Jeffrey Elman

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

Early life[edit]

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 1977.[1]


With Jay McClelland, Elman 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.[1]

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.[2] 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,[3] which argues against a strong nativist (innate) view of 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.[1] He is founding Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind[4] at UC San Diego, and holds the Chancellor's Associates Endowed Chair. He was Dean of Social Sciences at UCSD from 2008 until June 2014.[5]

In 2009 Elman sent a letter to UCSD sociology professor Richard Biernacki, instructing him not to publish research which was critical of one of his colleagues at UCSD, and of other scholars in the field. Elman's letter suggested that Biernacki's criticism of the UCSD colleague constituted "harassment" and threatened Biernacki with censure, salary reduction or dismissal if he tried to publish his work.[6][7][8][9] The Committee on Academic Freedom of the UCSD Academic Senate initiated an investigation of the letter. In May 2011, after hearing a report from the committee, the UCSD faculty senate expressed "grave concern" about the incident, which it deemed a violation of academic freedom. The committee called on the administration to acknowledge and correct the situation.[10][9]


  1. ^ a b c The David E. Rumelhart Prize.
  2. ^ Jeffrey L. Elman. Finding structure in time. Cognitive Science, Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 179-211, 1990
  3. ^ Elman, Jeffrey; et al. (1996). Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-55030-X. 
  4. ^ "Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind". 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Dylan Riley, 2014, "Back to Weber! a review of Reinventing Evidence in Social Inquiry by Richard Biernacki", Contemporary Sociology 43:5, 627-629
  7. ^ "UCSD Prof Wins Battle Against Dean's Gag Order, Will Publish Book". 
  8. ^ "Did UCSD breach professor's academic freedom?". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 
  9. ^ a b "UC-San Diego Dean Violated Academic Freedom by Suppressing Paper, Faculty Allege – The Ticker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education". 
  10. ^ Pat Flynn, "Did UCSD breach professor's academic freedom?", San Diego Union Tribune, May 25, 2011. Retrieved on 2014-9-27.

External links[edit]