Stanford University

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11/28/01

Dennis Molfese, (502) 852-6775, University of Louisville

Psychology Professor David Rumelhart wins Grawemeyer Award

David Rumelhart, professor of psychology at Stanford, and James McClelland of Carnegie Mellon University have jointly won the 2002 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology.

The award, in its second year, grants a $200,000 prize for outstanding contributions to the field of psychology. Rumelhart and McClelland, pioneers in the field of cognitive neuroscience, received the award for their collaboration on a cognitive framework called parallel distributed processing.

Their research explored the concept of connectionism the idea that no single neuron in the human brain does its job alone in processing information, and that neural networks decide things collectively and simultaneously rather than sequentially.

Rumelhart, who has been on medical leave from Stanford since 1998, studied computer modeling of learning, visual perception, language understanding and memory. McClelland, a professor of psychology and computer science, is co-director of Carnegie Mellon University's Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

Before Rumelhart joined the Stanford faculty in 1987, he and McClelland collaborated on research at the University of California San Diego that was published in 1986 in a book titled Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition. The book brought the concept of parallel computation to a wider audience in psychology, neuroscience and computer science. Their findings continue to affect many subfields of psychology, such as decision-making and language development, as well as economics, engineering and artificial intelligence.

The Grawemeyer Foundation received 35 nominations for the award, including four from abroad. The foundation awards accomplishments in five fields psychology, music composition, education, religion and ideas improving world order. Each field is awarded a $200,000 prize for a total of $1 million annually. The award recognizes powerful ideas or creative works in the sciences, arts and humanities rather than personal achievement.

Charles Grawemeyer was an industrialist, entrepreneur and University of Louisville graduate who died in 1993. He created the awards in 1984, distinguishing them by honoring ideas rather than personal achievement. He insisted that the selection process for each of the five awards although dominated by professionals include one step involving a lay committee knowledgeable in each field. As Grawemeyer saw it, great ideas should be accessible to everyone and not be the private treasure of academics.

 

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