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September 2, 2002

Elliot Aronson ranked among top 100 psychologists of 20th century

By Jennifer McNulty

Elliot Aronson, professor emeritus of psychology at UCSC, was named one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century in a new study published in the Review of General Psychology.

Photo of Elliot Aronson

Elliot Aronson, UCSC professor emeritus of psychology. Photo: Don Harris, UCSC Photo Services

Aronson joins names like B. F. Skinner, who topped the list, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, and Albert Bandura.

With typical self-deprecating humor, Aronson commented, "I only got ranked 78th, but then again, I am among the 22 who are still alive--so I'm grateful for that!"

One of the most distinguished social psychologists of our time, Aronson made major contributions to the field of human behavior, exploring the theory of cognitive dissonance and the causes of interpersonal attraction. His research always addressed important social problems, including prejudice reduction, energy conservation, and AIDS prevention.

The study, reported in the July/August issue, Vol. 6, No. 2, ranked 99 of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, based on the frequency of three variables: journal citation, introductory psychology textbook citation, and survey response.

Surveys were sent to 1,725 members of the American Psychological Society, asking them to list the top psychologists of the century. In their ranking, researchers also took into account whether the psychologists were members of the National Academy of Sciences, had been elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA) or received the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and whether their surname was used as an eponym.

Cathaleene Macias, a mental health researcher at McLean Hospital at Harvard University and a former student of Aronson's, credits Aronson with moving psychology "into a new dimension that blends the best of analytical thinking and research rigor with the practical thinking of everyday life."

Aronson applied theory to real-world problems and presented his work in language that was accessible to the public. He challenged psychologists and other social scientists to adopt research designs that allowed theory to be adapted to the specifics of everyday life, she said.

"He taught the rest of us that there is nothing so practical as a theory that's been honed by research and examined by the heart," said Macias.

Aronson joined the UCSC faculty in 1974. He began teaching at Harvard University in 1959 and moved in 1962 to the University of Minnesota. He joined the University of Texas in 1965. His textbook, The Social Animal, remains among the most popular texts in social psychology. Since retiring from UCSC in 1994, Aronson has been affiliated with Stanford University.

The complete list of the top psychologists of the 20th century is reprinted below. Continuing a tradition begun by researcher Eugene Garfield, who compiled a Top 100 list in 1977 and left the No. 100 spot open, researchers deliberately left No. 100 unnamed to leave room for an accomplished individual.

1. B. F. Skinner
2. Jean Piaget
3. Sigmund Freud
4. Albert Bandura
5. Leon Festinger
6. Carl R. Rogers
7. Stanley Schachter
8. Neal E. Miller
9. Edward Thorndike
10. A. H. Maslow
11. Gordon W. Allport
12. Erik H. Erikson
13. Hans J. Eysenck
14. William James
15. David C. McClelland
16. Raymond B. Cattell
17. John B. Watson
18. Kurt Lewin
19. Donald O. Hebb
20. George A. Miller
21. Clark L. Hull
22. Jerome Kagan
23. Carl G. Jung
24. Ivan P. Pavlov
25. Walter Mischel
26. Harry F. Harlow
27. J. P. Guilford
28. Jerome S. Bruner
29. Ernest R. Hilgard
30. Lawrence Kohlberg
31. Martin E. P. Seligman
32. Ulric Neisser
33. Donald T. Campbell
34. Roger Brown
35. R. B. Zajonc
36. Endel Tulving
37. Herbert A. Simon
38. Noam Chomsky
39. Edward E. Jones
40. Charles E. Osgood
41. Solomon E. Asch
42. Gordon H. Bower
43. Harold H. Kelley
44. Roger W. Sperry
45. Edward C. Tolman
46. Stanley Milgram
47. Arthur R. Jensen
48. Lee J. Cronbach
49. John Bowlby
50. Wolfgang Köhler
51. David Wechsler
52. S. S. Stevens
53. Joseph Wolpe
54. D. E. Broadbent
55. Roger N. Shepard
56. Michael I. Posner
57. Theodore M. Newcomb
58. Elizabeth F. Loftus
59. Paul Ekman
60. Robert J. Sternberg
61. Karl S. Lashley
62. Kenneth Spence
63. Morton Deutsch
64. Julian B. Rotter
65. Konrad Lorenz
66. Benton Underwood
67. Alfred Adler
68. Michael Rutter
69. Alexander R. Luria
70. Eleanor E. Maccoby
71. Robert Plomin
72.5.* G. Stanley Hall
72.5. Lewis M. Terman
74.5.* Eleanor J. Gibson
74.5. Paul E. Meehl
76. Leonard Berkowitz
77. William K. Estes
78. Elliot Aronson
79. Irving L. Janis
80. Richard S. Lazarus
81. W. Gary Cannon
82. Allen L. Edwards
83. Lev Semenovich Vygotsky
84. Robert Rosenthal
85. Milton Rokeach
88.5.* John Garcia
88.5. James J. Gibson
88.5. David Rumelhart
88.5. L. L. Thurston
88.5. Margaret Washburn
88.5. Robert Woodworth
93.5.* Edwin G. Boring
93.5. John Dewey
93.5. Amos Tversky
93.5. Wilhelm Wundt
96. Herman A. Witkin
97. Mary D. Ainsworth
98. Orval Hobart Mowrer
99. Anna Freud

* Numbers with .5 indicate a tie in the ranking. In these cases, the mean is listed.

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