio. Ben’s pots are awesome, mine are getting better. We both consider creativity as important as productivity and always make time for artistic pursuits, even if it’s just sketching or sculpting. If we are on one of our own Do Something Different programmes we may end up reading aloud to each other, playing a board game, watching a Japanese film or listening to industrial music – it could be anything, but it’s certainly never dull! We strive to enjoy life on a moment-by-moment basis and never want to feel that we are just drifting through it.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Whatever I’ve done I’ve tried to do it really well. But I’ve never been afraid to re-invent myself. I loved being a mum, had a great career in advertising and PR, and have run various businesses. Getting a PhD and becoming a Professor of Psychology were hard work and amazing achievements. In truth though, having a wonderfully close and loving relationship with Ben makes me most proud.
What’s in your handbag/satchel etc?
My iPhone and my iPad of course – I love technology! But I also have notebooks everywhere for scribbling down notes, ideas or things I hear about, especially the latest good-read, as I devour novels. I’m always looking for inspiration for my writing or for the many talks I have to give. Apart from that there’s the usual purse, make-up bag and a pair of vintage sunglasses.
What are your ambitions in life?
To do more of what makes me happy.
What advice would you give your pre baby self that you now know having had a child?
That’s going back a few decades now! But I wish I’d known these three things:
1. All children eventually learn to walk, talk and not need a nappy. It doesn’t matter when they do it. I came across a lot of competitive mums when I was young who were obsessed with their child’s achievements and milestones. One mum was so proud that her son walked at ten months old. I actually see him now as an adult and think, ‘Well he’s no better at walking than anyone else, so WTF was all the fuss about?’!
2. Read Judith Harris’s work. She’s shown that parents aren’t as important or influential as we’re led to believe. The current zeitgeist makes parents believe that their every move will shape their child’s future. It won’t. Once we accept that, we can stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect parent!
3. A bit of healthy neglect is good for kids. Hands-off parenting teaches children self-responsibility, independence and gives them an internal locus of control. The more we, as parents, do for our kids the more we undermine the development of those important life skills.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Wherever I decide I want to be. Being an optimist I’ve decided it will be a happy place, just as the present is.
What advice would you give a budding psychologist?
Be curious, work on developing yourself and don’t bow to pressure from others to conform to their ideas or plans. When you get really good at something, don’t carry on because that’s the time to do something else. If in doubt, do something different.
Finally, happiness is…
…. under your own control. Happiness isn’t something that comes along or that happens to you, you make it happen.
Photograph ©Karen Pine.