2006-2007 William James Fellow Award
Richard M. Shiffrin
Richard M. Shiffrin’s contributions to scientific psychology have left a lasting mark on the field. Best known for his empirical, theoretical, and computational work in the modeling of a wide variety of human cognitive phenomena such as perception, attention, learning, and memory, Shiffrin has unified diverse findings and phenomena, bringing the field closer to identifying and understanding important core principles of human cognition.
Over the years, Shiffrin has created and described a number of influential models of human cognitive function. In the 1960s, with Richard Atkinson, he formulated an elegant model of short-term and long-term memory and proposed processes that control the operation of memory. This work continues to be among the most cited research in all of psychology.
In the 1970s, Shiffrin proposed a theory of attention that divided automatic from control processes and showed how processes could become automatic through consistent mapping. In the 1980s, Shiffrin’s work again focused on memory processes. He created the Search of Associative Memory (SAM) model, which quantified the nature of retrieval from long-term memory and characterized recall as a memory search with cycles of sampling and recovery.
In the 1990s, Shiffrin further refined his theory of memory using Bayesian principles of adaptive and optimal decision making under constraints, providing the foundation for a unified theory of the development of memory.
Richard M. Shiffrin’s innovative and comprehensive empirical and theoretical works have influenced nearly all areas of scientific psychology. His formal models of human cognition have stood the test of time and will undoubtedly influence generations of scientists in the future. He truly represents what is best about science, psychology, and academia in its entirety.