James McClelland (psychologist) bigraphy, stories - Psychologists

James McClelland (psychologist) : biography

December 1, 1948 -

James Lloyd "Jay" McClelland (born on December 1, 1948 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) is the Lucie Stern Professor at Stanford University, where he is currently the chair of the Psychology Department. He is best known for his work on statistical learning and Parallel Distributed Processing, applying connectionist models (or neural networks) to explain cognitive phenomena such as spoken word recognition and visual word recognition. McClelland is to a large extent responsible for the "connectionist revolution" of the 1980s, which saw a large increase in scientific interest for connectionism.


  • Mind & Brain PrizeMIND & BRAIN PRIZE - Center for Cognitive Science
  • Grawemeyer prize in psychology, 2002
  • William W. Cumming prize from Columbia University, 1970
  • Research Scientist Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, 1981—86, 1987—97
  • Fellow, National Science Foundation, 1970—73
  • Rumelhart Prize, 2010

Early life and education

McClelland born on December 1, 1948 to Walter Moore and Frances (Shaffer) McClelland. He received a B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University in 1970, and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. He married Heidi Marsha Feldman on May 6, 1978, and has two daughters.


In 1986 McClelland published Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition with David Rumelhart, which some still regard as a bible for cognitive scientists. His present work focuses on learning, memory processes, and psycholinguistics, still within the framework of connectionist models. He is a former chair of the Rumelhart Prize committee, having collaborated with Rumelhart for many years, and himself received the award in 2010 at the Cognitive Science Society Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon.

In particular, McClelland and collaborator David Rumelhart are known for their debate with Steven Pinker and Alan Prince. McClelland and Rumelhart claimed to have proven that humans could learn language (in particular, the past tense) without language-specific hardware. Pinker and Prince demonstrated that they had not done so. In response, McClelland has continued to revise his connectionist model.

In fall 2006 McClelland moved to Stanford University from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was a professor of psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience. He also holds a part-time appointment as Consulting Professor at the Neuroscience and Aphasia Research Unit (NARU) within the School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester.

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Living octopus

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