Jeffrey Elman

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Jeffrey Locke Elman (born January 22, 1948, in Los Angeles, California) is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego. He is a well-known psycholinguist and pioneer in the field of neural networks.


Elman attended Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, California, then Harvard University, where he graduated in 1969. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974.

With Jay McClelland, he developed the TRACE model of speech perception in the mid-80s. TRACE remains a highly influential model that has stimulated a large body of empirical research.

In 1990, he introduced the Simple Recurrent neural network (aka 'Elman network'), which is a widely used recurrent neural network that is capable of processing sequentially ordered stimuli.[1] Elman nets are used in a number of fields, including cognitive science, psychology, economics and physics, among many others.

In 1996, he co-authored (with Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Elizabeth Bates, Mark H. Johnson, Domenico Parisi, and Kim Plunkett), the book Rethinking Innateness,[2] which argues against a strong nativist (innate) view on development.

Elman is an Inaugural Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, and also was its President, from 1999-2000. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the New Bulgarian University, and is the 2007 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize for Theoretical Contributions to Cognitive Science. He is founding Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at UC San Diego, and holds the Chancellor's Associates Endowed Chair. He was Dean of Social Sciences until June 2014.[3]

The Committee on Academic Freedom of the UC San Diego Academic Senate investigated a 2009 letter sent by Elman to a professor in the Sociology Department regarding an academic dispute with a colleague. In it Elman ordered him not to publish criticism of his colleague, saying it "may damage the reputation of a colleague" and result in "written censure, reduction in salary, demotion, suspension, or dismissal."[4] On May 25, 2011, after hearing a report from the committee, the University of California San Diego Representative Assembly of the faculty senate "expressed 'grave concern' about what it deems a violation of academic freedom and called on the administration to acknowledge and correct the situation". This matter was discussed in higher education media and San Diego newspapers [5][6] as well as the UCSD campus paper In 2012, the UCSD administration agreed to comply with the Representative Assembly's request and issued a statement accepting responsibility for poor handling of the situation. As part of the resolution of the incident, the campus administration also agreed to hold several campus events to better educate the campus administration and faculty about the principle of academic freedom (the first event was held in May, 2012.)

The San Diego Reader reported in February 2014 that Dean Elman had resigned, and noted that the departure came shortly after newspaper revelations of documents in which Dean Elman referred to the possibility of "laundering" funds within the University in a complex matter linked to a local San Diego politician.

See also[edit]

  • TRACE model of speech perception


  1. ^ Jeffrey L. Elman. Finding structure in time. Cognitive Science Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 179-211, 1990
  2. ^ Elman et al., Jeffrey (1996). Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-55030-X. 
  3. ^ Matt Potter (Feb 17, 2014). "Dean in UCSD money "laundering" case to step down". San Diego Reader. Archived from the original on Feb 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ Inside Higher Education (2011). [1] Retrieved on 2011-7-3.
  5. ^ San Diego Union Tribune (2011). [2] Retrieved on 2011-7-3.
  6. ^ Inside Higher Education (2011). [3] Retrieved on 2011-7-3.

External links[edit]