Schachter, Stanley, 1922-1997

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1922-04-15
Death 1997-06-07
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Social psychologist, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, later at Columbia University from 1961 to 1992.

From the description of Stanley Schachter papers, 1945-1998. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 83226109

Described by his colleagues as a "brilliant experimentalist" in the field of social psychology, Dr. Stanley Schachter was not only known for his many important and influential contributions to social psychology, but to the entire field of psychology. Throughout his career, he maintained wide-ranging professional interests in areas such as: smoking and obesity, decision-making in the stock market, affiliation theory, and the effects of deviating from group decisions. The New York Times lauded him as "Psychologist of the Mundane." Indeed, Schachter had a knack for conducting imaginative studies of otherwise basic human behavior and a self-professed talent for interpreting data. He is perhaps most widely recognized for his proposal that emotional experience is a combination of a psychological state and a cognitive interpretation of that state.

Dr. Schachter was born in Flushing, New York to Jewish immigrant parents of eastern European origin on April 15, 1922. He was first introduced to social psychology at Yale University where he obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees. In his autobiography, published as part of A History of Psychology in Autobiography, he notes his good fortune at arriving at Yale during World War II, when most of the psychology department faculty and graduate students were involved elsewhere with wartime research. As a result, the young Schachter was admitted to graduate seminars and allowed to participate in the few research efforts that continued during the war years. These privileges cemented his interest in social psychology and paved the way for his successful career.

After completing his masters degree he left Yale to begin his doctorate in 1946 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While there, he worked under the auspices of the Research Center for Group Dynamics. When the Center's founding faculty member died, MIT refused to continue funding the Center and Schachter and his fellow graduate students spent a year in search of a university to house the research center. The University of Michigan was one of those interested institutions and according to Schachter, it "apparently made the best, or perhaps the only, offer, and we all moved, kit and kaboodle (whatever they are) to Ann Arbor." He arrived at the University of Michigan in 1949 and left one year later, doctorate in hand, to accept an assistant professorship at the University of Minnesota. It was there that Dr. Schachter finished his pivotal book The Psychology of Affiliation. He submitted it to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Social Psychological competition, and won first prize and lifelong recognition as a prominent scholar. Universities began to woo him as a result of his newfound fame. He taught at the University of Amsterdam and Stanford University before joining Columbia University's psychology faculty in 1961. He became the Robert Johnston Niven Professor of Social Psychology in 1966 and retired from Columbia in 1992.

In addition to the AAAS prize, Dr. Schachter won many awards during his career, including the James McKeen Cattell Award, and awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. He was elected to the American Academy for the Arts and Sciences in 1976. Dr. Schachter died on June 7, 1997.

From the guide to the Stanley Schachter Papers, 1945-1998, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

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Subjects:

  • Social psychology

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