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Summary Article: Pribram, Karl Harry from Biographical Dictionary of Psychology

Born: 1919, Vienna, Austria Nat: Austrian/American Ints: Experimental, physiological and comparative, philosophical and theoretical, neuropsychology, psychoanalysis Educ: BS University of Chicago, 1939; MD University of Chicago, 1941 Appts & awards: Diplomate, American Board of Neurological Surgery, 1948; Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences 1958; Professor, Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 1962-; NIH Lifetime Career Research Award, 1962; Fellow, AAA&S, AAAS; President, APA Division 6, 1967-8; Central Council, International Brain Research Organization; Founding President, International Neuropsychological Society, 1967-9; Chairman, Committee on International Relations in Psychology, 1973; Paul Hoch Award, American Psychopathological Association, 1975; President, APA Division 24, 1979-80; Society for Experimental Psychologists; Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences; President, Professors for World Peace, 1982-; Editorships and Consulting Boards, Neuropsychologia, Journal of Mathematical Biology, Advances in Behavioral Biology, Human Motivation, International Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience Research, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Journal of Mental Imagery, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Imagination, Cognition and Personality, Journal of Human Movement Studies, Journal of Social and Biological Structures, ReVision, SISTM Quarterly, Indian Journal of Psychophysiology, Interamerican Journal of Psychology, International Journal of Psychophysiology, Gestalt Theory Cognition and Brain Theory, Biology and Cognition


Principal publications
  • 1960 Plans and the Structure of Behaviour. Holt (with G. A. Miller; E. Galanter).
  • 1960 (ed.) Brain and Behaviour, vols 1-4. Penguin.
  • 1960 On the neurology of thinking. Behavioral Science, 4, 265-87.
  • 1960 A review of theory in physiological psychology. Annual Reviews in Psychology, 11, 1-40.
  • 1964 An experimental analysis of the behavioral disturbance produced by a left frontal arachnoid endothelioma (meningioma). Neuropsychologia, 4, 257-80.
  • 1969 The effects of radical disconnection of occipital and temporal cortex on visual behaviour of monkeys. Brain, 92, 301-12 (with D. N. Spinelli; S. C. Reitz).
  • 1971 Languages of the Brain: Experimental Paradoxes and Principles in Neuropsychology. Prentice Hall. (Brooks/Cole, 1977; Brandon House, 1982).
  • 1973 Psychophysiology of the Frontal Lobes. Academic Press (ed. with Luria, A. R.).
  • 1975 Arousal, activation and effort in the control of attention. Psychological Review, 82, 116-49 (with McGuinness, D.).
  • 1975 The Hippocampus, vols 1 and 2. Plenum.
  • 1979 The effect of inferotemporal or foveal prestriate oblation on social reversal learning in monkeys. Neuropsychologia, 17, 1-10 (with Christensen, C. A.).
  • 1980 Mind, brain and consciousness: The organisation of competence. In Davidson, J. M.Davidson, R. J. Psychobiology of Consciousness. Plenum.
  • 1981 Emotions. In Filskov, S. B.Boll, T. J. Handbook of Clinical Neuropsychology. Wiley.
  • 1982 Perception and memory of facial affect following brain injury. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 54, 859-69 (with Prigatano, G. P.).
  • 1982 Localization and distribution of function in the brain. In Orbach, J. Neuropsychology after Lashley Erlbaum.
  • 1985 The Hippocampus, vols 3 and 4. Plenum.
  • 1987 The subdivisions of the frontal cortex revisited. In Perecman, E. The Frontal Lobes Revisited. IRBN Press.
  • 1991 Brain and Perception: Holonomy and Structure in Figural Processing. Erlbaum.
  • 1995 (ed.) Scale in Conscious Experience: Is the Brain too Important to be Left to Specialists to Study?. Erlbaum (with King, J.).
  • Further Reading
  • Donchin, E.; Coles, M. G. (1991) While an undergraduate waits. Special Issue in Honor of Karl H. Pribram: Localization and distribution of cognitive function. Neuropsychologia, 29, 557-69.

  • Pribram received a BS in anatomy in 1939 at the University of Chicago and an MD from the same institution in 1941. He was associated with the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology for a decade, and succeeded Lashley as director. He relinquished the directorship when ownership of Yerkes was transferred from Yale to Emory University. During this period he had an appointment as Lecturer and Assistant Professor of Research in physiology and psychology at Yale University School of Medicine, and was invited to become a member of the Harvey Cushing Society. He also served as Director of Research at the Institute of Living. In 1958, he received a Fulbright Fellowship and was invited to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He accepted the invitation in order to pursue collaborative work with George Miller and Eugene Gallanter. Since that time he has authored numerous theoretical and empirical articles, completed the influential Languages of the Brain, and collaborated with M. Gill on Freud's Project Reassessed (1976). He was invited to stay on at Stanford University, receiving a Lifetime Career Research Award in Neuroscience in 1962 from the National Institutes of Health. Pribram is probably best known for his work on plans (with Miller and Galanter).

    This work is structured around two key concepts: the plan and the image. A plan is any hierarchical process in an organism that can control the order in which a sequence of operations is to be performed. (This conception of plan is similar to F.C. Bartlett's concept of schema and is often preferred because it emphasizes the structured use of experience without specifying the form in which experience is used.) An image is the accumulated, organized knowledge an organism has about itself and the its environment. Human action is represented by components called TOTE units (Test-Operate-Test-Exit). For example, in hammering a nail the nail is first Tested (does it stand up), then Operated on (hammered), then Tested (is the nail driven home) and then the process is Exited. TOTEs can be built on one another in a hierarchical fashion with increasingly general TOTE units near the top of the hierarchy. Thinking of the structure of human action in terms of TOTES does not mean that behaviour is so organized, but it demonstrated for the first time that the feedback and mechanism approach to human actions could have considerable explanatory power, sufficient to challenge the prevailing behaviourist ideas.

    © 1997, 2002 Routledge

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