Mandler received his B.S. from New York University, and his Ph. D. degree from Yale University in 1953. He served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service and Counter Intelligence Corps in World War II. Later he studied at the University of Basel and taught at Harvard University and the University of Toronto. In 1965 he became the founding chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at San Diego and the founding Director of the Center for Human Information Processing (CHIP) the home of scientists such as Geoffrey Hinton, Donald A. Norman and David E. Rumelhart. His Festschrift was published in 1991. He retired in 1994 and also became a Visiting Professor at University College London. In 2004 UCSD named Mandler Hall in recognition of his contributions to the university. Mandler had emigrated from Vienna to England and eventually to the USA after the German invasion in 1938. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Vienna.
Mandler was a leader and participant in the so-called cognitive revolution in mid-twentieth century. His contributions related the fields of cognition and emotion and the importance of autonomic feedback, the development and use of organization theory for an understanding of memory storage, recall, and recognition  (see "Organization and memory" in Spence & Spence, and ), the development of dual process recognition theory, and the revival of the role of consciousness in modern psychology. In the 1950s, together with S. B. Sarason, he initiated research on test anxiety. Among his books are Mind and Emotion, Mind and Body, Human Nature Explored, Consciousness Recovered, and A History of Modern Experimental Psychology. He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, received the William James Award from the American Psychological Association (APA), a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Fellowship status in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and the Cognitive Science Society.
Mandler's professional contributions include the editorship of Psychological Review, Governing Board member and chair of the Psychonomic Society, president of two Divisions of APA (Experimental Psychology and General Psychology), chair of the Council of Editors of APA, chair of the Society for Experimental Psychologists, and founding president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences.
Books by George Mandler
- Mandler, G., and Kessen, W. (1959). The Language of Psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Reprinted in Science Editions, 1964. Reprint edition: Huntington, N.Y.: Krieger, 1975.
- Italian edition: Il linguaggio della psicologia. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1977.
- Mandler, Jean M., and Mandler, G. (1964). Thinking: From Association to Gestalt. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Reprint edition: Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982.
- Mandler, G. (1975). Mind and Emotion. New York: Wiley. Reprint edition: Melbourne, Florida: Krieger, 1982.
- German edition: Denken und Fühlen. Paderborn: Junfermann, 1980.
- Mandler, G. (1984). Mind and body: Psychology of emotion and stress. New York: Norton.
- Behavioral Sciences Book Club selection, 1985.
- Japanese edition: Seishin Shobo Publishers, 1987.
- Mandler, G. (1985). Cognitive psychology: An essay in cognitive science. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Mandler, G. (1997). Human nature explored. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Mandler, G. (2002). Interesting times: An encounter with the 20th century. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Mandler, G. (2002). Consciousness recovered: Psychological functions and origins of conscious thought. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
- Mandler, G. (2007). A history of modern experimental psychology: From James and Wundt to cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Reprint edition: Prentice-Hall.
- Kessen, W., Ortony, A., and Craik, F. Memories, Thoughts, and Emotions: Essays in Honor of George Mandler. Hillsdale,NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Mandler, George (2002). "Origins of the cognitive (r)evolution". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 38: 339–353. doi:10.1002/jhbs.10066. PMID 12404267.
- Mandler, George (1975). Mind and emotion. New York: Wiley.
- Mandler, G. (2011) From association to organization. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 232-235
- Spence, K.W. & J.T. (1967). The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory. New York: Academic Press.
- Mandler, G. The limit of mental structures Journal of General Psychology
- Mandler, George (1980). "Recognizing: The judgment of previous occurrence". Psychological Review 87: 252–271. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.87.3.252.
- Mandler, George (2002). Consciousness recovered. Amsterda/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
- Baars, B. J. (1986). The cognitive revolution in psychology. New York, N.Y.: Guilford Press.
- Kessen, W., Ortony, A., & Craik, F. (1991). Memories, thoughts, and emotions: Essays in honor of George Mandler. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Kintsch, W., Miller, J. R., & Polson, P. G. (1984). Method and tactics in cognitive science. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Mandler, G. (2001). Interesting times: An encounter with the 20th century, 1924-. Mahwah, NJ: Larry Erlbaum Associates.