Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ulric Neisser, RIP

Psychologist Ulric Neisser died earlier this month. He's probably best known as the man who coined the term "cognitive psychology" in his 1967 book and who did a great deal to increase the focus on the modern study of memory. But we shouldn't forget that he's also the man responsible for this video:
This work was the forerunner to the work of Daniel Simons and Chris Chabris and their Invisible Gorilla. In a Google Plus post, Daniel Simons said this about Neisser:
Sad news to report. Ulric "Dick" Neisser, considered by many to be the father of cognitive psychology, passed away on Friday. Neisser was a true innovator and critical thinker who didn't tolerate fuzzy thinking. He wrote the first textbook of cognitive psychology, and then less than a decade later, as a convert to Gibson's ecological approach to perception, challenged the core assumptions of the field he helped to start. His 1976 book, Cognition and Reality inspired me as much as any book I've read. It emphasized the need to study perception and memory as they work in the real world, and I still recommend it to my graduate students.

In my final year of graduate school, Neisser returned to Cornell from Emory, giving me the chance to spend a lot of time with my intellectual idol. It was Neisser's work from the 1970s on selective looking that inspired the "gorilla" study Chris Chabris and I conducted decades later, and it was Neisser's emphasis on ecological validity in perception and memory research that helped push me and Dan Levin to study change blindness under real world conditions. In both of those lines of research, we really were standing on the shoulders of a giant.

My own research and thinking were indelibly changed by Neisser and his work, and I will miss him as an intellectual inspiration, a colleague, and a friend.
--posted by Steve

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