Ogden R. Lindsley (b. 1922, d. 2004)

Ogden Lindsley was born in Providence, Rhode Island on August 11, 1922. He was a decorated veteran of World War II, having served in the Air Force as an engineer-gunner (1942-45). He earned his A.B. Highest Honors in Psychology (1948) and Sc.M. in Experimental Psychology (1950), both at Brown University. He then studied under B.F. Skinner at Harvard University, where he awarded his Ph.D. in Psychology (1957). During that time, Lindsley was Director of the Behavior Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School (1953-56). Later, he remained affiliated with Harvard Medical School, first as a Research Associate in Psychiatry (1956-61) and subsequently as an Associate in Psychology (1961-65). In 1965, Lindsley shifted his focus from the laboratory to special education teacher training. For several years at the University of Kansas (1965-71) he was Director of Educational Research in the Medical Center and a Research Associate in the Bureau of Child Research. He eventually became Professor of Education at the University of Kansas (1971-90) and became Professor Emeritus upon retirement. Lindsley died on October 10, 2004. A number of personal tributes to his life and work may be found at the site of the Association for Behavior Analysis. (Use the navigation bar at the left of the ABA page to go to the links at the section entitled "Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley (1922-2004)").

Lindsley served on the editorial boards of numerous journals and the advisory boards of several learning centers. He was President of the National Association for Gifted Children (1969-70), the Association for Behavior Analysis (1985-86), and the Standard Celeration Society (1993-95). Lindsley is the sole author of 53 scientific articles and co-author of 29 others. He has written on a wide range of topics (e.g., schizophrenia, pharmacology, television viewing, psychotherapy, geriatric behavior prosthetics, retardation, and education). Thirteen of his articles have been reprinted by anthologists. He has also been productive in other forms of media, having developed three scientific films, six audiotapes, and four videotapes, and co-developed four instructional microcomputer software programs.

Lindsley has been awarded various honors, including the Hofheimer Research Prize by the American Psychiatric Association (1962), the Golden Plate Award by the American Academy of Achievement (1964), and the Outstanding Contributor Award by the Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis (1994).

Lindsley established the Behavior Research Laboratory in 1953 to analyze the behavior of persons with schizophrenia. It is widely regarded as the first human operant laboratory. Around that same time he coined the term "behavior therapy." But, of all his accomplishments, Lindsley is perhaps best known for his role in Precision Teaching. He claims not to have developed it; instead, he writes, "It would be more accurate to say that I founded and coached it. Teachers developed it at my urging by following its founding policies" (Lindsley, 1990b, p. 10). For a brief history of Precision Teaching, click here.

Lindsley is an outspoken critic of public education. Recently he has lamented the fate of highly productive educational methods such as Precision Teaching, Direct Instruction, and the Personalized System of Instruction. He writes:

"It is hard to keep your humor when you accept the fact that you invested 25 years in developing methods that can help your nation out of the educational abyss into which it is racing. You made these methods inexpensive. You made them clear. You helped illustrate their worth. You made them attractive. Yet they are ignored or rejected because of popular myth and bigotry. I should have known this when I started in 1965, but I didn't. I went blissfully on even though others tried to warn me." (Lindsley, 1992b, p. 21)

What can we do? Lindsley suggests that we by-pass public education with private, for-profit learning centers with guarantees and learning commissions, transfer our teaching technology to industry, publish more widely and promote our measurably more effective tools, and set up formal academic advocacy for children to adjudicate and legislate action (Lindsley, 1992b, p. 26). For those interested in educational reform, this reference is highly recommended reading (its title: Why Aren't Effective Teaching Tools Widely Adopted?)

While Lindsley promises his support and advice in improving public education, his major efforts are now centered on industry (Lindsley, 1992b). Currently, he is President of the Behavior Research Company, which has Precision Teaching as its foundation. Recent clients have included Aubrey Daniels and Associates (Tucker, GA), Behavior Tech (Dallas TX), Thomas Group (Dallas, TX), Motorola (Schaumberg, IL), and Citibank (Chicago).

Continue with "Precision Teaching: A Brief History"