Christopher D. Green

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Christopher Darren Green (born 1959) is professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada. He is cross-appointed to the departments of philosophy and science and technology studies as well. His research has mostly been about the history of psychology, though he occasionally writes on theoretical and philosophical issues.

Green is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and is a past president of its Division 26, the Society for the History of Psychology. He was editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, the oldest scholarly journal in the field, 2006-2008. His graduate training was in psychological aesthetics and computational cognitive science.

Early life[edit]

Green was born in Sacramento, California in 1959. His father, a native of San Francisco, was an undergraduate student of English and drama at the time. His mother had been born in Ohio and raised near Detroit, Michigan, though she moved to California in the early 1950s.

The year after his birth, Green's family moved Salt Lake City, Utah, where his father worked at an explosives plant for two years. The plant suffered a catastrophic explosion in 1962, and the family moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, living in various suburbs in the south bay -- San Carlos, San Bruno, Palo Alto, Cupertino. His father earned an MA part-time at San Jose State University and was accepted into the doctoral program in drama at Stanford University in 1970. The family moved to campus and lived in student housing at Escondido Village throughout the early 1970s. Green attended Lewis M. Terman Jr. High School (now Terman Middle School) for grades 7 through 9. He played trumpet in a variety of bands and orchestras in school.

His father completed his doctorate in 1974 and took a professorship at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Québec. Green attended Alexander Galt Regional High School there for grades 10 and 11. He also learned several trades around the university's theater. He worked mainly on the technical side, doing set-building, lighting, and sound. In 1976, Green moved to the Montréal area to attend Vanier CEGEP where he earned a Diplôme d'études collégiales (DEC) in music with a specialization in jazz.

Starting in 1979, he enrolled at McGill University, in the faculty of music. By the end of the year, however, he had become disenchanted with the department and with his future prospects as a professional musician. He transferred to the department of psychology and discovered an interest in cognitive psychology which he took from Tony Marley. He also took a course in symbolic logic from Anil Gupta (who later went on to prominence in the field of logic at Indiana University and the University of Pittsburgh). Green was also a disk jockey at the student radio station.

After one year in psychology, Green dropped out of university entirely. He busked guitar in a subway station and worked part-time in a McGill cafeteria. During the summer of 1982, he moved back to his parents' home in Lennoxville and enrolled at Bishop's University to finish his psychology degree. His honours thesis supervisor was Anton DeMan. Another of his primary mentors was Stuart McKelvie. Green also worked in the theater, served as copy editor for the student newspaper (The Campus) and, in his second year, was elected president of the Bishop's Student Council. He completed his degree in 1984 and applied to several graduate programs in psychology, but was not accepted. He decided to remain at Bishop's for the 1984-85 school year, where he spent most of his time working as a lighting and sound assistant at the university theater. It was in this capacity that he was the sound operator for a concert played by the legendary blues musician, Brownie McGee, who teamed up with a local man, Harmonica Zeke, for a one-night show. Green also wrote a political column for The Campus under the pseudonym "#9."

Graduate education[edit]

After his additional year at Bishop's, he applied to graduate school again, this time in both psychology and theater. He was accepted at Simon Fraser University in psychology and at the University of Victoria in theater. He chose the former. Beginning at Simon Fraser in 1984, Green's MA supervisor was Bernard Lyman, who admired the Gestalt psychologists and sought to reviving E. B. Titchener's method of rigorous introspection of decades past. In addition to the required psychology courses, Green took several philosophy courses (aesthetics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science) during his master's degree. His thesis research involved factor analyzing hundreds of subjects' detailed responses to nine different art works (3 paintings, 3 pieces of music, 3 poems). Nothing from the thesis was ever published, but the research process brought to Green's attention the Golden Section, a topic that would later serve as the basis of his most-cited journal article. Considering the possibility of specializing in statistics, Green took several math courses at the start of his PhD. He had begun writing his major doctoral essays (on philosophy of science and psychology) when his supervisor, Lyman, became ill with cancer, dying in December 1988.

Green sent applications to a number of graduate schools in Ontario. He was accepted at the University of Toronto, where his new doctoral supervisor,John M. Kennedy, a one-time student of J. J. Gibson, was just beginning pioneering work on which graphical artistic conventions are used by blind people when they draw. Green became interested in computational cognitive science and audited courses taught by one of the leading figures in connectionism, Geoffrey Hinton. One of his closest mentors at Toronto was the theoretical psychologist, André Kukla. His dissertation topic, conceived during a conference talk he saw by the prominent connectionist Paul Smolensky, was to develop connectionist networks that could correctly solve a series of increasingly difficult problems in deductive logic. He completed his PhD in 1992.


Finding no full-time academic position immediately after graduation, Green remained at Toronto, where he was given the title of "Special Lecturer" and taught various courses, including one in a recently developed cognitive science program. In 1992 he published a paper on the history of operationism, which had grown out of his unfinished doctoral papers at Simon Fraser and was, for many years, among his most popular articles. He applied for dozens more academic positions the following year, mostly in cognition. He was hired by York University in Toronto in July 1993. He joined York's History & Theory of Psychology graduate program. He taught undergraduate courses mainly on cognition, perception, statistics, and the history of psychology. At the graduate level, he taught seminars on cognition, the history of psychology, and the work of Michel Foucault. Starting about 1997, his undergraduate teaching narrowed to only statistics. In 1995, he published a review of psychological research on the aesthetics of the Golden Section, which soon became his most-cited article. Among Green's most important mentors during his early years at York were Raymond Fancher, the senior figure in the History & Theory of Psychology program, and Andrew Winston, a historian of psychology at the University of Guelph, also in Ontario.

He became interested in the World Wide Web and created a series of webpages and e-mail lists for several scholarly organizations in which he was involved: Divisions 24 (theory) and 26 (history) of the American Psychological Association, Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the International Society for Theoretical Psychology, and Section 25 (history & philosophy) of the Canadian Psychological Association, among others. He was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 1997. Late in 1997, he began work on the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website, which ultimately housed electronic editions of over 200 publications of historical importance in psychology. The site became tremendously popular, especially in the days before journals learned the value of posting their back-catalogs to the Web. The Classics site garnered tens of millions of hits during its first few years. Green was made a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (through the History Division (26)) in 2000, primarily for his internet activities. He was also presented a Special Service Award by History Division (26) of the APA in 2002. In 2004, he was made a Fellow of the Teaching Division (2) of APA as well. He was promoted to Full Professor by York that same year.

In 1998, Green had returned to the University of Toronto to start a second PhD, in the philosophy of science. His supervisor was a professor he had known during his previous stint there, William Seager, best known for his work on the theory of consciousness. Progress on the dissertation was slow, but he completed the degree in 2004. His dissertation returned to the topic of cognitive science, investigating whether connectionist networks served as "scientific models," as that phrase is understood in philosophy. He showed that one popular class of connectionist networks, which are made up of units that are usually thought of as being idealized analogs of neurons (thus the nickname "neural nets"), seemed to perform worse rather than better as more realistic neurological assumptions were built into their operation.

Having more or less satisfied his interests in computational cognitive science, in the first years of the 21st century Green began to retool as a historian of science. First, he wrote a couple of pieces on the mid-19th-century computational work of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. In 2003, he finally published a book on ancient Greek and Roman psychological thought that he had co-authored with a graduate school friend, Philip Groff, mostly during the mid-1990s. After that, his main historical interests turned to North American psychology, especially around the turn of the 20th century. He worked on the rise and fall of Functionalism, creating two video documentaries on the topic in addition to several articles and book chapters. In October and November 2006, he wrote the bulk of Wikipedia's history of psychology entry. In 2009, he co-edited with Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. a book on the pre-history of sport psychology. From 2006 to 2008 he served as editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Late in 2007, he was elected President-Elect of the History of Division of the APA, serving as President mainly in 2009.

About 2010, he began thinking about the new digital methods that were starting to capture various regions of the humanities and applying them to the study of the history of psychology. In 2011, he started to form a "laboratory" with his York colleague, Michael Pettit and a number of students. They eventually named themselves, half in jest, The PsyBorgs. In 2012, Green and Pettit won a large research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to support this work. Green and his colleagues published several articles in which complete runs of journal articles over decades of time were represented as nodes in a series of networks. These networks visually depicted the intellectual structure of the discipline at various periods in time—e.g., which topics were popular, how various topics were related to each other in terms of the vocabularies they used, and how these disciplinary structures changed over time from the 1880s to the 1920s.

Green's most active (former) graduate students include Daniel Denis (currently at the University of Montana), Jennifer Bazar (currently at the Waypoint Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario), Cathy Faye (currently at the University of Akron), Jeremy Burman (currently at the Jean Piaget Archives in Geneva, Switzerland), and Arlie Belliveau (currently at York University).

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