Jan 252022
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Patricia Galanter

Imagine Gene Galanter in military uniform atop a hill. He is looking at the vast expanse of human behavior unfolding below him. The behaviors range from gallantry, Eugene himself received the French Legion d’Honeur, to self preservation. Perhaps his WWII experiences shaped the keen perception of human behavior he used to stimulate and drive forward a new view, a new force, in Psychology.

The force was Gene’s positive approach to creating and then extending a more theoretical psychology. The behaviorists, such as Skinner and other S-R theorists, believed that only known behaviors were needed in order to predict future behaviors. But, following WWII many new psychologists saw the need for a deeper understanding of the cause of behavior. In this view, learning was fundamental. But, then, given learning, how does behavior occur? The remarkable book by Galanter, Miller, and Pribram, (1960), Plans and the structure of behavior, suggested a means by which behaviors developed. The book marks a fundamental turning point in the development of psychological theory – a step beyond the Gestalt psychologists and their predecessors.

Mental processes became important. The process describing the path from stimulus to response required advanced mathematical theories, based on axiomatic foundations, probability models and stochastic processes to create a better understanding of the actions of mind.

Graduate training at Stanford’s Institute for Mathematical Studies in the Social Sciences required study of three volumes edited by Luce, Bush & Galanter, the Handbook of mathematical psychology. In addition, Galanter, Luce, and Bush’s (1964–1965) Readings in mathematical psychology (3 volumes) introduced many students to the most fundamental ideas and new developments. I was especially intrigued by Luce and Galanter’s approach to choice, and especially appreciative of the great chapters contributed to and edited by Galanter, Luce and Bush.

Many, many years later I met Gene during meetings of the International Society for Psychophysics. His presentations suggested how psychophysical theory can be applied to the various educational interests he maintained since the publication of his first book, Automatic teaching: the state of the art (1959). He knew the drill and discovered a kindred group of scientists who appreciated the formal theory and developments he fostered. He was a lively speaker, always up front and at the top. I think of how his works deepened my own education at Stanford and how his intellect, foresight and rigor advantaged us all.

Thank you Gene, for great accomplishments.

Stephen Link

Professor Emeritus

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