Randall "Randy" W. Engle Georgia Institute of
Working memory capacity and intelligence November 9, 2017 8:00 p.m.
Lee Cronbach, in his 1957 APA presidential address, argued that psychological research had followed two parallel and largely non-interacting tracks over its history: experimental psychology which we associate with Wilhelm Wundt and differential psychology which we associate with Francis Galton. Most Psychonomes are of the experimental persuasion. My ancestor, James McKeen Cattell combined the two approaches and I have tended to use both approaches in trying to understand the nature and importance of working memory capacity (WMC) and its relationship to fluid intelligence (Gf). This talk will briefly describe that endeavor and some of the pitfalls of trying to combine the two approaches. I will however discuss in more detail my more recent work suggesting specific mechanisms for these two constructs, what they share, and how they are different.
Randall "Randy" W. Engle, went to West Virginia State College because it was the only college he could afford to attend but it was one of the transforming experiences of his life. State was a public all-black college prior to 1954. As a consequence, most of his faculty were outstanding black scholars who could not get jobs at predominantly white top universities. One of his psychology professors was a marvelously well-read scholar named Herman G. Canady, a 1929 PhD from Northwestern and one of the first black ABEP’s. He worked his way through graduate school as a butler. Engle had a Harvard graduate for his math courses, a Yale PhD as a drama teacher, and his French teacher was a black female who received her PhD from the Sorbonne. These were impressive people to a hillbilly kid with no idea why you would ever have two forks beside your plate.
He graduated with nearly as many hours in zoology and math as he had in psychology so it was probably inevitable that he gravitate to experimental psychology. He was admitted to Ohio State to work with D.D. Wickens. Wick was a wonderful mentor and was exceedingly patient with a student that wanted to do everything but did not focus on anything long enough to do it well. The job market was tough in 1972 and Engle was lucky to land a job at King College in Tennessee. His two years there, with 10 classes per year, made him a teacher. Fortunately, two of his classes each year were senior research seminars and he used them to conduct experiments. He was limited in equipment to a tape recorder and slide projector so he did research on modality effects in short-term memory. At the end of two years, he had two publications, enough to land him a job at the University of South Carolina where he spent the next 21 years.
He moved to the School of Psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology as Chair, a position he held for 13 years. He stepped down as chair to found the GSU/GT Center for Advanced Brain Imaging on the Georgia Tech campus. He is editor of Current Directions in Psychological Science and has been on the editorial board of numerous other journals over his career. His research for the past 30 years has explored the nature of working memory and executive attention, the nature and causes of limitations in working memory capacity, the role of those differences in real-world cognitive tasks, and the association of working memory capacity and cognitive control with fluid intelligence. His work has been funded by various agencies including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Office of Naval Research. His work has been highly influential across a wide array of areas including social psychology, emotion, psychopathology, developmental psychology, psychological testing, and has contributed to modern theory of cognitive and emotional control. Harzing’s Publish or Perish shows that Engle’s work has been cited nearly 28,000 times. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Association of Psychological Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society of Experimental Psychology, and the Memory Disorders Research Society. He has served as Chair of the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society, Chair of the Board of the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP), and President of Division 3 of APA. He received the first APA Division 3 Lifetime Achievement Award and the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for mentoring.