Brief Biography of Saul Sternberg

(from "About the Editors" in Scarborough & Sternberg (Eds.) (1998) An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Volume 4: Methods, Models, and Conceptual Issues).

Saul Sternberg is a member of the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He came from Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he conducted basic research and, for fifteen years, headed the Human Information-Processing Research Department. He writes:

"After math/physics at Swarthmore and the University College of North Staffordshire I tried sociology at Harvard, hoping to improve the human condition, then moved into social psychology and eventually into research on stochastic models of learning, gaining much from Robert R. Bush, R. Duncan Luce, and Frederick Mosteller. I was intrigued by the prospect of precisely describing the effects of individual learning events, and impressed with the importance of ensuring rigor by attempting to discriminate among competing models.

"A postdoc in mathematical statistics took me to Cambridge, England, after which I joined the Psychology Department at Penn, then being revolutionized by my mentor, Robert Bush. There my interests again changed. Influenced by Donald Broadbent's Perception and Communication, I began to study the mental operations used in simple, everyday tasks. In lab courses we taught together, Jacob Nachmias and Robert Teghtsoonian guided me in learning to experiment with humans.

"Bell Laboratories, a true ivory tower, lured me away for a year -- but I ended up staying for over twenty. In the rich research environment there, I gathered brilliant colleagues into a mutually supportive, highly interactive Research Department. I was excited by problems in memory retrieval, control of movement sequences, short-term dynamics of visual representation, and perception of duration and temporal order, and I developed a method (see chap. 14) for using reaction-time measurements to reveal the structure of mental processes. Hard times befell Bell Labs, and I returned to Penn in 1985. In recent years my most significant intellectual exchanges have been with Seth Roberts, of Berkeley (author of chap. 2).

"In retrospect, my research interests suggest a fascination with time: I have used time measurements of human performance to get at underlying mechanisms, studied how people discriminate the temporal order of events, and examined the perception and production of time ratios by skilled musicians. The aesthetic pleasures of simple experiments and elegant explanations still captivate me.

"Music, especially the playing of chamber music, is another continuing passion, nurtured in my youth by my parents and by four wonderful years at New York's High School of Music and Art."