On This Day … 08 December

People (Births)

  • 1928 – Ulric Neisser, German-American psychologist, neuroscientist, and academic (d. 2012).
  • 1949 – Robert Sternberg, American psychologist and academic.

Ulric Neisser

Ulric Gustav Neisser (08 December 1928 to 17 February 2012) was a German-born American psychologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been referred to as the “father of cognitive psychology”.

Neisser researched and wrote about perception and memory. He posited that a person’s mental processes could be measured and subsequently analysed. In 1967, Neisser published Cognitive Psychology, which he later said was considered an attack on behaviourist psychological paradigms.

Cognitive Psychology brought Neisser instant fame and recognition in the field of psychology. While Cognitive Psychology was considered unconventional, it was Neisser’s Cognition and Reality that contained some of his most controversial ideas. A main theme in Cognition and Reality is Neisser’s advocacy for experiments on perception occurring in natural (“ecologically valid”) settings.

Neisser postulated that memory is, largely, reconstructed and not a snap shot of the moment. Neisser illustrated this during one of his highly publicised studies on people’s memories of the Challenger explosion. In his later career, he summed up current research on human intelligence and edited the first major scholarly monograph on the Flynn effect. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Neisser as the 32nd most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Robert Sternberg

Robert J. Sternberg (born 08 December 1949) is an American psychologist and psychometrician. He is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. Prior to joining Cornell, Sternberg was president of the University of Wyoming for 5 months. He has been Provost and Professor at Oklahoma State University, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University. He is a member of the editorial boards of numerous journals, including American Psychologist. He was the past President for the American Psychological Association.

Sternberg has a BA from Yale University and a PhD from Stanford University, under advisor Gordon Bower. He holds thirteen honorary doctorates from two North American, one South American, one Asian, and nine European universities, and additionally holds an honorary professorship at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany. He is a Distinguished Associate of the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge.

Among his major contributions to psychology are the triarchic theory of intelligence and several influential theories related to creativity, wisdom, thinking styles, love, and hate. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Sternberg as the 60th most cited psychologist of the 20th century. Sternberg has acquired over $20 million in grants and contracts for his research and has conducted research on five continents. The central focus of his research is on intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. He has also studied close relationships, love, and hatred. He has authored or co-authored over 1,500 publications, including articles, book chapters, and books. His work has been critiqued due to excessive self-citation and self-plagiarism. In 2018 he resigned as the editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science in response to these claims.

Robert Sternberg is married to Karin Sternberg, a German psychologist.

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