In Memory Of… Robert Zajonc
Honoring scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior.
Robert B. Zajonc, PhD (1923-2008)
Professor of Psychology
R. B. Zajonc received his PhD degree from the University of Michigan in 1955. He remained there until his retirement in 1994. During his tenure at the University of Michigan, he served as the Director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics and of the Institute for Social Research. Zajonc’s research spanned a number of theoretical problems, such as the nature of the relationship between cognition and communication, emotional influences, including unconscious effects, the emergence of preferences, the aggregate pattern of intellectual performance scores as they are influenced by changing family dynamics, and some others. He was the recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, Distinguished Scientist Award, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Doctorates Honoris Causa from the University of Louvain and from University of Warsaw. He was Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
His work pursued two brilliant lifelong techniques: a contrarian approach and mere simplicity. Apropos the first, Zajonc always aimed to go where others are not; although he started alone, others soon followed. Apropos the second, his work followed “mere” simplicity as a rule; parsimony pervades his most inspired insights. Using these two principles, he contributed a major new idea about every five years, among them: cognitive structures, cognitive tuning, and balance; social facilitation of performance in the mere presence of others; mere exposure to stimuli promotes liking; intelligence results from birth order; how altruism, envy, and competition factor into the common good (Bargh & Apsely’s 2001 Unraveling the Complexities of Social Life celebrates his contributions).
Individuals Honoring Robert Zajonc:
Mark Baldwin, McGill University, Montreal
John Bargh, Yale University
Kent C. Berridge, University of Michigan
* Eugene Borgida, University of Minnesota
Lera Boroditsky, Stanford University
Eugene Burnstein, University of Michigan
John Cacioppo, University of Chicago
Laura L. Carstensen, Stanford University
Alana Conner, Stanford University
Chris Crandall, University of Kansas
Phoebe Ellsworth, University of Michigan
Susan Fiske, Princeton University
Marita Inglehart, University of Michigan
John T. Jost, New York University
Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan
Richard Moreland, University of Pittsburgh
Sheila Murphy, University of Southern California
Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan
Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan
Mark Snyder, University of Minnesota
Yaacov Trope, New York University
Timothy D. Wilson, University of Virginia
William R. Wilson, Denota
Piotr Winkielman, University of California, San Diego
* The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Eugene Borgida for nominating Dr. Zajonc for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about his nomination.