Remembering William K. Estes
作者: BPS / 12479次阅读 时间: 2013年3月04日
标签: Estes
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Stephen Link
University of California, San Diego

What a loss to us all. Bill was a giant in so many ways. We both worked the streets in right-wing neighborhoods for the Democratic Party in the 1964 election — Bill contributing his time to help ensure the defeat of Barry Goldwater. He had a positive view, I think, of my involvement in graduate student politics at Stanford and various anti-war activities.

We had a nice communication about this and that. When speaking on the phone we carried on a normal conversation. People asked me how it was that we simply talked back and forth, so here is the answer: At Ventura Hall, we developed mathematical models for various psychological processes. About that time, O. Hobart Mowrer (1960) published two terrific volumes on learning and a two-factor theory of learning. As part of an advanced course on learning theory, Bill asked me and a beautiful colleague from Statistics to develop a mathematical model for Mowrer’s two-factor theory and develop some predictions.

Frankly, I was more interested in my colleague than the topic, in part because the Markov Models we customarily used did not provide a basis for the time-dependent stochastic processes that most interested me. Still, the project was of theoretical interest. Yet, we made little progress in developing any decent predictions, let alone a good representation of Mowrer’s theory.

The fateful day arrived when I was to show Bill the wondrous work we accomplished. I waited outside his Ventura Hall office for my opportunity to regale him with theoretical triumphs. Finally, I entered and sat to the right of him at his desk. From the desk he pulled out the writing board and asked what I had. On the writing board I placed a sheath of papers with various starts and stops toward a two-factor theory of learning. It was really awful work. No, awful is not sufficient to describe my view of it.

The interview was death inspiring because I would make a positive comment about the work and then wait for a long, long, long time before beginning to mention another positive aspect of the dreadful work in the hopes of receiving a response. But responses were just not there — only silence. He looked through many pages of calculations. I knew the work was dreadful, but what was Professor Estes to say about it? Perhaps he was trying to think up something nice to say. Long, long, long delay. Perhaps my graduate career just came to an end? Finally he said something but it had nothing to do with what I had just said. What did it have to do with? Oh no, perhaps he discovered a really deep flaw in the whole approach. I better make some more positive comments about the model and drag it out of the fire. Long, long, long delay. Sitting, waiting. Long, long, long delay. God, it’s so bad he can’t think of anything to say.

I decided to relieve him of the burden. I got up and made for the French doors some eight steps away. My hand was on the door lever, pushing the door to slip away into obscurity, when I heard, “Whoa, Steve, I haven’t finished with you yet.”

Ever since that moment we were able to talk back and forth with ease. On the phone or at conferences about politics, models, economics, good food, or whatever. My graduate career continued, and I profited from so many of his encouragements and acts of good will.

He was wonderful.I miss himwww.psychspace.com心理学空间网

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