Robert Bjork is a cognitive scientist recognized for his research on human learning, especially on the implications of the science of learning for the optimization of teaching and training. Bjork grew up in the Lake Minnetonka area of Minnesota and earned a BS degree in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota before earning a Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology from Stanford University in 1966. He served on the faculty of the University of Michigan for eight years before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1974. He has served as Chair of UCLA’s Department of Psychology, as Editor of Memory and Cognition, Editor of Psychological Review, and Co-editor of Psychological Science in the Public Interest. He is past-president or chair of the Association for Psychological Science, the Psychonomic Society, and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. He is a recipient of UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Service to Psychological Science and Distinguished Scientist Lecturer Awards, and the Mentoring Award from the Association for Psychological Science. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Research Interests

Robert Bjork's research focuses on how people learn and remember, versus how people think they learn and remember, and the implication of that research for upgrading teaching and self-regulated learning. Research from his laboratory has demonstrated that people often assume that human memory works in ways similar to recording devices-such the memory in a computer-whereas human learning processes differ from such devices in truly fundamental ways. Conditions that promote forgetting and impair performance during instruction and practice, for example, can actually enhance long-term retention and transfer. Conversely, conditions that retard forgetting and enhance performance during training frequently fail to support long-term training retention and transfer. From a theoretical standpoint, such findings have implications for the functional architecture of humans as learners. From a practical standpoint, they point to reasons instructors are susceptible to choosing less-effective conditions of instruction over more effective conditions; why learners are prone to illusions of competence; and why real-world instruction and practice are seldom as effective as they might be.

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Primary Section

Section 52: Psychological and Cognitive Sciences