Stanley Smith Stevens

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Stanley Smith Stevens (November 4, 1906 – January 18, 1973)[1] was an American psychologist who founded Harvard's Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, studying psychoacoustics,[2] and he is credited with the introduction of Stevens' power law. Stevens authored a milestone textbook, the 1400+ page "Handbook of Experimental Psychology" (1951). He was also one of the founding organizers of the Psychonomic Society. In 1946 he introduced a theory of levels of measurement often used by statisticians.

In addition, Stevens played a key role in the development of the use of operational definitions in psychology.


He was born in Ogden, Utah to Stanely and Adeline (Smith) Stevens and educated in LDS-affiliated schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. He spent much of his childhood in the polygamous household of his grandfather Orson Smith. At the death of his parents in 1924, he spent the next 3 years on an LDS mission in Switzerland and Belgium. He attended the University of Utah from 1927 to 1929 and Stanford University for the next two years, graduating with an A.B. in psychology from Stanford in 1931. He married Maxine Leonard in 1930 and had a son, Peter Smith, in 1936.[3]


He mainly was in the field of psychophysics and psychoacoustics. In a paper, he developed the measurement scale consisting of Nominal, Ordinal, Ratio, and Interval. [4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, George A. (1975). Biographical Memoirs 47. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. p. 524. ISBN 978-0-309-02245-3. 
  2. ^ "Obituary: S. Smith Stevens". Physics Today 26 (5): 81. May 1973. doi:10.1063/1.3128068. 
  3. ^ American Journal of Psychology, 1974, Vol. 87, Issue Nom. 1-2, pp. 279-288
  4. ^ [1], 2001, pp. 15105–15108
  • Smelser, Neil J.; and Paul B. Baltes (2001). International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences. Amsterdam, New York: Elsevier. pp. 15105–15108. ISBN 0-08-043076-7. 
  • Nicholson, I. (2000). "S.S. Stevens". In Alan E. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press. ISBN 978-1-55798-187-5
  • Nicholson, I. (2005). "From the Book of Mormon to the Operational Definition: The Existential Project of S.S. Stevens". In William Todd. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of Psychobiography (pp. 285–298). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516827-3