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Allan Wagner Obituary
Wagner, Allan
Allan R. Wagner, American Psychologist
Allan R. Wagner, an experimental psychologist and learning theorist who made outstanding contributions to the study of conditioning and behavior theory, died peacefully on September 28th at his home in North Haven, Connecticut. He was 84.
Dr. Wagner, James Rowland Angell Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University, is best known for his theories of habituation, classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning, and for his creation of computational models to express these theories. His early formulations with Robert Rescorla, the Rescorla-Wagner equation, have dominated and reshaped views of the associative process. He built on those early achievements by introducing new ideas and experimental demonstrations regarding habituation, latent inhibition, blocking, rehearsal processes, and opponent processes in conditioning. Subsequent research focused on the contextual control of associative learning, as seen in conditional discriminations and "occasion setting." His most recent interest was evaluating the applicability of these associative models to human contingency learning, particularly as involved in the formation of causal judgments.
Born on January 6, 1934 in Springfield Illinois, Dr. Wagner was the son of Raymond and Grace Johnson Wagner, both the children of German immigrants. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1959, under Kenneth W. Spence, and has been on the faculty of Yale University since that time, serving as Chair of the Department of Psychology from 1983-1989, Chair of the Department of Philosophy from 1991-1993, and Director of the Division of the Social Sciences from 1992-1998. He was the first editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes from 1974 to 1981.
Wagner's scientific contributions have been recognized by his receipt of the Howard Crosby Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (1991), the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1999), the W. Horsley Gantt Medal of the Pavlovian Society (2009), the William James Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association for Psychological Science (2013) and elected membership to the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his scientific distinctions, Allan had a beautiful tennis game and loved to get out and hit the ball which he did regularly up until the time of his death.
He leaves behind his longtime companion, Dr. Lois Meredith, his daughters Dr. Krystn R. Wagner and Dr. Kathryn R. Wagner, and grandchildren Maya Wagner Salvana, James Wagner Cavallon and Elizabeth Wagner Cavallon. He was predeceased by his wife of 35 years, Barbara Meland Wagner.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 27th, 12:30 p.m. at Battell Chapel, 400 College Street, New Haven, CT. A reception will follow at 43 Hillhouse Avenue.
In lieu of flowers, the family askes that contributions be made to the Lemur Conservation Foundation and New HYTEs.
Published in The New Haven Register on Oct. 4, 2018
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