Carnegie Mellon's Psychology Department has a long history of
innovation and leadership that continues to this day. Its first instantiation at CMU (then Carnegie Tech)
was as the Division of Applied Psychology founded by Walter Van Dyke Bingham in 1915.
Bingham hired pioneers such as L. L. Thurstone, Edward K. Strong Jr., and others who
were interested in applications of psychological research. He formed affiliated units with
highly focused interests, such as the Bureau of Salesmanship Research and a School of
Life Insurance Salesmanship. But the Division of Applied Psychology was terminated in
1924, and some of the faculty moved to the nearby University of Pittsburgh, temporarily
terminating any psychological research at Carnegie Tech.
The second phase began a few years later when Max Schoen came to Carnegie Tech and
soon became head of what was then called the department of Psychology and Education.
He stepped down in 1947, to be succeeded by B. von Haller Gilmer.
The third, contemporary phase of our department can be traced in large part to the
activities of Herbert Simon
and Alan Newell. The two met at Rand in 1952 working on a
complex simulation of organizational communication, and by 1955, Simon had persuaded
Newell to come to Carnegie Mellon. They were initially housed in the Graduate School of
Industrial Administration (GSIA) (which also housed the university's first computer),
but the Psychology Department soon became part of their plans. Herb wrote in his
autobiography, "The Psychology Department provided the platform for launching the
cognitive revolution in psychology... By 1960, I was beginning to doubt that we could
accomplish the revolution from the foreign territory of GSIA, without a firm base also in the
Psychology Department. I resolved to do something about it when I returned to
Pittsburgh... My method was abrupt, justified in my
mind by the importance I attached to the goal."
In 1962, Herb engineered a leadership transition from Gilmer to Bert Green, who had
come to Carnegie Tech from MIT, where he had been involved in some of the very earliest
artificial intelligence research. Green was very supportive of establishing the department
as a major force in the nascent field of cognitive psychology. Following Green's leadership
came a series of department heads, each committed to research excellence, and usually
strongly oriented -- under the continued influence of Newell and Simon -- toward the
cognitive sciences (Garlie Forehand, 67-73; Lee Gregg, 73-80; Charles Kiesler, 80-83;
David Klahr, 83-93; and Roberta Klatzky, 93-03).
Into this nascent department, a gleam in the eyes of Newell and Simon, came more
faculty who, while sharing the common values of rigorous science with an eye for
application, expanded the department's research portfolio to include not only cognitive
psychology and cognitive neuroscience, but also developmental, personality, social,
health, and educational psychology. As described in the overviews of the individual
research areas, a common thread that unites all of these apparently diverse areas is
a deep and fundamental commitment to theoretical and empirical rigor and a focus on
psychological mechanisms, as well as potential and actual application. This department
remains committed to research excellence and to continuing its long history of both
determining, and adapting to, the research frontiers of the future.