John E. R. Staddon

James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience

242 Soc/psych Building, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
(919) 493-4398
(919) 660-5726

Research Interests: 

John Staddon is interested in the evolution and mechanisms of animal learning. Current topics are timing and memory, feeding regulation, and the ways in which pigeons and rats adapt to reward schedules. Experimental work involves individual animals in computer-controlled environments, where we manipulate the reward and stimulus conditions and try to understand the rules animals follow as they adapt to these changes. Theoretical work involves both analytical and computer-simulation studies of functional and mechanistic models for behavior. Our approach to understanding learning emphasizes the development and behavioral testing of real-time top-down models. Recent projects are, for example, a diffusion model for spatial orientation, a parallel model for the assignment-of-credit (response-selection) problem in operant conditioning, and timing models for choice behavior.

Until my retirement in 2007, my laboratory did experimental research on learning and adaptive behavior, mostly with animals: pigeons, rats, fish, parakeets.  We were particularly interested in timing and memory, feeding regulation, habituation and the ways in which pigeons and rats adapt to reward schedules. An objective is to arrive at simple models for learning that can help to identify the underlying neural mechanisms. I continue to do theoretical and historical work on the power law in psychophysics, operant learning, timing and memory, habituation and feeding regulation.  I have applied some of these ideas to economics and financial markets and social issues such as traffic control and smoking.  


  • Ph.D. 1964, Harvard University

  • B.Sc. in Psychology 1960, University College, London, England


  • 2004 festschrift, Reflections on Adaptive Behavior, a festschrift to Honor John Staddon, held at Duke, May 2003, Papers in honor of John Staddon (book, MIT Press) to appear 2004

  • 2004 Member, Society of Experimental Psychologists

  • 2004 Docteur Honoris Causa, Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France

  • 2004 Fellow, New York Academy of Science, American Psychological Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science

  • 2002 Honorary Editor, Behavioural Processes

  • 1996 Trustee, Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

  • 1989 Fulbright Short-Term Senior Award -- Distinguished Scholar

  • 1985 Alexander Alexander von Humboldt Prize, 1985., Alexander von Humboldt Prize Foundation

  • 1985 Alexander von Humboldt Prize,

  • 1985 Fellow, New York Academy of Sciences

  • 1985 Honorary Member, Phi Betta Kappa, Alexander von Humboldt Prize

  • 1981 Guggenheim Fellow, Guggenheim Foundation