Cornell Psychology in the News
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- Culture, not biology, drives evolution of language
- Cornell psychology professor Morten H. Christiansen challenges the idea that human language stems from a genetic blueprint -- an idea that has dominated language sciences theory for more than 40 years. Instead, he says, the neural machinery used for language likely predates the emergence of language itself, in an study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, 106:3).
- Posted: Sunday, February 1, 2009
- Adverse effects found in Strupp lab impact NIH policy
- Research findings from the laboratory of Dr. Barbara J. Strupp played a significant role in the halting of a controversial National Institutes of Health clinical trial on the efficacy of chelation therapy as a potential treatment for autistic children. The administration of chelating agents to autistic children was being tested based on the unproven belief that even very slightly elevated levels of methylmercury can cause autism.
Strupp, Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Psychology, has been engaged in a research program, also funded by the NIH, which shows that chelation therapy, in which a drug is used to leach lead from the body, can significantly reduce learning and behavioral problems that result from lead exposure. Using young rats -- whose responses to lead exposure are similar to humans' – Strupp's lab work showed that the chelating agent, succimer, substantially improved the cognitive impairments seen in rats previously exposed to lead.
The study found, however, that when the drug was given to rats that had not previously been exposed to lead, the animals exhibited lasting cognitive and emotional deficits. "These findings raise concerns about the administration of chelating agents to children without elevated levels of lead or other heavy metals," Strupp said.
These findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, are the first to demonstrate that succimer chelation can reduce behavioral and learning problems caused by lead exposure. Additionally, Strupp says, this study provided the first evidence that this type of treatment can produce lasting cognitive and affective impairments when administered in the absence of elevated levels of heavy metals. The press release put out by NIH to announce the halting of their trial of succimer in autistic children cited Strupp’s study as instrumental in its decision.
A related story appeared in the July 18, 2008, edition of Science magazine.
- Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
- Timothy DeVoogd named Jefferson Science Fellow
- Professor of Psychology Timothy J. DeVoogd is spending a year based at the U.S. Department of State, as one of the seven Jefferson Science Fellows for 2008-2009.
- Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008
- Cornell Psychology Department Launches Annual Art Competition
- The Cornell University Department of Psychology invites Cornell students – both undergraduate and graduate – to explore the human condition through any form of two-dimensional art. The juried competition and resulting exhibition will review and present all submissions. Submitted work must deal with something related to the field of Psychology—thought, emotion, behavior, perception—and may include drawing, painting, prints, and photographs.
Who may participate? And how do they participate?
The annual competition is open to all Cornell students. Any student may submit one work dealing with the theme of psychology. Artists are encouraged to imaginatively and critically explore different elements of human psychology. The work submitted must have been completed during the 2008-09 academic year. The winning entry will permanently hang on one of the walls of the Psychology Department and should be sized accordingly.
What are the prizes?
The winner will receive a prize of $2000. The winner’s work will be acquired by the Department of Psychology and hang on one of the walls in the Psychology Department on the second floor of Uris Hall. Three honorable mentions will receive prizes of $100 each.
How will the winning entry be selected?
A panel consisting of the Chairpersons of the Departments of Psychology and Art, another faculty member from the Psychology Department, and a staff member from the Psychology Department will judge all entries on pure aesthetic appeal; fit to the psychology department hallways; relation to the broad theme of psychology and select the winner.
What are the dates and deadlines?
Participants must submit work to room 211 in Uris Hall by Friday, February 27, 2009. At the time of delivery, a submission form must be filled out and attached to the back of the work. Work must be ready to be installed and exhibited.
The selection panel will be convened in mid-April to review all submissions and choose the winning works, and organize the annual exhibition.
The exhibition will be installed in the hallways of Uris Hall. The exhibition will open in March 2009 and close in early May. All but the winning work must be picked up by Friday, May 14, 2009.
For questions and information, and to request a copy of the submission form, contact: Elizabeth Chandler, Department of Psychology, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2008
- Harry Levin obituary from The New York Times
- The link to the publication on June 4, 1993, appears below.
- Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2007
- Americans flunk self-assessment, according to NPR
- Prof. David Dunning talked to Alix Spiegel in a "Science Out of the Box" segment of NPR's All Things Considered on October 6, 2007. The complete interview, in which he discusses his research on the sometimes critical gap between Americans' perceived, and actual, performance and skill levels can be heard at the url below.
- Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2007
- James Maas named Best Professor in IthacaTimes Readers Poll
- Each year the IthacaTimes publishes a poll for readers about their favorite things in town. Recently, the department's Prof. James Maas learned he had been named "Best Professor" by the respondents. The results, including Maas' response to his award, were published in the September 26-October 2, 2007 edition of the paper.
- Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
- Psychology Professors respond to questions of limited application of research findings
- Department faculty were asked by The Cornell Daily Sun to respond to a recent article published in The Wall Street Journal which alleges that psychological research departments on college campuses operate with too narrow a testing pool. The WS Jarticle asserts that the exclusive use of college students as study subjects provides only a slim demographic for research, ultimately limiting the findings.
- Posted: Monday, September 17, 2007
- Prof. Timothy DeVoogd completes lecture tour in Bangladesh
- A story in The Daily Star of Bangladesh, reports on Professor Tim DeVoogd's week long lecture tour under the auspices of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation during the month of December 2006.
- Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007
- Multitasking different jobs is no problem, but double talk overwhelms us, Cornell study finds
- We can listen to a car radio and drive while keeping an eye on changing traffic conditions – separate complex tasks completed without much trouble. But if two people are talking to us at the same time, our perceptual frequencies get jammed.
A new Cornell study shows that people are pretty good at perceptual multitasking – except when multiple sources of incoming stimuli are of the same type. Morten Christiansen, associate professor of psychology, co-authored the study with Christopher Conway, a National Institutes of Health research fellow at Indiana University [and a Cornell Psychology Ph.D. graduate].
Humans learn “sequential structure from multiple sources at the same time, as long as the sensory characteristics of the sources do not overlap,” Christiansen said.
Participants in the study experienced little difficulty learning complex structures streamed at them simultaneously, such as tones and colors or even tones and speech.
“However, performance dropped when the two sets of sequences were from the same perceptual class of stimuli, such as two sets of speech stimuli,” said Conway. “Overall, these results show that humans have a powerful learning system that is capable of learning sequential patterns simultaneously from multiple environmental sources -– provided each source is perceived as being distinct.”
The study will appear in the October issue of Psychological Science.
This article by Franklin Crawford appeared in the "Research Notebook" column of the Cornell Chronicle on October 12, 2006.
- Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006
- Listening to the sound of words for subtle clues to their meaning
- Prof. Morten Christiansen was interviewed about his August 2006 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publication for the "Wordmaster" radio program on VOA News. A transcript, both written and MP3, of the broadcast from August 2, 2006 appears on line.
- Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2006
- The sound of a word tells us something about how it is used, Cornell study shows
- Associate Professor Morten Christiansen's publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on his study analyzing the sounds of nouns and verbs is described in a July 2006 edition of the Cornell Chronicle Online. The research was conducted by Christiansen, Cornell graduate student Thomas Farmer, and Padraic Monaghan, a lecturer at the University of York in England.
Details of this research were also reported on FoxNews Linguistic Surprise: Nouns, Verbs Phonetically Different.
- Posted: Saturday, September 16, 2006
- Most Americans aren't likely to make big cuts in gasoline use
- Cornell Professor David Dunning is interviewed by USA Today about the psychology behind people's reactions to increasing gasoline prices. Also featured in the article is Cornell Psychology Ph.D. program graduate Nick Epley.
- Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006
- Undergrads redesign Wilder Brain Collection display case
- The showcase exhibiting eight brains from Cornell's Wilder Brain Collection on the second floor of Uris Hall has been redesigned, restaged and relighted, thanks to the volunteer efforts of two undergraduate students, Bernadette Acuna '07 and Robyn Finkelstein '06, with the assistance of department staff member Elizabeth Chandler.
Susan S. Lang of The Cornell News Service featured the story in the Cornell Chronicle of May 11, 2006.
- Posted: Friday, May 12, 2006
- David Dunning joins John Cleese in talk at Cornell residence hall
- A cover article in The Cornell Daily Sun of April 13, 2006, reports on a talk on the topic of "How Well Do We Know Ourselves?" given by psychology Professor David Dunning and A.D. White Professor-at-Large John Cleese at the Carl Becker House on Wednesday, April 12, 2006.
- Posted: Friday, April 14, 2006
- Bad judgments about people can affect memories of them, Cornell study finds
- Moral judgments affect memory and can change how you remember objective facts, prompting you to recall the person's behavior as worse than it really was, finds Cornell Professor David Pizarro.
- Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2006
- Hamster study shows how our brains recognize other individuals
- Different areas of the brain react differently when recognizing other, depending on the emotions attached to the memory, a team of Cornell University research psychologists led by Professor Robert E. Johnston has found. The Cornell News Service provides a link to the front-page article from the Cornell Chronicle of March 9, 2006, as well as a Quicktime video illustrating the details of the research.
- Posted: Thursday, March 9, 2006
- Morten Christiansen awarded a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship
- Prof. Morten Christiansen was awarded a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies. The Fellowship, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be used to support a year-long sabbatical leave to pursue the research project, "Creating Language: Towards a Unified Framework for Language Acquisition, Processing, and Evolution", at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
- Posted: Monday, February 6, 2006
- Ph.D. Student Eric Patel's studies in Madagascar have made him world's foremost expert on the Silky Sifaka
- Articles appearing in the January 1, 2006, issue of The Baltimore Sun, and a related pod cast, detail Patel's work in the rainforest with conservation efforts and research on this little-know primate.
- Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2006
- Blocking the freshman 15 -- and maybe even the national obesity trend -- could be as simple as daily weighing, finds Cornell study
- Preventing the so-called freshman 15 -- the typical number of pounds students gain during their first year of college -- could be as simple as stepping on a scale every morning or getting a little information about big portions in all-you-can-eat dining halls, according to two new studies from Cornell University.
In the first experimental study of the effects of daily weighings, David Levitsky, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology, and several colleagues, whose study will be published in 2006 in the International Journal of Obesity, weighed a group of first-year female college students at the beginning and end of the semester.
- Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2005
- Onnis, Spivey, Christiansen awarded National Institutes of Health Grant
- Prof. Michael Spivey, Prof. Morten Christiansen, and Dr. Luca Onnis have obtained an R03 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant is for their work on "Online differences in sentence processing between monolinguals, early bilinguals and late bilinguals."
- Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2005
- Prof. Elizabeth Adkins-Regan publishes new book, Hormones and Animal Social Behavior
- Research into the lives of animals in their natural environments has revealed a rich tapestry of complex social relationships and previously unsuspected social and mating systems. The evolution of this behavior is increasingly well understood. At the same time, laboratory scientists have made significant discoveries about how steroid and peptide hormones act on the nervous system to shape behavior. An exciting and rapidly progressing hybrid zone has developed in which these two fields are integrated, providing a fuller understanding of social behavior and the adaptive functions of hormones.
This book, published by Princeton University Press, is a guide to these fascinating connections between animal social behavior and steroid and peptide hormones--a synthesis designed to make it easier for graduate students and researchers to appreciate the excitement, engage in such integrative thinking, and understand the primary literature. Throughout, Elizabeth Adkins-Regan emphasizes concepts and principles, hypothesis testing, and critical thinking. She raises unanswered questions, providing an unparalleled source of ideas for future research. The chapter sequence is by levels of biological organization, beginning with the behavior and hormones of individuals, proceeding to social relationships and systems, and from there to development, behavioral evolution over relatively short time scales, life histories and their evolution, and finally evolution over longer time scales. The book features studies of a wide variety of wild and domestic vertebrates along with some of the most important invertebrate discoveries.
- Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005
- Having inaccurate self-insights has serious consequences
- People consistently have inaccurate self-insights about their skills and talents, and these misperceptions can have serious consequences for health, education and work. Not being aware of our errors of omission is one reason why we're such poor judges about ourselves, says Cornell Professor David Dunning.
- Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005
- New Cornell study suggests that mental processing is continuous, not like a computer
- Michael Spivey's research -- using the streaming x,y coordinates of computer-mouse movements as evidence for continuous temporal dynamics in the cognitive representations that are generated during real-time language processing -- was recently covered in The Cornell Chronicle, MIT's TechnologyReview.com, and in the magazine Scientific American Mind.
- Posted: Monday, October 10, 2005
- Memorial Service Planned for William W. Lambert
- The family of Prof. William Wilson Lambert invites friends to celebrate and commemorate his life at a memorial event and reception on Saturday, November 26, 2005, at the A.D. White House on the Cornell University campus, from 11 am - 2 pm eastern time.
To send written reminiscences to be shared at the event, or for more information, contact daughters Hilary Lambert (email@example.com) or Holly L. Nolting (FNol366729@aol.com).
- Posted: Monday, October 10, 2005
- Urie Bronfenbrenner Obituary from the Ithaca Journal 9/27/05
- URIE BRONFENBRENNER
Urie Bronfenbrenner, co-founder of Head Start and widely regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in developmental psycholofy, child-rearing and human ecology, died at Kendal at Ithaca yesterday after a long illness. He was 88. Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology, Emeritus at Cornell University.
rie Bronfenbrenner was born on April 29, 1917 in Moscow, Russia, son of Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner and Eugenie Kamenetski Bronfenbrenner. Six years later he came to the United States. After a brief stay in Pittsburgh, the family settled in Letchworth Village, the home of the New York State Institution for the Mentally Retarded, where his father worked as a clinical pathologist and research director.
After his graduation from Haverstraw High School, Urie attended Cornell University where he completed a double major in psychology and music in 1938. He went on to graduate work in developmental psychology, completing an M.A. at Harvard followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942. Twenty-four hours after receiving his doctorate he was inducted into the Army where he served as a psychologist in a variety of assignments in the Air Corps and the Office of Strategic Services. After completing officer training he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Right after the war, Bronfenbrenner worked briefly as Assistant Chief Clinical Psychologist for Administration and Research for the Veterans' Administration before beginning his work as Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Michigan. In 1948 he accepted a professorship in Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology at Cornell University, his Alma Mater. He became well known at Cornell and beyond, for his extensive research and writings in the field of human development, international comparisons of child rearing, and his development of the theories of Human Ecology and the Bio-ecological Model. His extensive writings on these subjects include the books Two Worlds of Childhood, The Ecology of Human Development, and his final work, Making Human Beings Human. He was well known for his large classes that filled Bailey Hall, in which he challenged his students to think critically, engaging more than 900 students in one large discussion section.
In November 1942, Urie Bronfenbrenner and Liese Price were married in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the first years of their marriage Urie was in the military, then after the war moving first to Michigan in 1946, and then in 1948 with their two eldest children returning to Cornell. Shortly after coming back to Cornell, the family moved to Forest Home, an area with good neighbors, near the woods and gorges the family grew to love, and within biking distance to Urie's Cornell office in Martha Van Rensselear Hall. Urie also loved music--classical, folk, and jazz, and passed on his love of music to his children, and, most especially, his grandchildren.
Urie Bronfenbrenner was an active member of numerous professional and government organizations both in this country and abroad. He has received many awards, including six honorary degrees, including three from European universities. In 1996 he received the first American Psychological Association Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the service of Science and Society. This award is now given in his name. As one of the founders of Head Start, he was also given the Life-long Mentor Award presented by the Program Committee for Head Start at the first National Research Conference in 2000. In recognition of his scholarship and leadership in linking basic research to social policy, the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center was named in his honor in 1993 in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell.
Bronfenbrenner taught, lectured, attended international conferences, and carried out research in North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Rim. He worked as a fellow for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; at the Max Planck Institute for Bildungsforschung in Berlin-Dahlem; and at universities in Bern, Switzerland; Moscow, Russia; Munich, Germany; Melbourne, Australia; Tel Aviv, Israel; Kobe, Japan; as well as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Center for the Study of Family and Society at the University of Konstanz, Germany.
Urie Bronfenbrenner is survived by his wife, Liese and his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild including: Beth Soll of New York City (child: Jacob Soll (Ellen Wayland-Smith) child: Sophia); Ann Stambler (Monty Stambler) of Newton Center, MA (children: Liz (Tom Pasquini), Ben, and Sam); Mary Bronfenbrenner of Ithaca (children: Maggie, Sara, and Nikolas Mateer); Michael Bronfenbrenner (Jacqueline Cox) of Seal Beach, CA (children: Skye, Nina, and AJ); Kate Bronfenbrenner (Coert Bonthius) of Ithaca (children: Daniel and Rosa Bonthius); and Steven Bronfenbrenner (Elena Bales) of San Anselmo, CA (child: Ross).
A memorial service for friends, colleagues, and family will be at 3 pm, Saturday, October 8, 2005 at the Kendal at Ithaca Auditorium.
Memorial donations can be made in Urie Bronfenbrenner's name to the following:
Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, Beebe Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853.
- Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
- Computer program learns language rules and composes sentences, all without outside help
- Cornell University and Tel Aviv University researchers [including Cornell Professor of Psychology Shimon Edelman] have developed a method for enabling a computer program to scan text in any of a number of languages, including English and Chinese, and autonomously and without previous information infer the underlying rules of grammar. The rules can then be used to generate new and meaningful sentences. The method also works for such data as sheet music or protein sequences.
- Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2005
- W.W. Lambert Obituary from the International Journal of Intercultural Relations
- To read the obituary, written by Harry C. Triandis, enter the following DOI reference at the website below doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2005.05.013
- Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005
- Viewing yourself as others do can help nudge you toward personal goals, studies at Cornell find
- Trying to lose weight, be less nervous when speaking publicly or improve in some other way? One strategy that can help is to switch your point of view from the first-person to a third-person perspective when reviewing your progress, according to a series of studies conducted at Cornell University.
"We have found that perspective can influence your interpretation of past events. In a situation in which change is likely, we find that observing yourself as a third person -- looking at yourself from an outside observer's perspective -- can help accentuate the changes you've made more than using a first-person perspective," says Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell. When people perceive change, they get some satisfaction from their efforts, which, in turn, can give them more motivation to keep on working toward a personal goal, he says.
- Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2005
- William Wilson Lambert Obituary from the Ithaca Journal 4/5/05
- WILLIAM WILSON LAMBERT
1919 - 2005
ALEXANDRIA, VA - William Wilson Lambert, 85, died on February 26, 2005 in Arlington, VA. A fifty-five year resident of the Ithaca area, he was born May 10, 1919 in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada, son of the late Harry Lambert and Alice (Grace) McPhee Babcock Lambert. He is survived by his brother, Wallace E. Lambert, who lives in Montreal with his wife, Janine. His wife, Elisabeth Carr Lambert, died in 1998.
His family emigrated to Taunton, MA when he was six. He was a hard-working and brilliant student and attended Taunton High School, Mt. Herman School, Brown University, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in psychology in 1950. During World War II, he was a research specialist for the Navy in Washington, D.C.
His academic career commenced with teaching appointments first at Harvard, then at Brown University's Dept. of Psychology in 1950-51. In 1951 he and Elizabeth moved to Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, where he held an interdepartmental position in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology until his retirement. He was Dean of Cornell's Graduate School from 1974-1980. He received numerous prestigious grants for teaching and research and was regularly invited as a visiting scholar to a number of places where he and his family traveled for short periods, including the Center for Advanced Studies in Palo Alto, CA; Fulbright awards took them to the University of Oslo and the University of Stockholm; a Rockefeller grant took them to the University of the Philippines; and other awards saw them in London, Bellagio, and Padua, making for a rich and fascinating professorial and family life. In all these places he formed lifelong friendships and collaborative partnerships.
He was President of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research, and author and editor of many books and articles, including Social Psychology (with Wallace E. Lambert) and Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology (co-editor, with Harry Triandis). The social psychology laboratory at Cornell University is named in his honor. He was a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Following his retirement he remained an active, vital and generous member of the Cornell community and the fields of social and cross-cultural psychology, stress and cognition, game theory and aggression.
In addition to his brother, he is survived by his friend and companion, Helen Kelley of Alexandria, VA; daughters, Holly Nolting of Golden, CO, and Hilary Lambert of Lexington, KY; grandchildren, Louis, Anna, and Katie Nolting, and Margaret and Oliver Renwick; niece, Sylvie Lambert; and nephew, Philippe Lambert; many admiring friends and colleagues; and countless appreciative and grateful students. A memorial program will be held in Ithaca later this year. Information will be available from the Department of Psychology at Cornell University.
- Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2005
- Further Developments: A Symposium Dedicated to Eleanor J. Gibson
- Eleanor Gibson was a revered researcher in an ecological approach to perceptual learning and development, who made many of the fundamental observations on which the present study of perceptual learning and development is built, and who launched many of the students who presently populate this field. The Department of Psychology at Cornell University is proud to sponsor a symposium October 17th and 18th 2003, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on current research in development that finds its roots in a Gibsonian perspective.
- Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2003
- Empirical Methods in Cognitive Linguistics, May 2-4, 2003
- The Cognitive Studies spring symposium (May 2-4, 2003) this year takes the form of a workshop: Empirical Methods in Cognitive Linguistics (EMCL) Workshop. Student registration for the workshop is closed, but you are welcome to attend the sessions informally!
- Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003
- Eleanor Jack Gibson Obituary from the Ithaca Journal 1/7/03
- ELEANOR JACK GIBSON
ITHACA - Eleanor Jack Gibson, 92, died December 30, 2002.
Born in Peoria, IL, she was an experimental psychologist who received the National Medal of Science in 1992. Author of five books on perception, infant development and reading, Dr. Gibson was educated at Smith College and held a PhD from Yale.
She was Susan Linn Sage Professor of Psychology Emerita at Cornell University. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she also received 11 honorary degrees.
She is survived by her sister, Emily Jack; son and daughter-in-law, James J. and Lois Rauch Gibson; daughter and son-in-law, David and Jean Rosenberg; and four grandchildren. Her husband, psychologist James J. Gibson Sr., died in 1979.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Gibson Lecture Series, c/o Tom Gilovich, Chair, Psychology Dept., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Memorial services will be held at a later date in Middlebury, VT and Columbia, SC.
- Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2003
- Eleanor J. Gibson, 92, a Pioneer in Perception Studies, Is Dead
- New York Times Obituary 1/4/2003
By CARLA BARANAUCKAS
Dr. Eleanor J. Gibson, a psychology professor at Cornell who made advances in the study of perception and learning processes in children, died on Dec. 30 in Columbia, S.C. She was 92.
Photographs of the "visual cliff," a device she developed to study depth perception in infants and toddlers, are still included in some psychology textbooks.
Dr. Gibson, then working as a research associate at Cornell, and Dr. Richard Walk used the simulated cliff in tests to show that babies could visually distinguish depth.
The cliff was "a wooden table from the edge of which strong plate glass extended," Life magazine reported in 1959.
"Children were put on the table top and coaxed to crawl out over the glass," the magazine said. "But when they got to the edge of the cliff and looked down almost all of them quickly withdrew. Even their mothers' most persuasive urgings could not get them out."
Similar studies were done with animals, including rats and kittens.
The findings indicated that perception is an essentially adaptive process, or as Dr. Gibson put it, "We perceive to learn, as well as learn to perceive."
Dr. Gibson also did pioneering work in the relationship of perception and reading.
Eleanor Jack was born in Peoria, Ill. She received her bachelor's degree from Smith in 1931 and her master's degree in 1933. She earned her doctorate in psychology at Yale in 1938.
Her marriage in 1932 to Dr. James J. Gibson, a psychnlogy professor who also conducted research on perception, was both a help and a hindrance to her career.
They collaborated occasionally, but when he joined the faculty of Cornell in 1949, she was unable to secure a teaching post there because of anti-nepotism rules, which were common in universities. So she worked as a research associate at Cornell.
In 1965, after the rules changed, she was appointed to an endowed chair as a professor of psychology, and the Gibsons became one of the first married couples in a single department at the university.
She also held academic appointments at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, Calif.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Universities of Minnesota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Connecticut; Emory and the Salk Institute.
In 1982, she was invited to Beijing to teach Chinese psychologists about recent theories and techniques of research.
Dr. Gibson was the author of five books, including the memoir "Perceiving the Affordances: A Portrait of Two Psychologists," published hn 2001.
Recently, Dr. Gibson lived in Columbia.
Her husband died in 1979. She is survived by a son, James J., also of Columbia; a daughter, Jean Rosenberg of Middlebury, Vt.; a sister, Emily Jack of Washington; and three grandchildren.
Errata: "Perceiving the Affordances" was published in 2002.
Dr. Gibson is survived by four grandchildren.
- Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2003