James Townsend (psychologist)

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James Tarlton Townsend
Born (1939-07-09) July 9, 1939 (age 80)
Alma materCalifornia State University, Fresno, Stanford University
Known forSystems Factorial Technology, General Recognition Theory, Decision field theory
Scientific career
Fieldscognitive psychology, mathematical psychology
InstitutionsUniversity of Hawaii, Purdue University, Indiana University
Doctoral advisorRichard C. Atkinson
InfluencesWilliam Kaye Estes, Gordon Bower

James Tarlton Townsend is a Distinguished Rudy Professor of Psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington.[1][2] He is known for his work in mathematical psychology, particularly in distinguishing parallel and serial processing and for models of perception.

Education and career[edit]

Townsend received an A.B. in Psychology from Fresno State College in 1961.[2] In 1962, he began his graduate work under Richard Atkinson at the Institute for Mathematical Studies in the Social Sciences at Stanford University. After completing his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1966, Townsend joined the faculty at the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii. Two years later, in 1968, Townsend moved to Purdue University where he received tenure in 1971 and became a full professor in 1977. During that period, Townsend spent time as a visiting associate professor in William Kaye Estes’s lab at Rockefeller University (1972-1973), a visiting scholar at the Institut für Psychologie at the Technische Universität, Braunschweig, a visiting scholar in the School of Social Sciences at the University of California, Irvine (1982), and as a visiting professor in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University (1986).[3] In 1989, Townsend became a Rudy Professor in the Department of Psychology at Indiana University. Townsend became a Distinguished Professor in 2008.[1][4]


Townsend's major theoretical contributions include Systems Factorial Technology,[5] General Recognition Theory[6] and Decision field theory.[7]

Townsend coauthored an influential book on modeling in psychology with F. Gregory Ashby, The Stochastic Modeling of Elementary Psychological Processes.[8][9][10][11] He has also edited multiple volumes on mathematical psychology.[12][13][14]

In 1985 and again in 2004, Townsend served as the president of the Society for Mathematical Psychology[15] and has more recently served as the president of the Configural Processing Consortium.[16] He served as editor of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology from 1985 to 1989.[17]



  1. ^ a b "James Townsend" (Press release). IU News Room. March 24, 2008. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  2. ^ a b "James Townsend: Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences: Indiana University Bloomington". Psych.indiana.edu. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  3. ^ "James T. Townsend - Vita - Biographical Date" (PDF). Indiana.edu. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  4. ^ "Honoree -- James Townsend". Indiana University Honors and Awards. Archived from the original on 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  5. ^ Townsend, J.T. & Nozawa, G. (1995). Spatio-temporal properties of elementary perception: An investigation of parallel, serial and coactive theories. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 39, 321-360.
  6. ^ Ashby, F. G., & Townsend, J. T. (1986). Varieties of perceptual independence. Psychological Review, 93, 154-179.
  7. ^ Busemeyer, J., & Townsend, J. T. (1993). Decision field theory: A dynamic-cognitive approach to decision making. Psychological Review, 100(3) 432-459.
  8. ^ Townsend, J. T., & Ashby, F. G. (1983). The Stochastic Modeling of Elementary Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ Link, S. (1986). Wogols, Turgles and Whimpf and Things. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 85-90.
  10. ^ (1984). Book Reviews. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 37, 293-296.
  11. ^ Diederich, A. (2010). Mathematical Psychology. In The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. (Vol 3, pp. 971-974). New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
  12. ^ B. Berglund, J. T. Townsend, Rossi, G. B. & Pendrill, L. (Eds.), (2012). Measurement with Persons: Theory and Methods. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
  13. ^ Wenger, M. J., & Townsend, J. T. (2001). Computational, Geometric, and Process Issues in Facial Cognition: Progress and Challenges. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  14. ^ Geissler, H. G., Link, S., & Townsend, J. T. (1992). Cognition, Information Processing and Psychophysics: Basic Issues. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  15. ^ "Board Members". Society for Mathematical Psychology. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  16. ^ "CPC 2012 - Organizers". Indiana.edu. 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  17. ^ "Editorial Board Members". Mathpsych.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ "SEP - The Society of Experimental Psychologists". Sepsych.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  19. ^ "The Experimental Psychology Bulletin". Apa.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
  20. ^ "Association for Psychological Science: APS Fellows". Psychologicalscience.org. Retrieved 2013-08-24.