Robert Yerkes


Robert Yerkes

Infobox Scientist
name = Robert Yerkes
birth_date = May 26, 1876
birth_place = Pennsylvania
death_date = February 3, 1956
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nationality = American
ethnicity =
field = psychology
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doctoral_students =
known_for = intelligence testing
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Robert Mearns Yerkes (May 26, 1876February 3, 1956) was an American psychologist, ethologist, and primatologist best known for his work in intelligence testing and in the field of comparative psychology. Yerkes was a pioneer in the study both of human and primate intelligence and of the social behavior of gorillas and chimpanzees. Along with John D. Dodson, Yerkes developed the Yerkes-Dodson law relating arousal to performance.

Education and early career

Robert Yerkes was born in Breadysville, Pennsylvania (near Ivyland, Pennsylvania). Growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Robert Yerkes wanted to leave the hard life of the rural farmer and become a physician. With the financial help of an uncle, Yerkes attended Ursinus College from 1892 to 1897. Upon graduating he received an offer from Harvard University to do graduate work in Biology. Faced with a choice of Harvard or medical training in Philadelphia, he chose to go to Harvard.

At Harvard, Yerkes became interested in animal behavior, so much so that he put off further medical training to study comparative psychology. He earned his Ph.D. in the Psychology Department in 1902.

His early career was strongly influenced by the debts Yerkes incurred paying for school. Upon his graduation from Harvard, he took up a position with the school as an instructor and Assistant Professor in Comparative Psychology. He had to supplement his income during the summer for several years by teaching general psychology at Radcliffe College. Another part-time job he took on was being the director of psychological research at the Boston State Psychopathic Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1907, Yerkes published his first book, "The Dancing Mouse". Among his friends during this time was future behaviorist John Watson, with whom he exchanged ideas and collaborated. He was also a member of the Wicht Club (1903 - 1911).

Intelligence testing

In 1917, Yerkes served as president of the American Psychological Association (APA). Under his urging, the APA began several programs devoted to the war effort in World War I. As chairman of the Committee on the Psychological Examination of Recruits, he developed the Army's Alpha and Beta Intelligence Tests, the first nonverbal group tests, which were given to over 1 million United States soldiers during the war. The test ultimately concluded that recent immigrants (especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe) scored considerably lower than older waves of immigration (from Northern Europe), and was used as one of the eugenic motivations for harsh immigration restriction. The results would later be criticized as very clearly only measuring acculturation, as the test scores correlated nearly exactly with the number of years spent living in the US.

National Research Council

Immediately after World War I, Yerkes worked as a paid officer for the United States National Research Council (NRC) and took the helm of the NRC Committee for Research in Problems of Sex. The Committee for Research in Problems of Sex helped Yerkes establish close relationships with officers from Rockefeller philanthropic foundations. These relationships later helped him to solicit substantial funds for his chimpanzee projects.

Primatology pioneer

Yerkes had a long and storied fascination with the study of chimpanzees. He had spent time observing chimpanzees in Cuba at Madame Abreu's colony in the early 1920s, and had returned from the trip determined to raise and observe chimps on his own. He began by purchasing two chimpanzees, Chim and Panzee, from a zoo. He brought the two chimps home, where they lived in a bedroom and ate with a fork at a miniature table. Chim was a particular delight for Yerkes, and the summer that chimp and psychologist spent together is memorialized in "Almost Human" (1924). ["Almost Human", 1924.]

In 1924, Yerkes was hired as a professor of psychobiology, a field he pioneered, at Yale University. He founded the Yale University Laboratories of Primate Biology in New Haven, followed by his Anthropoid Breeding and Experiment Station in Orange Park, Florida with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation. After his death, the lab was moved to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and is now called the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The primate language Yerkish was developed there.

Asked how to say his name, he told "The Literary Digest" it was YER-keez. [Charles Earle Funk, "What's the Name, Please?", Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.]

Publications

*1907, "The Dancing Mouse, A Study in Animal Behavior"
*1911, "Introduction to Psychology"
*1911, "Methods of Studying Vision in Animals" (with John B. Watson)
*1914, "Outline of a Study of the Self"
*1915, "A Point Scale for Measuring Mental Ability" (with co-authors)

ee also

*Great Ape personhood
*List of apes
*The mind of an ape
*Yerkes-Dodson law
*Yerkish

External links

* [http://www.yerkes.emory.edu/about_history.html Emory.edu] - 'Innovation and Science: The History of Yerkes', Yerkes National Primate Research Center
* [http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/yerkes.shtml Indiana.edu] - 'Robert Mearns Yerkes (1876-1956) American Comparative Psychologist', Indiana University
* [http://users.ipfw.edu/abbott/120/IntelligenceTests.html IPFW.edu] - 'Intelligence Tests' (historical overview)
* [http://www.holah.karoo.net/gouldstudy.htm Karoo.net] - 'A Nation of Morons' (critique of the Army Alpha Intelligence Test), Stephen Jay Gould
* [http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Yerkes/murchison.htm YorkU.ca] - 'Autobiography of Robert Mearns Yerkes', Robert Yerkes, York University (1930)
*gutenberg author| id=Robert+M.+Yerkes | name=Robert Yerkes

References

*Citation
id = PMID:11765942
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11765942
last=Yerkes
first=R M
publication-date=
year=
title=Creating a chimpanzee community. 1963.
volume=73
issue=1-6
periodical=The Yale journal of biology and medicine
pages=221-34

*Citation
id = PMID:11618320
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11618320
last=Stark
first=B P
publication-date=1985
year=1985
title=The Robert Mearns Yerkes papers.
volume=59
issue=3-4
periodical=The Yale University library gazette. Yale University. Library
pages=162-7

*Citation
id = PMID:11615095
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11615095
last=Haraway
first=D
publication-date=
year=
title=The biological enterprise: sex, mind, and profit from human engineering to sociobiology.
volume=Spec
issue=
periodical=Radical history review
pages=206-37

*Citation
id = PMID:11609710
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11609710
last=Burnham
first=J C
publication-date=1972 Apr
year=1972
title=Thorndike's puzzle boxes.
volume=8
issue=
periodical=Journal of the history of the behavioral sciences
pages=159-67

*Citation
id = PMID:14277643
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14277643
last=ROOFE
first=P G
publication-date=1965
year=1965
title=SIGNIFICANT SEGMENTS OF THE HERRICK-YERKES CORRESPONDENCE RELATIVE TO PSYCHOBIOLOGY AND THEIR PERSONAL PHILOSOPHIES.
volume=
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periodical=Perspect. Biol. Med.
pages=196-209

*Citation
id = PMID:11615455
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11615455
last=Hilgard
first=E R
publication-date=1965
year=1965
title=Robert Mearns Yerkes, May 26, 1876--February 3, 1956.
volume=38
issue=
periodical=Biographical memoirs. National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
pages=385-425

*Citation
id = PMID:13467232
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13467232
last=CARMICHAEL
first=L
publication-date=1957 Sep 13
year=1957
title=R. M. Yerkes, psychobiologist.
volume=126
issue=3272
periodical=Science
pages=498

*Citation
id = PMID:13408389
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13408389
last=CARMICHAEL
first=L
publication-date=1957 Jan
year=1957
title=Robert Mearns Yerkes, 1876-1956.
volume=64
issue=1
periodical=Psychological review
pages=1-7

*Citation
id = PMID:13354820
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13354820
last=ELLIOTT
first=R M
publication-date=1956 Sep
year=1956
title=Robert Mearns Yerkes: 1876-1956.
volume=69
issue=3
periodical=The American journal of psychology
pages=487-94


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