Bruner, Jerome S(eymour) 1915-

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BRUNER, Jerome S(eymour) 1915-

PERSONAL: Born October 1, 1915, in New York, NY; son of Herman and Rose (Glucksmann) Bruner; married Katherine Frost, November 10, 1940 (divorced, 1956); married Blanche Marshall McLane, January 16, 1960; children: (first marriage) Whitley, Jane. Education: Duke University, A.B., 1937; Harvard University, A.M., 1939, Ph.D., 1941. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing, politics.

ADDRESSES: Home—200 Mercer St., New York, NY10012. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, lecturer, 1945-48, associate professor, 1948-52, lecturer at Salzburg Seminar, 1952, professor of psychology, 1952-72, director of Center for Cognitive Studies, 1961-72, master of Currier House of Harvard-Radcliffe College, 1970-71. Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, visiting member, 1951-52; University of Aixen-Provence, Bacon Professor, 1965; Oxford University, Oxford, England, Watts Professor of Psychology, beginning 1972; New School for Social Research, G.H. Mead University Professor, 1980-88; New York University, research professor of psychology, beginning 1991; New York University, adjunct professor of law, beginning 1991. Member of board of syndics, Harvard University Press, 1962-63; member of boards of directors and advisory boards for government and private agencies, including John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, National Science Foundation, United Nations, Educational Testing Service, National Institutes of Health, Educational Development Center, U.S. Department of State, Hampshire College, and Wheaton College. Military service: U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, 1941-44; worked on analysis of public opinion and propaganda.

MEMBER: International Union of Scientific Psychology (member of executive committee), American Psychological Association (president, 1964-65), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), National Academy of Education (founding fellow), Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (former president), American Association of University Professors, Federation Suisse de Psychologie (honorary foreign fellow), Officier de l'Instruction Publique (honorary), Puerto Rican Academy of Arts and Sciences (honorary), Cruising Club of America, Royal Cruising Club, Harvard Club (New York), Cosmos Club.

AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellowship, Cambridge University, 1955-56; Distinguished Science Contribution Award, American Psychological Association, 1962; D.Litt. from Lesley College, 1964, Duke University, 1969, and Northern Michigan University, 1969; D.Sc. from Northwestern University, 1965, and University of Sheffield, 1970; LL.D. from Temple University, 1965, University of Cincinnati, 1966, and University of New Brunswick, 1969; first joint award of American Educational Research Association and American Educational Publishers Institute, 1969; citation from Merrill-Palmer Institute, 1970.


Public Thinking on Post-War Problems, National Planning Association, 1943.

Mandate from the People, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1944.

(Editor) Perception and Personality: A Symposium, Duke University Press, 1950, reprinted, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1968.

(With Jacqueline J. Goodnow and George A. Austin) A Study of Thinking, Wiley, 1956, reprinted, Robert E. Krieger, 1977.

(With Mortimer B. Smith and R. W. White) Opinions and Personality, Wiley, 1956.

The Process of Education, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1960, reprinted, 1977.

On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1962, reprinted, 1979.

Man: A Course of Study, Educational Services, 1965.

(Editor) Learning about Learning: A Conference Report, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Washington, DC), 1966.

Toward a Theory of Instruction, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 1966.

Process of Cognitive Growth: Infancy (Heinz Werner lectures), Clark University Press (Worcester, MA), 1968.

The Relevance of Education, edited by Anita Gil, Norton (New York, NY), 1971, new edition, 1973.

Beyond the Information Given: Studies in the Psychology of Knowing, edited by Jeremy M. Anglin, Norton (New York, NY), 1973.

(Editor, with Kevin Connolly) The Growth of Competence (conference proceedings), Academic Press, 1974.

(Editor, with Alison Jolly and Kathy Sylva) Play: Its Role in Development and Evolution, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1976.

(Editor, with Alison Garton) Human Growth and Development: The Wolfson College Lectures, 1976, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Under Five in Britain, Grant McIntyre (London, England), 1980.

(Author of afterword) The Social Foundations of Language and Thought: Essays in Honor of Jerome S. Bruner, edited by David R. Olson, Norton (New York, NY), 1980.

(With Rita Watson) Child's Talk: Learning to Use Language, Norton (New York, NY), 1983.

In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1983.

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1986.

(Editor, with Helen Haste) Making Sense: The Child's Construction of the World, Methuen (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor, with Marc H. Bornstein) Interaction in Human Development, L. Erlbaum (Hillsdale, NJ), 1989.

Acts of Meaning, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

(Author of foreword) Lisa Capps and Elinor Ochs, Constructing Panic: The Discourse of Agoraphobia, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

The Culture of Education, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

(With Anthony G. Amsterdam) Minding the Law: How Courts Rely on Storytelling, and How Their Stories Change the Way We Understand Law and Ourselves, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to books, including Contemporary Approaches to Cognition, Harvard University Press, 1957; Logique et perception, Presses Universitaires de France, 1958; Myth and Mythmaking, edited by Henry Alexander Murray, [Cambridge, MA], 1959; Studies in Cognitive Growth, Wiley, 1966; La sfida pedagogica americana, A. Armando, 1969; Education of the Infant and Young Child, edited by Victor H. Denenberg, Academic Press, 1970; Dare to Care/Dare to Act: Racism and Education, edited by Robert Leeper, [Washington, DC], 1971; and The Application of Learning Principles to Classroom Instruction (symposium), edied by Merle E. Meyer and F. Herbert Hite, Western Washington State College, 1971. General editor, with others, of "Developing Child" series, Harvard University Press. Contributor to numerous professional journals. Editor, Public Opinion Quarterly, 1943-44.

SIDELIGHTS: Jerome S. Bruner is a psychologist who has made exceptional contributions to the study of cognition, perception, and education. After earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University, he joined the faculty there and began to develop a new theory of perception, which would come to be known as "The New Look." This theory contends that perception is not simply what happens immediately when one "sees" something, it is way of processing information that involves selection and interpretation. Bruner's area of study then moved into cognition through his studies with George Miller. In 1960 the two men opened the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard, convinced that psychology should be part of the cognitive process.

While working at the Center, Bruner began to have a major impact on the study of education. He conducted many studies on the significance of students' active participation in learning. His primary theory, as quoted in American Decades, is that "optimum conditions for learning take place only when material is organized in a way requiring students to involve themselves so that their own logical processes exert enough force to compel their assent to conclusions." Among Bruner's books that explain this and other theories is The Culture of Education, in which Bruner argues against current educational reforms, insisting instead that students will never learn more effectively until it is understood how and where learning takes place. He also explains how culture shapes the way human minds work and provides the tools that men and women use to construct ideas of themselves and their capabilities.

In 1983 Bruner was commissioned by the Sloan Foundation to write an "intellectual autobiography." The resulting volume, In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography, contains a series of essays on the foremost psychological movements of the 1940s and 1950s, the period when Bruner was considered a leader in his field. Included are descriptions of his studies in the areas of language, perception, cognition, and learning. As noted by Howard Gardner in a review of the book for the New Republic, "Bruner may well be the most representative psychologist of our time … the scientist who has placed cognition at the center of his chosen field by underscoring the essential hypothesisgenerating and problem-solving powers of the human mind." Gardner called In Search of Mind a "fascinating life story related by one of the most literate and imaginative thinkers of our time."

In the late 1980s Bruner began to study ideas surrounding "stories" and wrote a number of books exploring stories in various ways. His Actual Minds, Possible Worlds has been viewed by some as a kind of "other half" to Bruner's body of work involving cognitive psychology. In this book he writes about how humans operate in two modes of thought: scientific and literary. The literary mode consist of the "stories" that make up lives and personalities; as Ian Hacking noted in the New Republic, "They derive … from part of our nature and are essential to having a life, understanding our companions, getting on in the world."

Collaborating with law professor Anthony Amsterdam, Bruner also penned a book that looks at stories from a legal perspective. Minding the Law: How Courts Rely on Storytelling, and How Their Stories Change the Way We Understand Law and Ourselves sprang from a seminar the two men taught together. In this work Bruner and Amsterdam examine the role of storytelling in the legal process, discussing narrative, rhetoric, and the dialectic of culture. They contend that because our culture is inundated with stories, we can better understand the law by investigating the narrative arrangements in specific court cases. Richard A. Posner, a critic for the New Republic, described the work as a "riveting book about the cognitive phenomena that shape judicial decision-making even as they shape all mental activities." Susan S. Silbey commented in the American Journal of Sociology that Minding the Law "is an erudite and passionate effort to challenge this growing dominion of law." Continuing in a legal vein, in 2002 Bruner published Making Stories: Law, Literature, and Life, wherein he argues that science cannot substitute technical clarifications for the stories humans tell and hear that allow them to understand their experiences.



American Decades, 1960-1969, UXL (Detroit, MI), 2003, pp. 131-132.

Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001, p. 100.


America, January 14, 1984, Daniel C. O'Connell, review of In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography, p. 20.

American Journal of Sociology, July, 2001, Susan S. Silbey, review of Minding the Law, p. 229.

Argumentation and Advocacy, winter, 2002, Matthew T. Bodie, review of Minding the Law, pp. 176-180.

Booklist, April 15, 1996, Bryce Christensen, review of The Culture of Education, p. 1398; September 1, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of Minding the Law, p. 37.

Michigan Law Review, May, 2001, Steven L. Winter, review of Minding the Law, p. 1607.

Nation, September 21, 1992, Joan Wicks Gillette, review of The Process of Education, p. 454.

National Forum, winter, 1997, Mary Hartwood Futrell, review of The Culture of Education, p. 42.

New Republic, December 26, 1983, Howard Gardner, review of In Search of Mind, p. 31; June 9, 1986, Ian Hacking, review of Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, p. 30; October 16, 2000, Richard A. Posner, review of Minding the Law, p. 49.

New Statesman, April 13, 1984, Gillian Wilce, review of In Search of Mind, p. 24.

New York Review of Books, April 10, 1997, Clifford Geertz, review of The Culture of Education, p. 22.

Psychology Today, October, 1983, Paul Chance, review of In Search of Mind, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, September 23, 1983, review of In Search of Mind, p. 67; March 18, 2002, review of Making Stories, p. 89.

Science, May 18, 1984, Harry Levin, review of In Search of Mind, p. 720.*

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Bruner, Jerome S(eymour) 1915-

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