In Memory Of... Carolyn Rovee-Collier

Honoring scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior.

Carolyn Rovee-Collier, PhD (1942-2014)
Professor, Department of Psychology
Rutgers University

 

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Carolyn Rovee-Collier was born on April 7, 1942 in Nashville, TN, the daughter of a Distinguished Professor of comparative anatomy and textbook author who inculcated in her a love of science, teaching, writing, and scholarship. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 1962 with a BA cum laude and College Honors. Her first college psychology course, Learning, profoundly influenced her, and for the next 2 summers, she attended the Jackson Lab (Bar Harbor, ME) College Training Program to study learning by newborn puppies with Walter Stanley. From there, she entered Brown University, receiving both an ScM (1964) and PhD (1966) in Experimental Child Psychology. Her doctoral research on newborn olfactory psychophysics was directed by Trygg Engen in the Neonatal Sensory and Conditioning Laboratory of Lewis P. Lipsitt, who also mentored Carolyn. Her first academic appointment was at Trenton State College in 1965. After promotion to Associate Professor in 1970, she moved to Rutgers University as an Assistant Professor, rising to Professor in 1980 and Professor II in 1990.

Carolyn’s systematic studies of infant learning and memory have had a major and broad impact on the understanding of cognitive processes during early development. She is recognized as the founder of infant long-term memory research and as an innovator in the scientific quest to understand whether and how early experience affects later behavior. She discovered mobile conjugate reinforcement—a procedure in which an ankle ribbon strung to a crib mobile enables preverbal infants to learn rapidly that kicking moves it. Varying the details on the mobile objects and the test delay allowed her to test for how long and in what conditions infants can recognize it. Another major discovery was that infants’ memories, once forgotten, can be reactivated months later by briefly exposing infants to a fragment of the original encoding situation. Her research exploiting these procedures is widely regarded as a paradigm-shift that forced a new conceptual framework to describe learning and memory processes in infancy and led to the revision of the long-held view that the infant brain is incapable of the types of memory processing exhibited by adults.

Carolyn’s contributions to our discipline have been recognized with numerous awards. She was elected to The Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1999 and received that society’s coveted Howard Crosby Warren Medal in 2003. Her citation read, “for demonstrating in human infants a variety of phenomena analogous to those that have prompted the distinction between implicit and explicit memory systems in human adults." Carolyn received a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship, a Medal for Distinguished Achievement from the Brown University Graduate School, the biannual Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development from the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Senior Scientist Lifetime Contribution Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology. Her oral history has been placed in the National Archives of the Society for Research in Child Development. Her research on infant learning and memory received continuous Public Health Service grant funding for more than 35 years, including an NIMH MERIT Award and two successive NIMH Research Scientist Awards. Carolyn served our field for 18 years as Editor of Infant Behavior & Development, Co-editor (with Lewis P. Lipsitt) of Advances in Infancy Research (vols. 3-12), Secretary-Treasurer of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and President of the International Society for Infant Studies, the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, and the Eastern Psychological Association. 

Carolyn published hundreds of peer-reviewed articles and chapters, co-authoring most of them with her graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom are now distinguished professors and researchers themselves. All of her students, whatever their career paths, continued to be the source of her greatest professional pride. 

 

Dr. Rovee-Collier's Obituary from The Daily Targum

 


 

Individuals Honoring Carolyn Rovee-Collier: 
Karen Adolph, New York University
Rachel F. Barr, Georgetown University
Kimberly Boller
Kimberly Cuevas, Virginia Tech
Jeffrey W. Fagen, St. John's University
William P. Fifer, Columbia University
Peter Gerhardstein, Binghamton University
Alice F. Healy, University of Colorado
Rachel Keen, University of Virginia
Peter R. Killeen, Arizona State University
Amy E. Learmonth, William Paterson University
* Lewis P. and Edna Lipsitt, Brown University
Louis D. Matzel, Rutgers University
Ralph R. Miller, Binghamton University
Raymond S. Nickerson, Tufts University
Bruce Overmier, University of Minnesota
Kyle Palmer, Opertech Bio
* James R. Pomerantz, Rice University
Victoria Porterfield, Rutgers University
Rick Richardson, University of New South Wales
Christiana K. Shafer, Rutgers University
Linda B. Smith, Indiana University
Marge W. Sullivan, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
John S. Werner, University of California, Davis 

* The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Lewis P. Lipsitt and Dr. James R. Pomerantz for nominating Dr. Rovee-Collier for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about her nomination.

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