After graduating from Fairview High School in 1979, Peterson entered the Grande Prairie Regional College to study political science and English literature. He later transferred to the University of Alberta, where he completed his B. A. in political science in 1982. Afterwards, he took a year off to visit Europe. There he developed an interest in the psychological origins of the Cold War, particularly 20th-century European totalitarianism, and was plagued by apocalyptic nightmares about the escalation of the nuclear arms race. As a result, he became concerned about humanity's capacity for evil and destruction, and delved into the works of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He then returned to the University of Alberta and received a B. A. in psychology in 1984. In 1985, he moved to Montreal to attend McGill University. He earned his Ph. D. in clinical psychology under the supervision of Robert O. Pihl in 1991, and remained as a post-doctoral fellow at McGill's Douglas Hospital until June 1993, working with Pihl and Maurice Dongier.