Peter Gray (psychologist)

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Peter Gray
Alma mater
Scientific career
InstitutionsBoston College

Peter Otis Gray is an American psychology researcher and scholar. He is a research professor of psychology at Boston College, and the author of an introductory psychology textbook. He is known for his work on the interaction between education and play, and for his evolutionary perspective on psychology theory.

Education and career[edit]

Peter Gray grew up in the 1950s in a series of small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin.[1] He graduated in 1962 from Cabot School in Cabot, Vermont.[2] He then majored in psychology at Columbia College in New York City and graduated magna cum laude.[2] His experiences working at camps and recreation centers in high school and college helped to shape his future academic interests in play and child development.[citation needed] He received his PhD in biological sciences from Rockefeller University in 1972,[3] and, in that same year, joined the Psychology Department at Boston College.[2] There he moved up the ranks from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor, serving at various times as department chair, director of the undergraduate program, and director of the graduate program.[2][4] In 2002 he retired from his teaching position and accepted the appointment he now holds, as research professor.[2][1]

Gray is the author of a widely used introductory psychology textbook, now in its eighth edition (joined by coauthor David Bjorklund beginning with the 7th edition). The book broke new ground when the first edition was published (in 1991) as the first general introductory psychology textbook that brought a Darwinian perspective to the entire field.[citation needed] He is also author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, and he writes a popular blog for Psychology Today magazine entitled "Freedom to Learn".

In 2016, Gray helped to found the Alliance for Self-Directed Education,[5] an organization which promotes self-directed education for children and teenagers as replacement for traditional schooling.[6] He served as president of the organization, stepping down in 2020.[7] In 2017, Gray helped to found Let Grow, a non-profit organization which promotes childhood independence and pushes back against the model of helicopter parenting.[8]


  • Gray, Peter (March 5, 2013). Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03791-9.[9]
  • Narváez, Darcia; Valentino, Kristin; Fuentes, Agustin; McKenna, James J.; Gray, Peter, eds. (2014). Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution: Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-996425-3.
  • Gray, Peter; Bjorklund, David (2018). Psychology: 8th Edition. Macmillan Learning. ISBN 978-1-319-15051-8.
  • Gray, Peter (2020). Four books, all published by Tipping Points Press (publishing arm of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education), and adapted from blog posts in Gray's Freedom to Learn blog:


  1. ^ a b Tzortzis, Andreas (December 15, 2020). "Profile | Peter Gray, 74: Freedom to Learn". Ageist. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Peter Gray, Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Boston College. January 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  3. ^ Gray, Peter Otis (1972). A mineralocorticoid-dependent effect of prestress on avoidance responding in rats (PhD thesis). Rockefeller University. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  4. ^ "Play as Preparation for Learning and Life: An Interview with Peter Gray" (PDF). American Journal of Play. 5 (3). Spring 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  5. ^ "Newsletter (2016-12-08)". Alliance for Self-Directed Education. December 8, 2016. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  6. ^ Blanding, Michael (October 2, 2018). "Twenty percent of home-schooled kids are getting 'unschooled.' What's that?". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  7. ^ "An Important Message". Alliance for Self-Directed Education. June 26, 2020. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  8. ^ "The History of Let Grow". Let Grow. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  9. ^ Reviews of Free to Learn:

External links[edit]