Neal Miller

100 Year Anniversary

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The President of AAPB about the Neal Miller Event in San Diego March 2010

We have saved the best for last. For the bulk of the convention, we are going to be focusing primarily on the future of AAPB, discussing new treatments and new technologies. However, our focus on the future does not mean that we are going to forget about AAPB’s past. It’s with great pleasure that I tell you that AAPB, in conjunction with the Claude Bernard Club, is going to conclude the San Diego Convention with a tribute to the centennial of the man who has been rightfully called the father of biofeedback, Neal Miller. Dr. Miller was already a famous psychologist for his work in the 1950′s on learning theory. But in the 1960′s, Miller and his colleagues, including Leo DeCara, conducted a series of experiments on animals in order to determine whether the autonomic (or “involuntary”) nervous system could be volitionally controlled. In a groundbreaking series of articles, Miller and his colleagues demonstrated that responses such as blood pressure, blood flow, cardiac functioning and intestinal activity could to some extent be voluntarily controlled. This led to other researchers demonstrating that humans could control their autonomic functions through operant conditioning, leading the way to biofeedback and other forms of self-regulation as we know it today, and revolutionized mind-body research and practice.
The Neal Miller Centennial Celebration will begin with a dinner in his honor that is open to all members of AAPB. During this dinner, guests will be encouraged to recount their own stories of Neal Miller, who was a long-time member of this society. Following this dinner, we will have four special guest lectures on various aspects of Neal Miller’s life. First, Edgar (“Ted”) Coons of New York University, who was a student of Neal Miller, will be speaking on, “Neal Miller: The Yale Years.” Then Arnon Rolnick, past president of the Israeli Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback and a member of the Board of the Israeli Psychological Association, will speak on, “The Desire for Integration: Miller’s Interest in Psychoanalysis.” This lecture will be followed by Sarah Leibowitz, a neurobiologist who is an associate professor at Rockefeller University and was a post-doctoral student with Neal Miller, who discovered the hormone Leptin. Dr. Leibowitz will be talking about, “Neal Miller: The Rockefeller Years.” Finally, Edward Taub, a past-president of AAPB, and to whom Neal Miller was a primary mentor, will be discussing, “What Psychology as a Science Owes Miller: Examples from Biofeedback and Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy.” Please join us in San Diego for what should be a very exciting program and a great finish to a wonderful convention.



John Arena, PhD

President, AAPB

Posted 6 years, 11 months ago.

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The first “biofeedback marathon” – in Neal Miller 100th Aniversary

New: A 3 day event in honour of 100 year to Neal Miller
Three Days With Prof. Richard Gevirtz

This activity is sponsored  by SomaticVision (USA)  and psyphi (ISRAEL)

Tuesday, December 22,2009

A “Master Class” with Prof. Gevirtz with hands on training for members of the Agudah in the use of HRV and other modalities. Bring your laptops and equipment.We hope to organize a live demonstration with a patient. Participants will receive a certificate for 8 hours of accreditation.Location: Beit Souraski, Tel hashomer

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
 How do we train trainers?
 A special workshop for leading Stress Management and biofeedback therapists in Israel

This workshop is designed for a selected group of biofeedback specialist in Israel. And will be dedicated for the implementation of the psychophysiological approaches in the country.

The first part of the workshop will deal with the questionhow can we recruit more professionals to the field, how to teach biofeedback,  how to train newcomers to the field and how to conduct a successful practicum. We will ask question pertaining the initial selection of biofeedback trainers, what should they learn, and how can we make sure they receive proper experience both as a client and as a therapist. We will discuss the supervision process and how it is best achieved.

We will review the main areas where biofeedback can be applied, and suggest possible way to train people to this field.

DR. ARNON ROLNICK will open by mapping the status of biofeedback in Israel. He will shortly review the status of the following fields

 a)     Primary care

 b)    Mental health

 c)     Schools and the education system

 d)    The Defense forces

 e)     Sport and Performance Enhancement

 Dr. Rolnick will also review what modalities are being used in israelHe will then ask for additional information from the audience.

 Prof Gevirtz will lead the main part of the workshop. He will Present slides about the status of these fields in the USA and in the world.

 participants will be asked to bring case studies representing their work  in the field,

 As Israel is facing a lot of PTSD cases  or Ongoing Stress Reaction during recent. We will focus the last part on treatment and the prevention of PTSD.


 Thursday, December 24, 2009

A full day seminar on the management of somatic complaints by biofeedback and other modalities. Speakers include Prof. Gevirtz(USA), Dr. Yuri Krupitov (Russia), and Dr. Nadr Buttoh.  Location: Tel Aviv Israel

for more detail contact Arnon Rolnick (

Posted 7 years, 3 months ago.

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Paul Wachtel shares thoughts on Neal Miller, Behaviour Therapy and Psychoanalysis

   I first became acquainted with Neal Miller’s work as an undergraduate at Columbia.  I had been a physics major for my first three years as an undergraduate and switched to psychology only in my senior year.  In order to graduate as a psychology major, I had to take virtually all psychology courses that year, having taken an exam over the summer to bypass intro, the prerequisite for all the others.  Columbia in those days was a pretty narrowly Skinnerian department.  In fact, it was so dominated by Skinnerian ideas at that time, that I – very literally – thought that the reason that so many of the psychology books were assigned the call numbers BF had to do with those being Skinner’s initials!  In some ways I enjoyed that immersion in Skinnerian thinking, and it has in fact had some useful influences in my later thinking.  But the great breath of fresh air, the one non-Skinnerian work that got through the filter, was Dollard & Miller’s Personality and Psychotherapy.  That book enormously stimulated and energized me.  It provided an outlet for my (forbidden) interest in Freud, but from the beginning enabled me to understand psychoanalysis not as an alternative to the psychology of learning or to rigorous psychological research, but as a natural complement in a partnership that enormously increased the value of both.
    Personality and Psychotherapy probably remains the single book that most influenced my thinking and the course of my career.  There were many other books and papers, of course, that profoundly influenced me, but the influence of Personality and Psychotherapy was unique.  It was not the only book that examined the relation between psychoanalysis and learning theory – indeed, it was not even the only book by either Dollard or Miller that explored those themes – but it was an achievement of such towering insight and creativity that almost all the others, good and important as they are, pale in comparison.  True, the impact of the book was very limited among those entrenched on either side of the divide they sought to bridge; orthodoxy succumbs to neither logic nor data.  But it opened a path for those who could see around the artificial walls that kept ideas “pure” but with the same weaknesses of any species that lacks hybrid vigor.
    I was extremely fortunate to have been a graduate student at Yale in the years when both Neal Miller and John Dollard were still actively teaching.  Dollard was in fact my very first psychotherapy supervisor, so I “cut my teeth” on the integrative way of thinking that Dollard and Miller’s work pointed to.  At the time Personality and Psychotherapy was published (1950), there was essentially no such field as behavior therapy.  Historians can point to precursors, but clearly that was the time of psychoanalytic hegemony. Indeed, when I asked John Dollard for a letter of recommendation for my postdoctoral training at the NYU postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, he said he would write me a very strong letter but with a “heavy heart.”  The reason, interestingly, was that he wished I had applied to the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, a bastion of orthodoxy.  NYU had appealed to me precisely because, among psychoanalytic training programs, it was at the time the most heterodox, with representatives of all the leading psychoanalytic viewpoints (though none outside of psychoanalysis).  Thus, in the context of the times, Dollard at least viewed the logical next step after being trained in the thinking that evolved from his and Miller’s work, as standard Freudian training (though I am sure he did not envision me as someone who would remain trapped within its narrow confines).  The path of integrating psychoanalysis with behavior therapy still lay in the future.  It was a different path from that of integrating it with learning theory, but it clearly took the earlier achievement as its foundation.
    Neal Miller did not have the same kind of direct connection with clinical training at Yale as Dollard did, even in a purely intellectual way.  But even apart from his work with Dollard, his elegant studies of the nature of conflict were both an inspiring intellectual model for me and a foundation for my later thinking about a wide range of issues.  Even today, when those Hullian-inspired studies of animals caught between the desire for food and the fear of shock are no longer viewed as the cutting edge of psychological research, I continue to teach Miller’s analysis of approach-avoidance conflict to my graduate students as an essential foundation for their thinking about clinical work.
    It was only some years after I left Yale that the full impact of having been immersed there in Dollard and Miller’s thinking began to be felt.  As I noted earlier, at the time Personality and Psychotherapy was written, behavior therapy was still basically “in utero.”  Even at the time I was in graduate school (1961-1965) it was only a rapidly growing toddler. During my graduate school years, despite the presence of both Dollard and Miller, and although the Yale clinical  program, housed in a psychology department of remarkable intellectual breadth, strongly emphasized research both as the central identity of its doctoral graduates and as a foundation for clinical practice, I learned virtually nothing about behavior therapy.  When I pursued my postdoctoral psychoanalytic training, the absence of attention to behavior therapy continued, but, as behavior therapy began to be a more influential force in the therapeutic world, as it very rapidly developed, as it were, from the toddler of my Yale days to a strapping youth eager to throw its weight around, the absence of attention in the circles I was moving was no longer a simple lack of interest or awareness.  It was an outright disdain and hostility.  When, a few years later, I began my own explorations of the possibility of integration of psychoanalytic ideas and methods with those of behavior therapy, I presented some of my thinking to the institute where I had been trained and from which I had recently graduated.  One of the first questions that greeted me after my presentation was completed was, “Don’t you think what you are exploring here is fascistic?”
    I mention this latter experience to illustrate how little support or encouragement there was at the time for integrating the competing therapeutic paradigms.  It was certainly not a “natural” insight to have for one to think they could fruitfully and synergistically be combined. The sources of my move toward an integrative point of view were complex, and I have written about them in two different autobiographical publications (Wachtel, 2000, 2001).  But it is crystal clear to me that without the immersion in the ideas of John Dollard and Neal Miller, no amount of reading about or clinical exposure to behavior therapy would have suggested to me that psychoanalysis and behavior therapy could be brought together in a coherent fashion.  To this day, their ideas continue to inspire my thinking and continue to be regularly cited in my writings.  Miller’s research and theoretical work on anxiety as a learned response, and on the role of extinction in the reduction of anxiety, implicitly underlies a good deal of the contemporary work on exposure that is so central to the cognitive-behavioral approach and it is foundational for my own thinking about the ways that exposure and interpretation are but two sides of the same clinical coin, an idea that has led me to suggest modification in the way both aims are approached in the clinical process (Wachtel, 1997, 2008).
    Today, the pursuit of integrative thinking in psychotherapy is a growing international trend.  There is an international organization devoted specifically to this effort (the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration, known also by its acronym, SEPI), and scholars around the world have been making important contributions to the advancement of integrative thinking.  But when I began my own integrative efforts, there was little support from either side for the effort to bridge the gaps between theories or to examine how proponents of each attended to a different facet of a larger whole, maintaining their particular parochial vision through a determined intellectual tunnel vision.  Had I not had the direct inspiration of studying at Yale at the time both John Dollard and Neal Miller were still central members of the faculty, it seems unlikely to me that I would have seen around the walls any better than anyone else in the psychoanalytic community of which I was a part.  Many of my teachers and fellow students in the psychoanalytic world were brilliant men and women.  They did not lack for intellectual firepower.  But they did lack for the experience of directly encountering John Dollard and Neal Miller. 

Wachtel, P. L. (2000).  Reclaiming the disavowed: The evolution of an integrative point of view.  In J. Shay & J. Wheelis (Eds.), Odysseys in psychotherapy (pp. 359-392).  New York: Irvington.

Wachtel, P. L.  (2001). An (inevitably) self-deceiving reflection on self-deception.  In M. Goldfried (Ed.),  How therapists change (pp. 83-101).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.


Testimonial for & Reminiscences about Neal Miller

Testimonial for & Reminiscences about Neal Miller

Gordon H. Bower

Professor of Psychology  (Emeritus)

Stanford University (1959 – 2008)

August, 2009 

      I had the supreme good fortune to receive a graduate research assistantship with Neal Miller at Yale from 1955 through 1959. By that time Neal was at the peak of his extraordinary productivity. He was a masterful role model for all of us graduate students and post-docs — energetic, enthusiastic, full of ideas, deeply engaged in the many research projects spinning around him, and eager to teach his students the tactics and joys of exploration and definitive experimentation. By the 1950s he had been world famous for some 15 years. He became my intellectual loadstone, my mentor, my guru. I continued to talk things over with him, and to be inspired and attached to him emotionally until his death in 2002.

            Before coming to Yale, I was an undergraduate studying psychology at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where I had been steeped in Freudian psychoanalysis and the experimental psychology of learning — two early major interests of Miller’s research. I learned at Miller’s side the cannons of liberalized S-R reinforcement theory as illustrated in two famous books he co-authored with John Dollard, namely, Social Learning and Imitation (1941) and Personality and Psychotherapy (1950). The books are well worth a brief digression here. 

      The Social Learning and Imitation book 

      Social imitation, of course, is a major mode of learning for humans, and some rudimentary forms of it appear even in young infants (e.g., Meltzoff & Moore, 1977).

The behaviorist approach in those days was to understand the learning conditions underlying a given human behavior by seeing how to reproduce its essentials with non-human animals, typically rats. Thus, Social learning and Imitation described many of Miller’s simple experiments showing how an “observer” or “follower” rat in a T-maze could learn to use the cues from the responses (the turns) of another rat (the leading “expert model”) to duplicate or guide its own behavior to get reward. The book also contained some demonstrations of how to train an animal to generalize the imitative tactic so it would follow a new leader performing a novel response in a novel situation. Miller’s training methods have been used and elaborated in many later projects for training other species to imitate in synchrony novel and creative performances of a “leader” (e.g., the dolphins of Louis Herman, 2002).  The methods also formed the basis for much of the later work on imitation learning by human subjects who observe the behavior of a model (e.g., Bandura, 1969). 

      The “Personality and Psychotherapy” book 

     Dollard and Miller’s second book, Personality and Psychotherapy, was an extremely important and influential text in the 1950′s. (We students in Miller’s learning seminar practically memorized it for the tests. I’ve kept my dog-eared copy as a memento). The authors showed how a liberalized version of stimulus-response reinforcement theory could be used to interpret and explain many aspects of human personality. In particular, they aimed to understand personality, psychoneuroses, and psychotherapy by interpreting and translating into stimulus-response terminology the important concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis – unconscious contents and processes, motivational conflicts, symptom formation of “defenses” that reduce anxiety (e.g., repression, projection, sublimation), the therapeutic value of “uncovering” unconscious conflicts in order to teach patients more adaptive, discriminating ways to interpret or resolve their conflicts.

     Much of the background for these extrapolations came from Miller’s important experiments on (a) his approach-avoidance conflict theory; (b) his experimental demonstrations of behavioral analogs of “displacement”  — how a behavior towards an unattainable goal-object could be “displaced” towards a similar, substitute goal-object; (c) his demonstrations of how a people’s covert responses (silently saying or thinking the word “shock” or “relax”) could be trained to exert partial control over their emotions and overt behaviors; and (d) his analysis of how trained covert or implicit responses (like “danger” or “safe”) could help a person generalize a behavior from one to another situation; or how trained covert responses (from different learning conditions) could help the person discriminate between two similar situations. Two kinds of examples were used: experiments in which children learned to generalize avoidance of objects labeled “dangerous”; and experiments in which clinical patients learned to distinguish between safe versus frightening objects, persons, or memories of past situations (e.g., having sex with one’s spouse contrasted with an earlier rapist).

     Most psychologists were impressed with the ingenuity of the Miller-Dollard conceptual analyses, including many therapists of the Freudian persuasion. It was only later with the advent of behavior therapy (Eysenck & Rachman, 1965) and social learning theory (Bandura & Walters, 1963; Bandura, 1969; Mischel, 1968) that the details of Freudian concepts were devastatingly criticized and began to wane. The Freudian approach was replaced increasingly with human research that relied upon delayed imitation  of behaviors acquired from one-trial of observing symbolic models. Still, the Miller-Dollard type of personality analyses continued to have appreciable influence on later thinkers. 

     Miller’s Classroom teaching 

     The only formal course I took from Neal was his year long graduate seminar in motivation and learning, in which the readings covered essentially his theories and experiments. Neal obviously knew the material of the readings, but he’d arrive little prepared to lecture about them. Instead, he would typically start out by asking “Any questions (about the readings)?” and then he’d wing it spontaneously, perhaps with little “mini-lectures” thrown in during the session. If no one had any questions, he’d grill some poor student about various points in the readings. Students quickly learned to come prepared with questions. Although he did not excel as a classroom teacher, I soon came to appreciate his Socratic method. Moreover, his didactic value at Yale was as a fabulous researcher, an accessible, helpful consultant for young researchers, and an unforgettable mentor for motivated graduate students. His Yale colleagues understood perfectly his enormous value for the department’s training program.

     The first photo below recalls for me the typical “brain storming” interaction I was lucky to engage in at least once a week in Neal’s office. He had a two-room office suite and I had a desk just outside his office door, so we also got into countless spontaneous conversations in passing. Although Neal was overflowing with research ideas, he tried to foster students’ original thinking and was interested in our coming up with new research ideas — provided they were not “too fuzzy”. He would listen to his students’ ideas, give us honest feedback, and often give us financial support to carry out our research. In his publications and public speeches, he was magnanimous in giving credit to student collaborators, and he treated us as colleagues in the great exciting search for knowledge. I appreciated that style of mentoring and I’ve tried to emulate it with my own students.   

     Initial Research with Neal 

     When I arrived at Yale, I was mainly interested in animal learning. By that time, however, Neal was looking for brain structures that produced biological drives and reward (his work on biofeedback and behavioral medicine was far in the future). So that direction dictated my first-year projects . Unfortunately, my initial research with Miller on this topic came up empty. He and Bill Roberts (a post-doc) had shown that injecting a tiny bit of salt water into the ventricles of a cat’s brain (near the hypothalamus) would cause it to drink copious amounts of water. We reasoned that if the salty injection were causing “real thirst”, then it should serve as a discriminative stimulus to guide the animal’s choices. So my task was to get the cats (from Roberts’ former drinking study) to turn one way in a T-maze to get a reward when “thirsty” (i.e., after they had just received a salt-water injection into the ventricles), and to turn the other way when not “thirsty” after an injection of isotonic saline (same as body fluids). To avoid contamination with other biological drives, Neal suggested that the cat’s reward for correct choices would be to let it have a “free romp in the lab room”.

     After struggling for many weeks to get the cats to move through the T-maze at all (the romp proved insufficiently rewarding), they hadn’t learned anything useful. I discovered upon re-checking that the salt-water injections were no longer causing excessive drinking, probably due to brain-tissue damage around the injection site. So, with great relief, I was allowed to abandon that project. This oversight taught me the value of re-checking the effectiveness of experimental manipulations. (One side benefit of this study was that one of my cats from the city pound delivered herself of several kittens that Miller’s children, York and Sarah, were happy to take off my hands.) 

     The Dual Reward-Punishment Study 

      Neal was excited by the brain-stimulation reward effect that had recently been reported by Jim Olds. My first publication with Neal in 1958, was a report on brain electrodes in the medial forebrain bundle where electrical stimulation produced a dual reward and punishment effect. Like most interesting findings, we fell into this finding by serendipity. We’d been studying pure punishment spots in the brain where rats would learn both to escape and to avoid its stimulation. But surprisingly, rats that had electrodes in this medial forebrain spot would escape but never learn to avoid – rather they’d wait around for the electrical stimulation to begin, and then run quickly to turn it off. It suddenly struck us that maybe for these rats  the onset of the stimulation was rewarding, but if it continued, it became punishing after a second or so. So we rigged up an apparatus that allowed us to test for that dual effect. The posed photo below shows us testing one of my rats: the rat would press a lever on one side of the box to turn on the rewarding brain stimulation; but within a second or so the stimulation would start to hurt, and he would run over to the other side and rotate a wheel to turn off the stimulation. Then he’d return to press the lever to turn it on, then run over and turn it off, on-off, on-off repeatedly, until he dropped from exhaustion after hundreds of such on-off cycles. This mocked-up photograph of Neal and I testing one of my rats was published in an edition of Ernest Hilgard’s Introductory Psychology textbook of that era.

     I presented my first APA paper on this dual reward-punishment effect. As a graduate student I was anxious because Jim Olds, the founder of that field, was speaking just after me on the program. I nearly collapsed with relief when after my talk Olds popped up to say that he “would like to support these important observations.” They’d found confirming evidence. From such small rewards, professional dedication is made.  

     Neal’s support for my “purely” behavioral research 

      Although I published another paper on brain stimulation, I was dissuaded from continuing by the daunting technical paraphernalia and many skilled assistants required for such research. For example, I would need an operating room for implanting stimulation and recording devices in the brain, another for perfusing, preserving, and preparing animals’ brains, microtomes for slicing brain tissues, equipment for staining and preserving usable histological slides to be read, and finally identifying what brain structures had probably been stimulated or recorded. And all that was in addition to space and equipment for setting up an associated behavioral lab. I realized that when I graduated and went out on my own, it would be difficult to receive funding to buy the extensive equipment and pay for technicians to help with such elaborate arrangements.  Moreover, I was far more interested in straight behavioral studies of learning. So that’s what I’ve done.

      Starting with my second year in graduate school, and with Neal’s encouragement, I applied for and received an NIMH fellowship so I could work on other topics. Nonetheless, I continued to consult with Neal, attended his lab meetings, and contributed to his research agenda.

      For example, one of our behavioral studies confirmed a simple implication of Neal’s theory of approach-avoidance conflict. The idea was that the stronger the motivation for approaching the goal (at the end of a runway), the closer the animal is expected to approach the goal before he stops and begins vacillating between hesitant steps forward then backing up. I varied the strength of the approach habit by varying the size of the food reward — some animals receiving a big reward during training, others a small one. Not surprisingly, the results came out as expected, so we published it as one more confirmation of his theory (Bower & Miller, 1960).

      Another study confirmed certain aspects of Miller’s “drive reduction” theory of reinforcement; most such studies confound drive level with amount of drive reduction from the reward. To ameliorate that confound, Harry Fowler, Milt Trapold, and I (1959) used an escape learning paradigm allowing us to vary drive level and drive reduction independently. We found that the performance (speed) of rats running down a runway to escape a foot shock from the floor increased with (a) the drive level (shock intensity from the floor), and (b) the amount of immediate drive-reduction (lower shocks) received when the rats reached the end-box. As Miller and we predicted, the rats’ performance increased with both the drive-level and, independently, the amount of immediate shock reduction they received in the end box.  

      At this time, I also began straight learning research with another Yale faculty member, Frank Logan, a brilliant Hullian theorist trained by Kenneth Spence. I was impressed by Logan’s micromolar theory of behavior (Logan, 1956, 1960)- the idea that in a learning analysis, one could treat quantitative aspects of a response such as its speed or amplitude as distinct, learnable behaviors modifiable by contingencies of reinforcement. I continued my association with Miller while coordinating several experiments with Logan. Eventually Logan and Miller were co-advisors for my dissertation research finished in 1959.  

      Some things Neal taught me. 

      From Neal I learned many methods and strategies for thinking and for conducting experimental research. He taught me to look for novel variables that produced “big effects” on behavior and to use simple experimental designs that yielded crystal clear results. He taught me to pre-test new procedures, to search for the best manipulations of a variable, to go for the simplest valid assessment of its behavioral effect. Neal and the department’s shop manager (Gus Ogren) taught me how to build experimental equipment and electrical circuits to make a lab hum along. Also he taught me useful strategies for navigating my way through a professional life: how to listen to and think along with other scientists while discussing their research; how to avoid endless scientific disputes; how to give research presentations, publish one’s work, and write grant proposals; and how to deal with conflicting inconsistent findings (we both would later have our share of those!). Importantly, he modeled for me a genuine and profound affirmation about research in psychology, a deep commitment to the value of empirical testing, and effective methods for mentoring and collaborating with research students. I have tried to follow his example in dealing with my own students. 

      My indebtedness to Neal 

      Neal Miller and Bill Estes were the most important and influential mentors I had throughout my career. I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for their inspiration, their intellectual help and support. Perhaps the best way to close out this testament for Neal is to reprint here a copy of the letter I sent to him in 1980 upon his retirement from active research at Rockefeller. 

                                        May 9, 1980 

Dear Neal, 

      It is difficult for me to accept the fact that you will be retiring — closing down your labs, crating up your books, leaving an empty office behind. I can only imagine you working in your lab, talking and teaching science, like God in his heavens. Knowing that you were also at work inspired and sustained us disciples now scattered around the world. We drew our strength from yours, our inspiration from your example. But you have filled your students with such vivid images of the honest toil of a supreme scientist that we may be able to survive on only our memories of you. So perhaps you can go fishing now because the glowing image and meaning of your life continues to inspire us.

    The years have gone much too fast and I feel like a man hurtling on a rollercoaster towards the silent tunnel ahead. I don’ t want to enter that silence with my debt to you unspoken. You have been a master teacher to me, a consummate scientist, and I am grateful that fate brought me to work with you. By word, deed, and example, you taught me, reshaped and molded me, set me forth on the path of my career and the path of self-discovery. So much of me comes from you — my values, my work habits, my style of expression, my way with my students. You provided the framework of my professional existence — you even got me the job at Stanford that I still have. You were father to all your worshipping students, watching over our hopes and dreams for a life in science, nurturing, encouraging us, helping us grow. You turned the hard work of experimentation into the mysterious excitement of digging for buried treasures. You exemplified the call for critical examination of hypotheses in one’s own work as well as in other’s. Your straight-arrow honesty in dealing with people, as well as with scientific issues, shaped all of us.

    I feel privileged to have worked with you. You are clearly among the premier psychologists of your generation. You have touched the lives of many students and colleagues and have passed on the torch of knowledge from your scientific forefathers to your scientific children and grandchildren. You have been vital, visionary, glorious — the complete scientist and teacher. We celebrate what you are. I thank you for being you. I’m going to miss you in your retirement.

                      With love and respect,



References for Bower’s  tribute to Neal Miller 

     Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of behavior modification. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

     Bandura, A. & Walters, R. H. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

      Bower, G. H., & Miller, N. (1958).  Rewarding and punishing effects from stimulating the same place in the rat’s brain. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 51, 669-674.

     Bower, G. H., & Miller, N. (1960).  Effects of amount of reward on strength of approach in an approach-avoidance conflict.  Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 53, 59-62.

     Bower, G. H., Fowler, H., & Trapold, M. A. (1959).  Escape learning as a function of amount of shock reduction. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58, 482-484.

      Dollard, J., & Miller, N.E. (1950). Personality and psychotherapy. New York: McGraw Hill.

      Eysenck, H. J. & Rachman, S. (1965). The causes and cures of neurosis. San Diego, CA: Knapp.

      Herman, L. M. (2002). Vocal, social, and self-imitation by bottlenosed dolphins. In Dautenhahn, K. & Nehaniv, C. (Eds.) Imitation in animals and artifacts. Pp. 63-108. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press.

      Logan, F. L. (1960). Incentive. New Haven: Yale University Press.

      Logan, F. L. (1956). A micromolar approach to behavior theory. Psychological Review, 63, 63 – 73.

      Meltzoff, A. N. & Moore, M. K. (1977). Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science, 198,  75-78.

      Miller, N.E., & Dollard, J. (1941). Social learning and imitation. New Haven: Yale University Press.

     Mischel, W. (1968). Personality and Assessment. New York: Wiley. 

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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Phil Zimbardo Remembers Neal Miller

April 15, 1954 was the date. I think it was noontime, for sure; it was at the New Yorker Hotel, where I first encountered Neal Miller; he was the featured highlight of EPA that year. It was the occasion of his giving a brilliant lecture summarizing years of research on motivation and reward-in rats. It was so clear and precise that even a neophyte like me could understand its significance. But as kid on his way to Yale University, what impressed me most was that this great man took the time to give name credit to every student who had worked in his laboratory on a particular experiment. Wow!  I thought that maybe someday I might be one of those Millerites being so prominently mentioned to colleagues.


Little could I have imagined that in a few years I would be doing research under his mentorship that would result in a publication in the then prestigious JCPP-- with me as senior author and Neal Miller as junior (Zimbardo & Miller, 1958). That however, is getting way ahead of our story. I had switched out of my initial interest in majoring in psychology after receiving the only C grade in my life in Introductory Psychology. Instead, I majored in Sociology/Anthropology until senior year when a friend talked me into partnering with him in the required experimental psychology lab course. He (Jerry Platt) hated those kinds of experiments and switched into Sociology, while I discovered my passion was doing research and added Psychology as my new major. I had a lot to make up in a short time and worked hard at doing so.

My favorite teacher, Hal Proshansky, hated S-R theory, which he identified as being promoted at Yale by the anti-Gestalists, jokingly referring to them as, “Millard and Dullard!” So here was the alleged enemy in the form of a big, gentle, soft-spoken Teddy Bear as far as I was concerned. With a penetrating mind that ranged far and wide, always open to alternative perspectives, Miller was the ultimate scientist.


The reason that date stuck in my mind forever, and why an undergrad would be attending a psych convention was that it was the day I was interviewed a few hours earlier by a young Yale assistant professor, K.C. Montgomery, for a job as his RA, because his first choice, Gordon Bower had bolted the last minute to get an M.A. at U. Minnesota in Philosophy of Science. Montgomery was holding a big NSF grant to do pioneering research on exploratory behavior and now without an assistant. Yale had been my first choice, but I was ready to head off to Minnesota to work with Stanley Schachter when Montgomery called on April 14 asking me to hold off that decision until he interviewed me the next day in New York at the bar in the New Yorker Hotel. The reason that he selected me is because Yale never rejected me officially, nor of course accepted me. I was in the “not sure” category; the reason being, as I learned years later from Hal Kelly, who had taught there my first year before heading off for his distinguished career at UCLA-the psychology department had come to the belief that I was a Black candidate. I won’t go through here the circumstantial evidence amassed to support that mistaken attribution, but suffice it to say that at least some members of the department did not want me to be the first Black graduate student because I would likely not make it and it would be unfair to me and my race to have such a failure-rejection.

On Being a Rat Runner


Although I had applied as interested in social psychology, I found myself a rat runner for the next three year, not just running, but breeding them, nurturing them, cleaning their cages, building a huge number of small cages for sensory and behavioral deprivation as well as large ones, like rat play pens for studying the effects of enriched environmental rearing on exploratory behavior. At one point, I was in charge of the largest rat colony in the department!  Sadly, Montgomery committed suicide during my second year after trying to cope with clinical depression earlier. I applied to NSF to take over his grant, and with the help of Fred Sheffield as the official grantee, and Neal Miller as mentor-in- residence, I was awarded the remainder of the grant and completed all the research Montgomery had envisioned plus some on the side. I did research on sexual behavior with Frank Beach because as part of breeding rats to go into various rearing conditions as soon as they could be separated from their mothers, I had been a rat matchmaker and knew something about the sexual behavior of the adult white rat. The availability of my lab and my rats, and by then, my ability to build equipment, encouraged Neal to be willing to work with me on a project we developed as part of his Learning course-relating basic drives to exploratory behavior in a modified learned fear double alley apparatus. (For an appreciation of Montgomery’s contributions please sees Kaleuff & Zimbardo, 2006.)


Neal’s Required Learning Course

But, back to that first year of 1954-55 at Cedar Street Psychology Department. We were all required to take Neal’s learning course the first term and we experimentalists had to take the second term as well. Although this note is part of an ode to his greatness, I must admit that the wonderfully brilliant lecturer that entranced me at EPA the previous spring, was not to found leading that course. I imagine he had done it too long and had lost personal interest in it, so it was a tedious exercise for him and at least it was for me. The second term was more daunting because we each had to prepare and deliver an hour long formal lecture to our peers on some issue or controversy in learning, conditioning, or motivation.  Neal suffered through them as best he could, but sleep won out over any curiousity our talks were intended to generate. But we had to keep going despite any snoring or nodding off. And more often than not, the end of the talk silence proved to be his discriminative stimulus to awake with a poignant observation or penetrating question. The other unique feature of that course was the final exam composed of about 300 M.C.– questions- most available with the answer key in the medical school library reserve-that we memorized verbatim and would test each other until we could give the correct answer after hearing only the opening phrase. Neal would add about 25 new questions each year to keep the course up to date and us on our toes. I discovered later he did if for two reasons: as an intense-learning and review session, and also to show off to his colleagues how much his students were learning- mastering since the least able student got more than 275 correct answers on this massive test.

Doing Research with Neal

My course talk was naturally on the challenges to traditional drive-reduction theory posed by this new research on curiousity and exploratory behavior. Neal was in transition then on the matter and would hold that drive-reduction as a causal mechanism in learning by behaviors that reduced strong drives was still tenable but might need modification.  He challenged me with a design to show some compatibility between the motivating effects of hunger and exploratory drive on an instrumental behavior of running down an alley to get to food or a novel compartment. My intense interaction with Neal in every aspect of this study from planning to execution to publishing has had an enduring impact on all my later research regardless of the domain. He insisted on considerable pre-testing of each feature of the study, anticipating confounds and artifacts to deal with up front and not simply to dismiss in the Discussion section of the publication. He said you should run enough subjects in pre-testing until you are sure of getting the predicted outcome, so that you can then run the minimal number in the actual experiment. (We did not know about statistical power tests in those days.) And he forced me to rewrite each section of the article many times until we got it just right.  Although I had assumed he would be senior author, he insisted on my taking the lead, an act of academic generosity all too rare in our profession.


Gordon Bower Becomes Neal’s Prize Student

Interestingly, the next year I met my benefactor, Gordon Bower, whose last minute decision to bolt out of his RA with Montgomery had opened the hallowed halls of Ivy to me. (As my uneducated mother would say, I was an Ivory leaguer now.) Gordon and I became friends right on despite the vast differences in our backgrounds. We roomed together on Howard Avenue, he quickly became a star in Miller Industries, we fed and watered each other’s rats during holidays when the other was away, we talked shop all the time we were not playing stickball in the medical school gym in the middle of the night.  Gordon modeled dedication to his profession, along with an endless curiosity about a wide range of issues, coupled with an unparalleled willingness to read everything in great detail about any topic that captured his interest. To this day, his opinion about any colleagues’ research is my standard because his opinions are always based on having read much or all that had been written. Since being honored as the best man in his wedding to Sharon Anthony, we have remained buddies all during our time at Stanford (I believe his approval probably was key to my getting to be Leon Festinger’s replacement in 1968, when the job probably should have gone to Elliott Aronson, as Leon’s star pupil.)


Neal, The Ultimate Scientist, Even at the Dinner Table

My last story about Neal occurred in 1969 following a demonstration I had done during a talk on hypnosis and cognitive control at the International Congress of Psychology. To prove the power of hypnotic suggestions to alter personal experience of pain, I invited an audience member, French social psychologist and anti-American, Serge Moscovici, to pierce the skin of my left hand with a long hat pin borrowed from a nearby woman’s hear (Susan Sarnoff)-while I continued to lecture. I had induced autohypnosis by earlier practice cued to words written in the margin of my prepared notes. It worked! No pain despite the apparent pain-inducing instrument sticking through my skin.

That evening, I was having dinner with Neal and others (I recall British social psychologist Hilda Himmelweit as a dominant figure) at a lovely restaurant when he confronted me about that demonstration. “How do we know that the effect was only because you have no pain receptors in that hand, that you are congenitally insensitive to pain? Why did you not then do it to the other hand?” He then asked to redo it right there by sticking my hand with his fork after determining that my hand sensed various stimulation while I had my eyes closed. The other guests got upset and did not want him to proceed with this mid dinner demo of pain control. “Ok, he countered, let me see you make that hand hotter than normal.” I did some mind control and imagined my hand next to a heater; Neal admitted it seemed some what warmer, but it might simply be from tensing my muscles. Finally, by desert he came up with the ultimate test of hypnotic-mental control over physiological processes:  “Make one hand hotter than normal, while at the same time, making the other colder than normal!”


Mental Control of Peripheral Skin Temperature

 Wow, that I knew would be hard and hardly a simple dinner demo. Neal then said, “Of course, we have to have precise quantitative measures of skin temperature of each hand simultaneously as well as control parts of your arm.” He then invited me to his laboratory at Rockefeller University to do some pre-testing on this matter. I went the next year and seemed to have satisfied this demanding test, but his skin temperature recording apparatus was not working as reliably as he wanted for a sure assessment. Meanwhile, back at Stanford, I made arrangements with the dermatology department to use their precise skin temperature equipment to record from multiple simultaneous skin sites. I then trained a small group of highly hypnotizable students to enter deep hypnosis and to experience the suggested changes in skin temperature while attached to these many skin electrodes, as well as myself with observers present.  The result? A few of us were indeed able to mentally direct the temperature in each hand to change in opposite directions simultaneously-for a short, though quantifiably measurable, period. I shared the results with Neal and he admitted being reluctantly impressed.  I also invited him to co-author the publication given it was his paradigm, but he wanted me to have full credit and share authorship with my graduate students (See Maslach, Marshall,  & Zimbardo, 1972).


I am indebted for the opportunity to know, learn from, and do research with this great scientist, and wonderful human being. My life and career have benefitted so much from being close to all the virtues he modeled so effectively and so modestly. 



 Kalueff, A. V., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2006). Behavioral neuroscience, exploration, and

K.C. Montgomery’s legacy. Brain Research Reviews. 328

 Maslach, C., Marshall, G., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1972).  Hypnotic control of peripheral skin temperature:  A case report.  Psychophysiology, 9, 600-605.

 Zimbardo, P. G., & Miller, N. E. (1958).  The facilitation of exploration by hunger in rats.  Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 51, 43-46.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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Larissa Pohorecky’s Testimonial

As a freshly minted postdoc coming from the Boston area, I was really excited about the prospects of my first faculty position in the Big Apple. With a background in pharmacology and a postdoctoral training in neuroendocrinology, I knew next to nothing about psychology and issues like biofeedback, learning and motivation, or behavioral medicine. So the possibility of collaborating with Jay Weiss in Neal Miller’s laboratoryy on the behavioral consequences of controllable versus uncontrollable stress was a challenge I readily embraced.

 “Stress” was the common theme in the crowded lab we all shared for some time with Bruce McEwen’s group.  And the paternal figure of Dr. Miller pervaded the lab.  But it was some time before I was able to interact a bit more with him in person, given his busy national and international schedule of lectures and collaborations.  Dr. Miller’s spacious office, with a great view of the East River, reflected his personal interest in – to me then – “exotic” places he had visited.  I especially remember a small collection of beautifully illustrated small books on Japanese culture, which I promptly borrowed for reading.  Such books, and other memorabilia, reflected Neal’s deep interest and respect for other cultures.  He was interested in the knowledge preserved by indigenous cultures, which might provide potential contributions to our present day “stressed out” society.

 This pervasive issue of “stress” eventually launched my own career in that direction once I left the Rockefeller University.  Initially I immersed myself in my own research interest, namely alcohol research. But eventually I gravitated back to the problem of stress and the contribution it makes to excessive alcohol consumption – two present day pressing social and health problems.

 I will always remember his smiling face and most importantly the kindness, interest, and encouragement Neal Miller provided to all members of his group.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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Frank Auld: Honouring Neal


Neal was  adviser for my doctoral dissertation.  He worked out a superb design for my experiment; he stood at my elbow, giving support and sagacious advice as I slogged through getting the data; and he critiqued my writing it up, through a number of versions.  (John Conger told me, once, “I thought I was a pretty good writer; I had been an English major in college.  But Neal insisted on doggedly going through every word that I wrote, and on revising it, and then insisting on further revisions, until it was really good.”)


Then I became a colleague on the Yale faculty, as a research assistant (with instructor, then assistant  professor rank), and he became a friend who had young children (as I did), a friend with whom I shared family picnics on occasion.


 After eight and a half years on the Yale faculty, I left and came to Michigan (at Wayne State University).  I next saw Neal in 1982 at a meeting of the British Psychological Society in York, England.  I was just an attender at the meeting — he was a featured speaker, and gave a superb  speech (of the kind we all are so familiar with).  On the Sunday afternoon of the meeting, Neal, his wife, Marian, my wife, and I went together to Yorkminster (the cathedral) to attend a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion.  (It was Palm Sunday.)  I cherish the memory of our freezing in the cold cathedral and enjoying the music, together.


What I learned most of all from Neal Miller, the scientist, was a commitment to honesty and to searching for truth, despite one’s   biases or wishes.  I observed Neal’s passion for testing the theories that he had arrived at, his passion for challenging hypotheses and demonstrating either that they stood the test of that challenge or were wrong.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Professor Efrain Azmitia: Contribution to Research

It was 1968 when I first joined Dr. Miller’s laboratory as a graduate student of Bruce McEwen. Dr. Miller’s laboratory was the first neuroscience laboratory I had encountered.  He had physiological psychologists (e.g., Ted Coons,  Jay Weiss, David Quartermain, George Wolff, John Winston, Leo DiCara, Bruce Pappas) and biological psychologist (e.g., Bruce McEwen, Eric Stone, Sara Leibowitz).  There were more researchers in his laboratory than in my college biology department. Every member seemed to have their own project but they were all influenced by the Dr. Miller, who strongly felt that the brain could be controlled when the behavior was understood.  No questions seemed too large to tackle, from conscious control of the autonomic system to quantifying the actions of LSD or dissecting the neuronal effects of stress.  This willingness to use science as a penetrating light into the unknown has remained with me through all the years of my research.  Dr Miller was not interested in testing someone else’s hypothesis, or following the latest trend, he saw the potential of neuroscience for understanding questions encountered in the real world.  This bold approach often met with failure as when the rats on LSD simply remained immobile and did not bar press to sounds or noises (expected to occur during hallucinations) as they had been conditioned to do so. But at least Dr Miller tried the interesting experiments and enjoyed when he succeeded, but was not discouraged when science was not ready to experimentally reveal one of its secrets.


I have three stories I love to tell about Dr. Miller.

(1) One friday evening I was in his office as he was preparing to go away for the weekend for a bit of a holiday.  He was packing his briefcase with papers, journals and books until it almost broke.  He said to me; “The more work I take with me, the less chance there is I will get to any of it.”

(2) He was notorious for not knowing names.  At his home he was having a fair-well party for his first graduate student at Rockefeller.  When it came time to give his speech, he looked around and admitted he did not remember his name! (3) Dr. Miller was completely bald. One day a postdoc, who had just shaved his head, came into his office while I was there, and asked Dr. Miller if he noticed anything different about him.  Dr. Miller looked up, and said, “Did you shave your beard?” I though it amusing since the post-doc never had a beard.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Dr. Bob

Neal was a critical factor in my practice of internal medicine/nephrology. He taught me about the art of science, more so than I ever learned in medical school or subsequent training. I learned from him in my research with him the ” you’re right, but what else could it be” approach to medical problems. I, also, learned about statistics and could read a medical article and appreciate that the interpretation of statistics are too often at odds with reality. Yes, it was a privilege working and learning from him that significantly affected my approach to medicine. I shall always remember him, and indirectly, so shall my patients.    Dr. Bob

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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List of Miller’s students




Graduate students

  • Aaronson, Inez (Y=Yale)
  • Agarie, Nariyuki (Y), OKINAWA
  • Auld, Frank (Y)
  • Azmitia, Efrain (R=Rockefeller)
  • Bailey, Clark J. (Y)
  • Banuazizi, Ali (Y)
  • Berkun, Mitchell M. (Y)
  • Birge, Jane S. (Y)
  • Bower, Gordon H. (Y)
  • Brown, Janet L. (Y)
  • Brown, Judson S. (Y)
  • Brucker, Bernard S. (NYU/R)
  • Bugelski, Richard (Y)
  • Burros, Raymond H. (Y)
  • Carmona, Alfredo (Y), CHILE
  • Chi, Carl (Y)
  • Conger, John J. (Y)
  • Coons, Edgar E. (Y)
  • Davis, Maritta (Y)
  • DeBold, Richard E. (Y)
  • Derrer, Douglas (Y)
  • Dworkin, Barry R. (R)
  • Egger, David M. (Y)
  • Feirstein, Alan R. (Y)
  • Ferguson, Elizabeth A. (Y)
  • Fields, Craig (R)
  • Fowler, Harry (Y)
  • Fromer, Robert (Y)
  • Gallistel, C. R. (Y)
  • Godbeer (now French), Elizabeth (Y)
  • Goldstein, Jacob (Y)
  • Grose, Robert F. (Y)
  • Grossman, Sebastian P. (Y)
  • Gwinn, Gordon T. (Y)
  • Hendry, Derek (Y)
  • Hutchinson, Ronald (Y)
  • Jensen, Donald D. (Y)
  • Karsh (now Hammond), Eileen (Y)
  • Kaufman (now Shapiro), Edna (Y)
  • Klebanoff, Seymour G. (Y)
  • Kohn, Martin (Y)
  • Kraeling (now Rutz), Doris (Y)
  • Krasne, Frank P. (Y)
  • Lawrence, Douglas H. (Y)
  • Linton (now Barr), Harriet (Y)
  • Mahl, George (Y)
  • Moltz (now Futterman), Sara Lee (Y)
  • Murray, Edward J. (Y)
  • Myers, Arlo K. (Y)
  • Nagaty, Mohamed O. (Y), KUWAIT
  • Nelson, Franklin (Y)
  • Novin, Donald (Y)
  • Porter, Lyman W. (Y)
  • Quadfosel (now Folsom), Angela (Y)
  • Roberts, Warren W. (Y)
  • Ruark, Margaret (Y)
  • Runyon, Richard (Y)
  • Sheffield, Fred E. (Y)
  • Sheffield, Virginia F. (Y)
  • Stone, (Steinbaum), Eric (Y,R)
  • Stricker, Edward M. (Y)
  • Trowill, Jay A. (Y)
  • Vertes, Robert P. (R)
  • Weiss, Jay M. (Y,R)
  • Wells, H. Herbert (Y)
  • Williams, Joanna Pozzi (Y)
  • Wolf, George (Y,R)
  • Zimbardo, Philip G. (Y)

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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