Professional Regulation in an Age of Anxiety

11 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016

See all articles by Harry Cayton

Harry Cayton

Professional Standards Authority

Date Written: June 22, 2016


When I was about six years old I had an interesting encounter with a professional. Without warning or explanation I was taken out of my primary school class by my teacher 'to do some tests'. In the library a figure sat with their back to the light; tweed jacket, tie, cropped hair. They passed me some silly tasks to do - at least I thought they were silly. Mostly fitting bits of cardboard together to make shapes. More interesting to me than the tests was my interrogator. Of course I had never knowingly met an educational psychologist before but that wasn't what puzzled me. What I couldn't work out was whether the person in front of me was man or a woman. In my six year old world of categories this was an important distinction. They dressed like a man but talked like a woman. I decided on empirical research of my own.

I slowly pushed some bits of cardboard to the edge of the table. A knowingly clumsy movement and, oops, one fell on the floor. Climbing off my chair to get it I could look under the table. Simple observation. Problem solved.

She was wearing a skirt.

I tell this story to remind us that in human engagement there is never one side to the story. The educational psychologist, with her bits of cardboard and her research templates to fill in, thought she was studying me. Wrapped up in her own intent she didn't observe that I was studying her.

In regulation of people, as distinct from products or processes or places, there is the same enduring problem; regulated people have minds of their own.

Keywords: Regulation, regulators, agencies, governments, rules, guidelines

Suggested Citation

Cayton, Harry, Professional Regulation in an Age of Anxiety (June 22, 2016). UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10/16. Available at SSRN:

Harry Cayton (Contact Author)

Professional Standards Authority ( email )

Dublin 4

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