Two pioneers in the field of cognitive neuroscience have won the 2002 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology.
The second awarding of the $200,000 prize for outstanding contributions to the field of psychology is to experimental psychologists James McClelland and David Rumelhart, who began collaborating two decades ago on a cognitive framework called parallel distributed processing.
Their research group explored the concept of connectionism – the idea that no single neuron in the human brain does its job alone in processing information and that neural networks decide things collectively and simultaneously rather than just in sequence.
McClelland is co-director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and a psychology and computer science professor. At Stanford University, Rumelhart served as a psychology and computer science professor until 1998; he is on leave for medical reasons.
While at University of California-San Diego, the two worked together on their research – a partnership that produced a 1986 book that brought the concept of parallel computation to a wider audience in psychology, neuroscience and computer science. Ultimately, their findings continue to affect many subfields of psychology, such as decision making and language development, as well as the expanding fields of economics, engineering and artificial intelligence.
The Grawemeyer Foundation received 35 nominations for the year 2002 psychology award, including four from outside the United States.
About the winners
James “Jay” McClelland is co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University, where he has been a faculty member since 1984. He has joint appointments in psychology and computer science at CMU, where he was elected to be university professor this year, and is an adjunct professor of neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh.
He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University in 1970 and a doctorate in cognitive psychology from University of Pennsylvania in 1975. He was a member of the psychology faculty at University of California-San Diego from 1975 until joining Carnegie Mellon.
McClelland’s honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences this year, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1996 and the Society of Experimental Psychologists’ Howard Crosby Warren Medal in 1993; Rumelhart shared the latter honor.
The two scientists led the team that wrote the 1986 book “Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition.” McClelland’s other publications include “The Case for Interactionism in Language Processing” and “Parallel Distributed Processing: Implications for Cognition and Development.”
Also an experimental psychologist, David Rumelhart was a professor of psychology and of computer science at Stanford University, his doctoral alma mater, since from 1987 to 1998; he is on leave for medical reasons and lives with his brother in Ann Arbor, Mich. He previously was a 20-year member of the psychology faculty at University of California-San Diego, where he and McClelland were colleagues.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and mathematics from University of South Dakota in 1963 and his doctorate in mathematical psychology from Stanford University in 1967.
Among Rumelhart’s honors is the 1993 Society of Experimental Psychologists’ Howard Crosby Warren Medal he shares with McClelland. He also received the 1992 American Psychology Society’s William James Award and the 1987 MacArthur Fellowship. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1991.
The Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation, based in San Francisco, established the David E. Rumelhart Prize in his honor last year for contributions to the formal analysis of human cognition.
Besides the 1986 book he wrote with McClelland and others, Rumelhart is known for his 1975 book “Explorations in Cognition,” which is considered a pioneering work in the field. Other publications include “Neuroscience and Connectionist Theory,” “Human Information Processing” and “Philosophy and Connectionist Theory.”