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Stanley Smith Stevens (November 4, 1906 – January 18, 1973) was an American
psychologist A psychologist is a professional who practices psychology and studies mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior. Their work often involves the experimentation, observation, and interpretation of how ...
who founded Harvard's Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, studying
psychoacoustics Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological responses associated wit ...
, and he is credited with the introduction of Stevens's power law. Stevens authored a milestone textbook, the 1400+ page ''Handbook of Experimental Psychology'' (1951). He was also one of the founding organizers of the Psychonomic Society. In 1946 he introduced a theory of levels of measurement widely used by scientists but whose use in some areas of statistics has been criticized. In addition, Stevens played a key role in the development of the use of operational definitions in psychology. A ''
Review of General Psychology ''Review of General Psychology'' is the quarterly scientific journal of the American Psychological Association Division 1: The Society for General Psychology. The journal publishes cross-disciplinary psychological articles that are conceptual, the ...
'' survey, published in 2002, ranked Stevens as the 52nd most cited psychologist of the 20th century. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the United States National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.


Life

Stevens was born in
Ogden, Utah Ogden is a city in and the county seat of Weber County, Utah, United States, approximately east of the Great Salt Lake and north of Salt Lake City. The population was 87,321 in 2020, according to the US Census Bureau, making it Utah's eighth l ...
to Stanley and Adeline (Smith) Stevens and educated in
Latter-day Saint Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism, the principal branch of the Latter Day Saint movement started by Joseph Smith in upstate New York during the 1820s. After Smith's death in 1844, the movement split into severa ...
-affiliated schools in
Salt Lake City, Utah Salt Lake City (often shortened to Salt Lake and abbreviated as SLC) is the capital and most populous city of Utah, United States. It is the seat of Salt Lake County, the most populous county in Utah. With a population of 200,133 in 2020, th ...
. He spent much of his childhood in the
polygamous Crimes Polygamy (from Late Greek (') "state of marriage to many spouses") is the practice of marrying multiple spouses. When a man is married to more than one wife at the same time, sociologists call this polygyny. When a woman is married ...
household of his maternal grandfather Orson Smith. At the death of his parents in 1924, he spent the next 3 years on an LDS mission in
Switzerland ). Swiss law does not designate a ''capital'' as such, but the federal parliament and government are installed in Bern, while other federal institutions, such as the federal courts, are in other cities (Bellinzona, Lausanne, Luzern, Neuchâtel ...
and
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to t ...
. He attended the
University of Utah The University of Utah (U of U, UofU, or simply The U) is a public research university in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the flagship institution of the Utah System of Higher Education. The university was established in 1850 as the University of ...
from 1927 to 1929 and
Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among the largest in the United States, and enrolls over 17,000 students. Stanford is consid ...
for the next two years, graduating with an A.B. in psychology in 1931. Shortly after arriving in Massachusetts to begin a Ph.D., he left the LDS church. After two years of graduate study, he received his Ph.D. in psychology from
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of high ...
, where he served under
Edwin Boring Edwin Garrigues (Garry) Boring (23 October 1886 – 1 July 1968) was an American experimental psychologist, Professor of Psychology at Clark University and at Harvard University, who later became one of the first historians of psychology. A '' R ...
as assistant in psychology, from 1932 to 1934. The following year he spent studying physiology under Hallowell Davis at
Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University and is located in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1782, HMS is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States and is consi ...
, and in 1935 served as a research fellow in physics at Harvard for a year. In 1936, Stevens accepted a position as an instructor in experimental psychology at Harvard University. He married Maxine Leonard in 1930 and had a son, Peter Smith Stevens, in 1936. He married Geraldine Stone, who had worked in the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory from its inception, in 1963.


Science of Science discussion group

Stevens played a key role in organising the Science of Science discussion group in
Cambridge, Massachusetts Cambridge ( ) is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. As part of the Boston metropolitan area, the cities population of the 2020 U.S. census was 118,403, making it the fourth most populous city in the state, behind Bosto ...
, which met on eight occasions from October 1940 to mid-1941. Stevens, who was noted for the clarity of his scientific writing, attracted to the group a number of participants whose aim was the "debabelisation of science". The group was also influenced by the 5th Congress of the Unity of Science, which had been held at
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of high ...
in September 1939 and featured a number of well-known scientists from different disciplines.


Work

Stevens' experimental and theoretical work lay primarily in the fields of psychophysics and
psychoacoustics Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological responses associated wit ...
. One of his most influential contributions was his definition of a measurement scale defined by four types: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval, and Ratio. (see
Level of measurement Level of measurement or scale of measure is a classification that describes the nature of information within the values assigned to variables. Psychologist Stanley Smith Stevens developed the best-known classification with four levels, or scal ...
)
2001, pp. 15105–15108


See also

* '' The Logic of Modern Physics''


References

* * Nicholson, I. (2000). "S.S. Stevens". In Alan E. Kazdin (Ed.), ''Encyclopedia of Psychology.'' Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press. * Nicholson, I. (2005). "From the Book of Mormon to the Operational Definition: The Existential Project of S.S. Stevens". In William Todd. Schultz (Ed.), ''Handbook of Psychobiography'' (pp. 285–298). New York: Oxford University Press.


Further reading

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Stevens, Stanley Smith 1906 births 1973 deaths Former Latter Day Saints Latter Day Saints from Massachusetts Latter Day Saints from Utah American Mormon missionaries in Switzerland American Mormon missionaries in Belgium 20th-century Mormon missionaries Scientists from Ogden, Utah University of Utah alumni Stanford University alumni Harvard University alumni Harvard University faculty 20th-century American psychologists Members of the American Philosophical Society