Dr. Russell Church, from the beginning

I had the opportunity to spend time speaking with Dr. Russell Church, emeritus professor, endowed Edgar L. Marston chair at Brown University.

Dr. Church is a brilliant scholar who has spent more than 60 years at Brown University studying the processes of learning and decision making. During the last 30 years he and his students (many of whom are now established and impressive scholars in their own right) have been studying mechanisms of time and timing.

There are many excellent articles to recommend from his career:

Church, R. M. (1964). Systematic effect of random error in the yoked control design. Psychological Bulletin62(2), 122-131.

Church, R. M. (1984). Properties of the Internal Clock a. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences423(1), 566-582.

Church, R. M. (1959). Emotional reactions of rats to the pain of others. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology52(2), 132-134.

Church, R. M., & Broadbent, H. A. (1990). Alternative representations of time, number, and rate. Cognition37(1-2), 55-81.

Freestone, D. M., & Church, R. M. (2010). The importance of the reinforcer as a time marker. Behavioural Processes84(1), 500-505.

Church, R. M., Getty, D. J., & Lerner, N. D. (1976). Duration discrimination by rats. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes2(4), 303-312.

Church, R. M. (2001). A Turing test for computational and associative theories of learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science10(4), 132-136.

Church, R. M., Meck, W. H., & Gibbon, J. (1994). Application of scalar timing theory to individual trials. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes20(2), 135-155.

Maricq, A. V., & Church, R. M. (1983). The differential effects of haloperidol and methamphetamine on time estimation in the rat. Psychopharmacology79(1), 10-15.

Meck, W. H., & Church, R. M. (1983). A mode control model of counting and timing processes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes9(3), 320-334.

Shi, Z., Church, R. M., & Meck, W. H. (2013). Bayesian optimization of time perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences17(11), 556-564.

There is much to tell from his work and the influences that he’s had on Psychology. In tracing some of the context that got Dr. Church started in Psychology, there was a clear family influence. Dr. Church keeps just a few images by his desk — the most striking is a simple line drawing of his grandfather: Dr. James E. Church. J.E. Church was an audacious scientist who made expeditions to Greenland, the Himalayas, and around the world testing water samples in the snow pack (the technique he invented is still in use today!). The daring spirit of J.E. Church and young Russ’ interactions with him as a boy partly inspired his own journey into science. That familial encouragement coupled with a love for animals and a strategic dedication to solving mysteries seem  to have motivated a tremendous career for Dr. Church at Brown University.




(Pictured are Dr. Church at his home. The second image contains a photo of two  key images from his desk: a signed drawing of J.E. Church and a photo of the Brown Psychology faculty, taken from around 1960. Dr. Church is the dapper man in the  light gray suit, front row on the far left).


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