Jan 102015

Scott Parker
American University, Washington, DC

Lorraine was a longstanding and dedicated member of the ISP, and was a member of the Executive Board in 1996 and 1997. Born in Toronto, she did her undergraduate work at the University of Toronto and her graduate work at McMaster University. After receiving her Ph.D. she remained at McMaster, becoming Professor of Psychology in 1981 and Professor Emeritus in 2006.

Her research work in psychology spanned and integrated numerous approaches and topics. Much of her research exhibited considerable quantitative sophistication. And all of it exhibited a clarity of thought and expression that we could admire and envy. She had an uncanny ability to combine outlooks from seemingly contrary or unrelated areas of psychology, and she could apply those outlooks to topics that might have seemed unconnected to them. This ability stemmed in part from her thorough understanding of a great many psychological ideas.

Beginning in the 1970s and continuing for decades, Lorraine studied time perception in humans, investigating not only duration perception but also successiveness. Her studies used both “traditional” psychophysical methods such as discrimination, magnitude estimation, and bisection tasks as well as signal detection theory and also other procedures (e.g., masking) more associated with purely sensory research. Some of that work pursued the model that she had developed with Albert Kristofferson.

In the1980s Lorraine undertook the study of several color aftereffects, starting with the “McCullough effect”, with her colleague and partner, Shepherd Siegel. They brought ideas from the conditioning and learning literatures to bear on what had been thought to be purely sensory phenomena. This work demonstrated that what seemed to be purely sensory phenomena could profitably be viewed as products of classical conditioning processes, and that combining approaches from seemingly separate psychological traditions could provide valuable insights. Their studies showed some surprising connections between color-contingent aftereffects, homeostasis, and drug withdrawal.

Her involvement in the study of conditioning processes led her into the study of judgments of contingency and causality. Those had, not surprisingly, been thought of as the result of associative processes, but Lorraine approached them using signal detection theory. And she once again demonstrated the value of integrating several approaches to a single psychological phenomenon.

Lorraine also applied signal detection theory to the study of other topics that could benefit from it, notably the placebo effect and “depressive realism”.

Those of us who knew her, many of us by virtue of her presence in ISP, know that she was smart, thorough, honest, and clear-headed about everything – not just psychology — and she was also personally wonderful to spend time and talk with. ISP and Psychology were fortunate to have her with us, and we’ve lost someone special.


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