Born in McConnelsville, Ohio, he was educated at Princeton and Edinburgh universities, and taught psychology at Smith College, Massachusetts (1928-49) and at Cornell University (1949-72). During World War II he served as director of the Research Unit in Aviation Psychology for the US air force, and his later research was partly a result of his wartime studies of such visual skills as those needed to land an aeroplane. He rejected the traditional reductionist approach of the psychological laboratory as inappropriate, and developed the concept of "direct perception" of "invariant" attributes of the visual world. His emphasis on the role of vision as the handmaiden for bodily action rather than as a means of achieving awareness of our surroundings has proved increasingly influential in the psychology of perception. He gained the Distinguished Scientist award of the American Psychological Association in 1961, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967.
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