Catherine O'Brien

Dr Catherine O'Brien

BBusSc BSocSc MPhil PhD

Dr O’Brien has taught on a wide range of social and developmental psychology topics as well as developmental psychopathology, including school bullying and autistic spectrum conditions.

Catherine O'Brien

Dr O’Brien received her undergraduate training in psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She was awarded two Gates scholarships to complete her MPhil and PhD respectively, in Social and Developmental Psychology at the University of Cambridge. She was then a research associate in the then Faculty of Social and Political Science, University of Cambridge. Dr O’Brien has supervised on psychology papers for numerous Cambridge Colleges. She was Director of Studies in SPS/PPS/HSPS at Peterhouse from 2007-2017 and has directed studies in PBS at Magdalene College since 2014, at Jesus College (Part I) since 2020, and at Wolfson College since 2022. She is a Bye-Fellow in PBS at Lucy Cavendish College, Jesus College and Wolfson College. In 2018, she was short-listed for a CUSU student-led Teaching Award as supervisor, one of only 10 such supervisors selected in the School of Social Sciences.

•    School bullying
•    Autistic spectrum conditions from a social and developmental perspective
•    Depth psychology

Most broadly, Dr O’Brien’s research focuses on social and developmental psychology – ranging from social representations of the euro to the social construction of ‘geeks’. Much of her research has centred on schools – both primary and secondary – in terms of children and young people’s understanding of authority and power.

Her interest in school bullying, combined with the excision of ‘Asperger Syndrome’ from the DSM-5 (2013), led to an interest in the autistic and neurotypical spectrums in both children and adults. These conditions are fascinating to study from a clinical perspective, concerning neurological hardwiring, and from the perspective of personality psychology. She is currently interested in applying Jungian depth psychology to the autism and Asperger literature.

At present, her research focuses on three perspectives: social psychology concerning social stigmas and stereotypes; Jungian depth psychology as an alternative to the study of cognitive biases; a comparison of mainstream accounts and New Age discourses.

What's on

Two nature photographs, one of someone hiking and one of a hare.

Open Call: Wolf Words Poetry Anthology 2024

27/11/2023 at 09.00

We are excited to launch an open call for the second edition of our Wolf Words Poetry Anthology; this year our theme is Wild. 

WRE 2023 - an audience member asking a question

Writing an abstract workshop

30/11/2023 at 19.00

This workshop is organised to help students prepare to be part of the Wolfson Research Event 2024.


A photo of a pocket watch open for repair

A Duty to Repair?

01/12/2023 at 18.00

How can you introduce protection of the environment into consumer contract law when this is detrimental to the protection of the consumer?

Artwork of white tree with an orange sky in the background by Tim Head.

Art Exhibition: 'How It Is'

02/12/2023 at 10.00

Visit Wolfson's latest exhibition 'How It Is' featuring work by the influential British artist Tim Head.

Hand holding a lightbulb in front of the sky

Entrepreneurship Workshop for Students

02/12/2023 at 13.00

An interactive session during which students can gain insight into the sphere of entrepreneurship.