On This Day … 17 February

People (Deaths)

  • 2012 – Ulric Neisser, German-American psychologist and academic (b. 1928).

Ulric Neisser

Ulric Richard Gustav Neisser (08 December 1928 to 17 February 2012) was a German-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 publicized 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.

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