In Appreciation: Frank A. Logan (1924-2004)

Frank A. Logan

Frank A. Logan, a World War II veteran and former chair of the psychology department at the University of New Mexico, died on November 18, 2004. In addition to being an APS Fellow and Charter Member, Logan served as the president for both the APA Division of Experimental Psychology and the Southwestern Psychological Association.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Iowa, Logan taught at Yale University until 1964 when he accepted the chair position at UNM. There he dedicated himself to strengthening its psychological research department. Logan created Quad-L, an online psychology database and corresponding methodology for summarizing scientific research, which helped develop the field of psychology into a true discipline. Besides building a strong research department, Logan spearheaded the creation of UNM’s first 24-hour crisis help center, providing free emotional support for the community. For these achievements, UMN named its psychology building in Logan’s honor after his retirement in 1989.

Logan’s career spanned more than 50 years. He earned international recognition for his work in learning theory, motivation, and the behavioral effects of reinforcement.

During his career, Logan published six books and nearly 50 papers. In addition to his professional contributions, he was deeply admired by his friends and colleagues who now share their thoughts in the following remembrances.

Systematizing Scholar

Istudied with Frank Logan at Yale from 1955 to 1959, when I received my Ph.D. under his supervision. Frank was a brilliant original thinker within the Hull-Spence tradition of learning theory. think his most original contribution was the micromolar theory that treated quantitative variations in a response (its speed, timing, and amplitude) as qualitatively distinct “micro-responses” that could be learned, selected, and performed to maximize net utility (the benefits versus costs for that quantitative response). did my dissertation supporting several tenets of that theory. The full conceptual structure of Frank’s micromolar approach never became popular, and it, like Hullian theory generally, has been long forgotten. In today’s learning textbooks, the micromolar enterprise, if mentioned at all, is captured in the grossly simplifying assertion that “Yeah, organisms can be taught to adjust their speed or rate of responding to the reinforcement provided for that speed.” It’s a depressingly slim legacy for a perfectly good scientific theory.

Frank Logan was probably the last of the great systematists of Hull-Spence learning theory. He believed ever so passionately that learning was the foundation on which the edifice of psychology rested and that a version of Hullian behavioral theory provided the best characterization of that foundation. He had originally been brought to Yale’s Institute for Human Relations as a postdoctoral research associate, joining with others in pursuit of the Institute’s larger vision: extending behavior theory to explain phenomena from other social sciences such as anthropology, linguistics, and economics. That vision was to motivate the rest of his career, despite the fact that his experimental studies concentrated exclusively on learning and motivation in rats.

Frank was a charismatic man and the strength of his belief in this expansive vision was an engaging thing to behold. I first got near the flame of that charisma while attending his seminars at Yale. was attracted to that commitment and to his dedication to “The Truth” as he saw it. His belief that psychological science was cumulative and could be systematized was actualized in his later pet “Quad-L” project — “Logan’s Literature and Laws of Learning.” Here he would meticulously classify, index, and codify extensive citations to evidence supporting a vast collection of low-level principles of learning as revealed in studies of classical and instrumental conditioning and selective learning. was honored to be selected as the first lecturer in the Quad-L lecture series at the University of New Mexico. suspect that one of Frank’s great disappointments was that so few present-day psychologists were sufficiently interested to learn to use and continue expanding the Quad-L indexing files. Seemingly interested more in adding to the literature than in systematizing and summarizing what has already been found, present-day psychologists would probably regard the Quad-L library as a quaint historical curiosity, a project that could not keep up with the runaway train.

I wish had been able to carry Frank’s systematizing passion into my own later scholarly work. But alas, was seduced by the allures of cognitive science and was never again to feel such certitude about what findings were systematic, important, and lovable. Nonetheless, it was inspiring to know Frank, who had the charismatic certitude of a saint.

Gordon H. Bower

Average IQ, but Above Average Scientist

I met Frank Logan on my first academic job interview in March 1980. I had heard many stories about Frank from my graduate advisor, I. E. Farber, and others who knew him at the University of Iowa. If those stories were only half true, knew there was the possibility of severe psychological trauma if was unable to explain in detail how Hull-Spence Theory could acount for virtually any psychological phenomena from rats accelerating down runways to the Freudian defense mechanisms to the bystander intervention effect. It was made very clear that if the interview with Frank didn’t go well, I might as well catch the next flight out of Albuquerque.

With considerable trepidation, entered Frank’s office. He directed me to sit down and asked how my adviser, “Farb,” was doing. Before I finished answering, Frank said he had a story to tell me. Back in his days at Iowa, students were used as practice clients for clinical students learning to administer IQ tests. Farb supervised the testing and then presented the results to the “clients.” Frank was one of those clients. After scoring the test, Farb met with Frank and reported that he had obtained an IQ of 105. Farb went on to say that a score of 105 was simply too low to succeed in a field like psychology and that Frank would be far better off pursuing another field, perhaps business or the meat trades. wasn’t sure if Frank was sneering or smiling as he told me this story, but panic swept over me I as imagined him waiting all these years to get revenge and deciding that if skewering one of Farb’s students would be the way it would go down, then so be it. I’m not sure if wet myself at that point, but do remember assuring Frank that Farb was obviously mistaken and had probably mis-scored the test. Frank quickly refuted my surmise and proudly declared that Farb was right about the score but wrong about the prediction. Frank proclaimed that he really did have an average IQ and that he used every point of it every day. have only the vaguest memory of the rest of the interview but, as it turned out, was lucky enough to watch Frank use every one of his IQ points every day for the next 25 years. By the way, Farb denies the story.

Michael J. Dougher

From Pool Shark to Department Chair

In the early 1960s Frank, whose academic contexts had been the University of Iowa and Yale University, was widely recognized as a leader in Hull-Spence Learning Theory. His personal association with these giants of psychology and others such as Neal Miller had given him face validity, and his seminal book Incentive: How the Conditions of Reinforcement Affect the Performance of Rats, along with work on micro-macro learning theory, cemented his place in psychology as a researcher and learning theorist early in his career.

It turned some heads on the East Coast when Frank left Yale to become chair of psychology at the University of New Mexico in the then-barren Southwest. But Frank had a clear plan about how to build a high quality psychology department: he basically made all hiring decisions and singlehandedly designed the new psychology building, which years later was named Logan Hall in his honor. Few of us hired by Frank during the 1960s and 1970s will forget the capstone of our hiring interview, which was to play a few games of pool at Frank’s house after a drink or two. Frank, who had worked his way through college as a pool shark, used these games to assess how the unsuspecting interviewee responded when he won and when he lost, the outcome being completely controlled by Frank’s skill.

Frank loved all sorts of games and was adept at using them to exemplify a variety of learning principles. He was an engaging teacher. But more than anything, Frank was a masterful and widely loved mentor to his faculty colleagues. However, despite Frank’s support, good looks, commanding presence, and pleasant manner, it must be said that he could be frustrating at times. One day he walked into my office as I was eating an orange. offered him a section. He abruptly told me that was inappropriate inasmuch as an orange is divided into segments not sections and he then left my office with nary a segment in hand. It took me a while to realize that he wanted me to learn precision in my language.

Frank’s style of mentoring changed over the years as he mellowed and his colleagues learned, but he never lost his effectiveness in helping colleagues professionally. Frank loved psychology and academia, and few have been more astute about either than he. For example, despite his aptitude for higher-education administration, Frank eschewed leaving the laboratory or classroom himself but encouraged colleagues to become dean, provost, and university president. No one who worked with Frank was untouched by his intellect and scholarship, his passion for psychology, his integrity as a professional, his generosity, and his genuine supportive caring.

Douglas P. Ferraro

Among Frank A. Logan’s books and papers,
some of the most noteworthy include:

  • Logan, F. (1977). Behavior theory and social science. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Logan, F. (1972). Experimental psychology of animal learning and now. American Psychologist, 27, 1055-1062.
  • Logan, F. (1981). Fundamentals of learning and motivation. Dubuque, IA: W.C. Brown Co. Publishers.
  • Logan, F. (1979). Hybrid theory of operant conditioning. Psychological Review, 86, 507-541.
  • Logan, F. (1960). Incentive. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Logan, F. (1968). Incentive theory and changes in reward. Oxford, England: Academic Press.
  • Logan, F. (1980). Preference for punishment of the instrumental or the consummatory response. Animal Learning and Behavior, 8, 116-119.
  • Logan, F. (1965). Reward and punishment. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Logan, F. (1973). Self-control as habit, drive, and incentive. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 81, 127-136.
  • Logan, F (1968). Stimulus selection in animal discrimination learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 76, 171-180.


I was sorry to read Dr. Bower’s report that Logan’s work in the Hull/Spence tradition has been effectively forgotten. Let me offer a slender reed that traces the phenomenon of hyperbolic delay discounting, currently much discussed, to his (Logan’s) plots of goal gradients. Simply, it was my exposure to Frank’s non-exponential curves from future reinforcements in his (introductory!) psychology class that led me to re-interpret Dick Herrnstein’s matching law to apply to discrete trials. This yielded hyperbolic curves rather than Frank’s power functions, but the approach was his. I gave him credit in my original Psych Bull article (83, 463-96, 1975) and in Picoeconomics (Cambridge, 1992), but failed to point out how fundamental his approach was. As Frank pointed out, behavioral science is cumulative.

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