The great psychologist George Armitage Miller died yesterday. It will take a few days for obituaries to appear in the newspapers, but here are some academic notes.
I’ve known George, and admired his work, since early in the 1960s. Wherever you went in psychology, and especially in psycholinguistics and cognitive science, George had been there before you, and he wrote, clearly and plainly, for both narrowly academic audiences and much broader readerships. He was also immensely collaborative and collegial, roles in which he will especially be missed. (Granted, he died at the age of 92, after an immensely successful academic life, but still …)
The Wikipedia page is unfocused and skeletal. It does tell us that
In 1960, Miller founded the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard with Jerome Bruner, a cognitive developmentalist.
and recognizes his importance in the creation (and maintenance) of the WordNet project at Princeton.
Some highlights in his work:
GAM & Patricia E. Nicely. 1955. An analysis of perceptual confusions among some English consonants. JASA 27.2.338-52.
GAM. 1956. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psych. Rev. 63.2.81-97. [enormously influential paper in the study of memory; emphasized the importance of chunking]
GAM; Galanter, Eugene; & Pribram, Karl.1960. Plans and the structure of behavior. Holt.
Chomsky, Noam & GAM. 1963. Introduction to the formal analysis of natural languages. Luce et al., 269-321. [and]
GAM & Noam Chomsky. 1963. Finitary models of language users. Luce et al., 419-91. [two chapters in Luce, R. Duncan; R. R. Bush; & Eugene Galanter (eds.). 1963. Handbook of mathematical psychology, Volume II. John Wiley. George once maintained to me that he didn't really fathom most of the mathematics in these papers -- that was Noam's work -- but I'm not sure we can take his comment at face value.]
GAM. 1967. Empirical methods in the study of semantics. D.L. Arm (ed.), Journeys in science: Small steps – great steps (Univ. of New Mexico Press), 51-73.
GAM (ed.). 1973. Communication, language, and meaning. Basic Books.
GAM & Philip N. Johnson-Laird. 1976. Language and perception. Harvard Univ. Press.
GAM & Philip N. Johnson-Laird. 1977. Spontaneous apprentices: Children and language. Seabury Press. [fascinating account of the way scientific research is pursued]
GAM interviewed by Elizabeth Hall,”Giving Away Psychology in the 80′s: George Miller” in Psychology Today, January 1980, pp. 38-50 and 97-98. [on page 46. we get this formulation of Miller’s Law: "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of."]
GAM. 1991. The science of words. Scientific American Library (W. H. Freeman). [everything to do with words; great book, which I've used as a text for undergraduates]
GAM. 2003. The cognitive revolution: a historical perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7.3.141-4.
That should give you some feel for the breadth of George’s ideas and research.