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Michael I. Posner (born September 12, 1936) is an American psychologist, the editor of numerous cognitive and neuroscience compilations, and an eminent researcher in the field of attention. He is currently an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Oregon (Department of Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences), and an adjunct professor at the Weill Medical College in New York (Sackler Institute).
Posner studied the role of attention in high-level human tasks such as visual search, reading, and number processing. More recently he investigated the development of attentional networks in infants and young children.
In Chronometric Explorations of Mind, published in 1976, Posner applied the subtractive method proposed 110 years earlier by Franciscus Donders to the study of several cognitive functions such as attention and memory. The subtractive method is based on the assumption that mental operations can be measured by decomposing complex cognitive tasks in sequences of simpler tasks. The method assumes that the effect of each mental operation is additive and that it is possible to isolate the effect of a single mental operation by comparing two tasks that differ only by the presence or absence of that mental operation. (See Mental chronometry for additional information on Donders' experiment.)
Posner applied the same subtractive principle to the study of attentional networks using PET (Positron Emission Tomography), a neuroimaging technique that produces three-dimensional functional maps of the brain. In Images of Mind, published with Marcus Raichle in 1994, Posner investigated brain localization of cognitive functions by looking at the patterns of brain activation in progressively more complex cognitive tasks.Posner won the 2001 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, along with Marcus Raichle and Steven Petersen. In May 2003, 10 speakers and a large audience gathered at the University of Oregon in Eugene to pay tribute to the enormously influential contributions Michael Posner has made to the disciplines of psychology and cognitive neuroscience
The impact of Posner's theoretical and empirical contributions has been recognized through fellowship in the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009 Posner, a graduate of the University of Michigan, was awarded the National Medal of Science. His students include Stanislas Dehaene, Jon Driver, John Duncan, Steven Keele, Daniel Levitin, Bruce McCandless, and Elise Temple.
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