Psychology Learning Resources
Murray Sidman and Stimulus Equivalence

Murray Sidman (b. 1923)

Murray Sidman Murray Sidman attended high school in Boston, Mass., graduating in 1940. Three years of military service (1943-1946) were followed by schooling at Columbia College (A.B., 1947) and Columbia University (A.M. 1949; Ph.D., 1952) in New York. Two teachers who had a major influence on him were Fred S. Keller and W. N. Schoenfeld. (For a wonderful historical account of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University during the time when Sidman was a student there, see Dinsmoor, 1990).

Dr. Sidman has held a variety of appointments over the years, including Research Psychologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (1952-1961), Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School (1961-1969), Psychologist in the Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital (1961-1981), Director of the Biological Sciences Department at Eunice Shriver Center for Research in Mental Retardation (1970-1980), and Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University (1971-1984). Although "retired" from Academe, he continues to hold appointments at E.K. Shriver Center University (Visiting Scientist, since 1987), New England Center for Children (Senior Research Associate, since 1987), and E.K. Shriver Institute for Mental Retardation (Director Emeritus, since 1992).

Dr. Sidman has been a major contributor to basic and applied behavior analysis, starting in 1952 and continuing to this day. He has published over 100 scientific papers dealing with avoidance, punishment, anxiety, hormones and behavior, drugs and behavior, errorless learning, mental retardation, aphasia, memory, concept formation, stimulus equivalence, as well as other topics. He has also written a number of highly influential books in his field. Tactics of Scientific Research, first published in 1960, has been called the methodological "bible" of behavior analysis. Another book, Coercion and Its Fallout, extends his major contributions to basic research on aversive control by outlining the social significance of the findings. One reviewer wrote: "It is impossible to read even a few pages without pausing to reflect on one's own behavior and, after seeing it through Sidman's eyes, resolve to take better advantage of future opportunities to reinforce rather than punish..."

Equivalence Relations and Behavior: A Research Story, Dr. Sidman's latest book, chronicles over 25 years of his pioneering research into stimulus equivalence. The importance he attaches to this topic is highlighted by the first sentence of the epilogue: "My story, of course, is not over, but I am not sure I shall ever be able to contribute anything more fundamental than the studies I have described here" (p. 531).