William Uttal — 1931 - 2017
Adapted from obituary by Peter Killeen
After a good life, William died a good death on Feb 9 at the age of 85, at peace, surrounded by his wife and three daughters.
William started his career as a geek—after earning a BS in physics he joined the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he programmed analog computers and headed the fledgling computer laboratory, and thence to North American Aviation, where he got digital. He wanted more, so on to Ohio state and a Ph.D. (1957) in experimental psychology and biophysics. His first job was at IBM; he had to salvage his first computer from death by recycling. After proving his mettle with it he was given state-of the art gear, and rolled up his sleeves. He jury-rigged 9 terminals to an IBM 1410 to make the first multiple terminal system at IBM. With it he developed programs of computer- aided instruction (German, statistics, stenography, analytic geometry). His boss wanted auditory feedback, so he took the recording and playback heads from of a tape recorder and wired them in to provide it: “Yes, correct; Very good!”
William moved to the University of Michigan in 1963, where he conducted elegant experiments comparing behavioral and neural responses to stimulation in various sensory modalities. He later moved to Hawaii for an idyllic three years, and in 1988 to Arizona State University to be chair of the psychology department. This is where our friendship began.
William's work Psychobiology of Sensory Coding (Uttal, 1973) was a great book for its time. Once at ASU he turned to computer vision research, and to the writing of books. Every 18-24 months a new one would appear. At heart William was both an engineer and a scholar. Engineers build things to work, scholars talk about things, some of which work, some of which don’t. William had an engineer’s expectations—research should be solid and should stand, hopefully as long as structures like bridges. He became disturbed by the low replicability of cognitive research, and in particular cognitive neuroscience (Uttal, 2013). He knew how fMRIs worked, and PETs and SQUIDS; and he knew how to analyze data; and things just weren’t adding up. His most famous reflection on this was The new phrenology: The limits of localizing cognitive processes in the brain (Uttal, 2001), updated in (2008). As one reviewer observed while ducking: “he comes out with guns blazing”. Most reviewers were disappointed in his conclusions “you can’t get there (localization of function) from here (fMRI and other imaging work); and in fact you can’t get there from anywhere” (Uttal, 1990). Anticipating the results of Vul and associates (Vul, Harris, Winkielman, & Pashler, 2009), he noted that “by carefully (i.e., injudiciously) selecting from among the vast amount of data in a brain image, support for almost any model of modularity or distribution can be sustained” (Uttal, 2008, p. 45). Few of his reviewers could find fault in his analysis of the status quo, but typically noted that new technologies were just around the corner that would address them. In this and successive books he argued for distributed neural processing—most parts of the brain are active during any task, no part of the brain is uniquely associated with any task, replicability of identified regions is very poor—except for early sensory and late motor activations. His arguments were always based on thorough review and analyses of empirical data, and were consistent with theories of “the positive manifold” (Anderson, 2010), and “neural reuse” (Rabaglia, Marcus, & Lane, 2011). What bothered most readers were that his conclusions were generally negative, and he did not offer a solution to the deep problems he critiqued. Had he been able to do so, he—or anyone who could—would have earned a Nobel prize by now. As Herb Roitblat said of William: “he was intellectually deeply curious and deeply honest… in calling to task scientists who would oversell their ideas, [he would] do it with such grace and good humor that I don’t think anyone ever really minded” (2017). I think that they minded, but what could they say? For William was never confrontational; just clear and data-based and sympathetic.
Not all of William’s books concerned localization of function. Consider Psychomythics (Uttal, 2003) which provides a helpful review a wide range of models in psychology, the first section ending with “Mathematics is neutral in terms of internal mechanisms. The result of ignoring this dictum is the inevitable proliferation of psychomyths” (p. 103). Thereafter the book enumerates such myths, which researchers of any age, but especially ones new to the business and not yet committed to a myth, would profit from reading. William was an expert witness, and so wrote books on neuroscience and on human factors in the courtroom.
For fifteen years William, Peter Killeen, and a physicist, and over the years joined by Art Glenberg, by a historian of mathematics, a perceptual psychologist, a behavioral neuroscientist and a bioengineer, would meet every other month to discuss philosophical and scientific ideas—they were the SEP rump sessions. It seems that half the time the target of the discussion was William’s framework of scientific realism—even though all shared many elements of that worldview. In his last book he wrote “Of all of the scientific mysteries confronting our inquisitive species, none is more profound or challenging than understanding how the tangible brain can give rise to intangible thought” (Uttal, 2016). The bittersweet paradox of William’s life was that while he spent his career searching for ways to solve that mystery, being unwilling to relax his scientific standards, he could discover, time and again, only reasons why it was insoluble.
Anderson, M. L. (2010). Neural reuse: a fundamental organizational principle of the brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(4), 245-266; discussion 266-313.
Rabaglia, C. D., Marcus, G. F., & Lane, S. P. (2011). What can individual differences tell us about the specialization of function? Cognitive Neuropsychology, 28(3-4), 288-303.
Roitblat, H. L. (2017). In memoriam: William Uttal. Retrieved from https:://mitpress.mit.edu/blog/memoriam-william-uttal
Uttal, W. R. (1973). The psychobiology of sensory coding. New York: Harper & Row.
Uttal, W. R. (1990). On some two-way barriers between models and mechanisms. Perception & Psychophsics, 48, 188-203.
Uttal, W. R. (2001). The new phrenology: The limits of localizing cognitive processes in the brain: The MIT press.
Uttal, W. R. (2003). Psychomythics: Sources of artifacts and misconceptions in scientific psychology.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Uttal, W. R. (2008). Distributed Neural Systems: Beyond the New Phrenology. Cambridge, MA: Sloan Educational Publishing.
Uttal, W. R. (2013). Reliability in cognitive neuroscience: a meta-meta-analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Uttal, W. R. (2016). The Neuron and the Mind: Microneuronal Theory and Practice in Cognitive Neuroscience. New York, NY: Routledge.
Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., & Pashler, H. (2009). Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(3), 274-290.
Martin Maehr - 1932-2017
Martin L. Maehr, age 84, died in Ann Arbor on January 10, 2017, surrounded by his family. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's Disease. Dr. Maehr was a professor of education at the University of Michigan's School of Education and professor of psychology in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. He retired in 2005 when he was named Professor Emeritus by the Regents of the University of Michigan. Dr. Maehr received his B. A. and M. Div. degrees from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Nebraska. Prior to the University of Michigan, Dr. Maehr served on the faculty at Concordia Senior College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and the University of Illinois. At the University of Illinois, Dr. Maehr held several positions including Chair of the Department of Educational Psychology, Associate Dean for Graduate and International Programs in the College of Education and Director of the Institute for Child Behavior and Development. At the University of Michigan, Dr. Maehr served as the first Director of the Combined Program of Education and Psychology. Professor Maehr's research focused on intrinsic motivation and social-cultural origins of achievement. He was widely published and received numerous awards, including a Pew Foundation resident fellowship at the Erasmus Institute, University of Notre Dame, and a senior school fellowship at Leuven University, Belgium. Dr. Maehr's research afforded him the opportunity to travel widely. In the 1970s he was a member of University of Illinois' Tehran Research Unit at the University of Tehran, in Iran, where he lived with his wife Jane and their three children. Later, he spent time at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and lectured in universities throughout China, Australia and Europe. Despite extensive world travel, the place Dr. Maehr was most passionate about was Beaver Island, a community in Northern Michigan that he and his family began visiting more than forty years ago and where they maintain a home. Dr. Maehr played baseball in college and was an avid tennis player, regularly participating in Liberty Athletic Club's tennis program, where he was known as "the Silver Fox." Dr. Maehr is survived by his wife of 57 years, Jane, and his children Marty (Ann Arbor), Mike (Urbana, Illinois) and Kate and her husband Sam Pickering (Oak Park, Illinois) and his grandchildren Sylvia, Naomi, Joe and Ben. Memorial services will be held at a later date in Ann Arbor and on Beaver Island. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to the Beaver Island Cultural Arts Association, the Greater Chicago Food Depository or Trinity Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor.
Published in Ann Arbor News on Jan. 15, 2017
Donald C. Pelz - 1921-2016
Donald C. Pelz, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, and Research Scientist Emeritus in the Institute for Social Research, died February 27, 2016 at the age of ninety-four. Professor Pelz received his B.A. degree from Swarthmore College in1942, his M.A. degree from State University of Iowa in 1944, and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1952.Professor Pelz’s most widely cited research focuses on productiveclimates for research and development in university, industrial, and government laboratories. A major book, Scientists in Organizations (co-authored with F. Andrews), has been translated into Russian and Japanese and has been designated a “citation classic” by the Institute ofScientific Information because of the frequency with which it has been cited by other authors. In 1962, he was appointed Associate Professor of Psychology; he was promoted to Professor in 1967. He was an advisor in survey research methods to the Indian Institute of Public Administration in New Delhi from 1964-1966. He retired from active faculty status in 1987, but continued his leadership role in the local Grey Panthers (now Public Citizens of Washtenaw) working for economic and social injustice. Professor Pelz is survived by four children Erica, Stephanie, Jeff, and Jonathan and six grandchildren, Rachel, Maddie, Megan, William, Nathaniel, and Aaron.
Alexander Z. Guiora - 1925 - 2015
Alexander (Shonny) Guiora , Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Linguistics, died October 28, 2015 at the age of ninety. A native of Hungary, Professor Guiora took undergraduate studies at Peter Pazmany University in Budapest before entering the Université de Paris, Sorbonne, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1951. From 1951 to 1958, Professor Guiora served in the Israeli Defense Forces, first as clinical psychologist at a military hospital, and then as chief clinical psychologist in the Surgeon General’s Office. In 1958, he was appointed chief psychologist at the Bat Yam State Hospital in Israel, in 1960 senior psychologist at the Israeli Federation of Labor Mental Health Clinic, and in 1963 clinical psychologist at the Stockton California State Hospital. In 1964, Professor Guiora joined The University of Michigan as assistant professor of psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology; in 1965, he was promoted to associate professor and in 1970 to professor. In 1979, in recognition of his contributions to psycholinguistics, Professor Guiora was appointed professor of linguistics. On his retirement in 1985, he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Linguistics. He subsequently joined the University of Haifa as Professor of Psychology, a position he retained in emeritus status through to the early 2000s while also serving in the mid-1990s as President of the then newly-founded College of Yezreel in Israel. Professor Guiora’s major research focus was language behavior and the relationships between language, cognition, personality, empathy, and identity. His research on the effects of alcohol on lowering inhibition and improving second-language pronunciation was widely cited. Professor Guiora served the journal Language Learning, for more than 28 years, first as editor and then as general editor and executive director. Language Learning, founded at the University of Michigan in 1948 by the Language Learning Research Club, was important in establishing the study of Applied Linguistics. When Shonny became editor in 1978, the journal was behind schedule and in some disarray. He turned it around, making it financially sound, well managed, and professionally edited. Under his leadership, Language Learning grew to become one of the foremost journals in the Language Sciences and the Research Club grew to a learned society, which now supports a number of grants and scholarships. Shonny is survived by his wife Susie Guiora of Jerusalem, Israel, his son Amos Guiora, professor of lawat the University of Utah, his daughter-in-law, Hagit Guiora, and three grandchildren, Tamar, Amitai, and Yoav Guiora.
--Robin Queen, Chair, Department of Linguistics and Nick Ellis, General Editor, Language Learning
William C. Stebbins - 1929 - 2015
William C. Stebbins, professor emeritus of otorhinolaryngology in the Medical School,
professor emeritus of psychology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and
retired associate dean of the Rackham Graduate School, died April 24. He was 85.
Professor Stebbins was born in Watertown, New York to Jean Reginald Stebbins and
Kathleen Heile Stebbins. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in
1947. Professor Stebbins went on to receive his A.B. degree from Yale University in
1951 and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University in 1954 and 1957,
respectively. He served as an assistant professor at Hamilton College from 1957-61 and
was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in Physiology and Biophysics in the Physiology
department at the University of Washington from 1961-63. Upon the completion of his
fellowship, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Michigan jointly in the
Department of Psychology and in the Kresge Hearing Research Institute where he
remained until his retirement in 1996. He wrote or edited 7 books, 30 chapters, and more
than 100 research papers primarily in the area of bioacoustics, which includes the
measurement of sensory function, particularly hearing, in animals. He taught
undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology and an interdisciplinary course in
primate behavior for students in biology, anthropology, and psychology.
Within the University, Professor Stebbins played many important leadership roles,
serving as acting director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, chair of the
Biopsychology area and of the graduate program in the Department of Psychology. He
was elected a member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs in 1984
and served as chair from 1986-1987, receiving the Distinguished Faculty Governance
Award for this service. In addition, he served as LS&A ombudsman, and as the Associate
Dean for Faculty Programs in the Rackham Graduate School for three years.
Among Professor Stebbins’s contributions at the national level was his service as
president of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. His many contributions
were recognized by his election as fellow in four national organizations: The American
Association for the Advancement of Science, The Acoustical Society of America, The
American Psychological Society, and The American Psychological Association. He was
also a member of Sigma Xi, the International Primatological Society, and the American
Society of Primatologists.
He is survived by his wife, Katie, his three daughters, Elisabeth, Leslie, and Rebecca, his
son-in-law Tom Blumenthal, three grandchildren, his sister, Kathleen Gamble, several
cousins and many nieces and nephews, and his beloved dog, Rose.
-- Contributed by Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, Chair of Psychology, based on memorials and
other recognitions written by colleagues and family
Stanley Berent - 1941- 2015
Stanley Berent, professor emeritus of psychology, passed away on August 24, at age 74.
Professor Berent was born in Norfolk, VA on March 10, 1941, to David and Esther Laibstain
Berent. In 1959, he left high school to join the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed in Naples, Italy for four years, after which he returned to the United States to begin his long academic career. Professor Berent received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Old Dominion University in 1966, a Master’s from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1967, and his Doctorate in Psychology from Rutgers University in 1972. He completed a Clinical Internship at the National Institute of Mental Health, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, in Washington, DC. He also completed the Group Training Program within the Overholser Training and Research Division, National Institute of Mental Health.
In his first academic position at the University of Virginia, Professor Berent was an Assistant then Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Psychological Assessment Program and the Director of the Psychology Training Program. Coming to the University of Michigan in 1979 he was an Associate Professor and then Full Professor of Psychology with a primary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and appointments in the Department of Neurology and the Department of Psychology. He became a Professor, Emeritus, Active, in July 2005.
While at Michigan, Professor Berent was the Chief of the Psychology Service at the Ann Arbor VAMC from 1979 to 1986, Director of the Neuropsychology Program at the University from 1979 to 1993 and Chief of Psychology from 1993 to 2001. He also was Co-Director of the Neurobehavioral Toxicology Program at the University from 1997 to 2007. He served on many Medical School and University committees, including chairing the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), and the Department of Psychiatry Committee on Appointments and Promotions.
He held visiting professorships at both national and international universities and published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, 22 book chapters, co-authored four books and co-edited two books. As a member of multiple professional societies, he received a number of national and international honors and awards, including the “Merit Authorship Award” from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in recognition of exemplary service and outstanding contributions to the field of occupational medicine.
Professor Berent is survived by his wife, Joy, three daughters Melissa Ricker, Alison Berent Spillson,Rachel Fogelberg and their spouses; seven grandchildren, his brother Jerry Berent,
sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, and many grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
-- Contributed by Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, Chair of Psychology, based on memorials and other
recognitions written by colleagues and family
Lois W. Hoffman - 1929 – 2015
Lois Wladis Hoffman, emeritus professor of psychology, died February 13. She was 85.
Professor Hoffman was born March 25, 1929 to Gus and Etta Wladis. She was the youngest of three children and raised in Elmira, New York. Professor Hoffman attended the State University of New York at Buffalo where she earned her B.A. degree with high honors in 1953. She went on to earn her M.A. degree from Purdue University in 1954, and her Ph.D. degree in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1958. From 1954-60, she worked at the Institute for Social Research, first as an assistant study director and then as a research associate. From 1960-67, she was an independent scholar and co-editor of the Review of Child Development Research. In 1967, Professor Hoffman joined the psychology faculty at the University of Michigan with one of the earliest appointments to the then budding Developmental Psychology area where she became full professor in 1975. She served as chair of that area and was a contributing force to its national recognition and rapid expansion. Professor Hoffman also helped to establish the U of M Women's Studies Program.
Professor Hoffman’s pioneering research investigated the effects of women working —how
their employment affected themselves and their families — and her studies generated
knowledge of great relevance to the women's movement. Other noteworthy contributions
include her international research about how children are variously valued in different cultures and her widely cited article that scrutinized overstated claims for the genetic determination of behavior. She was also an acclaimed teacher and sought after mentor. In the course of her illustrious career she coauthored four books, coedited four others, and published more than 80 papers. She served as president of two divisions of the American Psychological Association: the Psychological Study of Social Issues Division (1983-84) and the Developmental Psychology Division (1990-91).
She received numerous awards, including the Child Study Association Outstanding Book Award (1966), the J.F. Lewis Award form the American Philosophical Society (1978), an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Department of Psychology (1981), and the LS&A Excellence in Education Award in 1994. She was a distinguished scholar at Radcliffe College and a scholar in residence at Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy. In 1989, the American Psychological Association included her in its listing of "Eminent Women in Psychology."
She is survived by her husband Herbert Zimiles, two daughters, Amy Kilroy and Jill Hoffman, and five granddaughters.
-- Contributed by Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, Chair of Psychology, based on memorials and other
recognitions written by colleagues and family