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The Richard Atkinson Contribution to Psychology

The Richard Atkinson Contribution to Psychology

Psychology has come a long way from the early studies on human behaviour. One of the major contributors to the field of psychology is Richard Atkinson. Richard Atkinson was a well-known psychologist in the United States and made significant contributions to the scientific study of psychology. His theories and research helped shape psychology in the modern era.

Early Life and Career

Richard Atkinson was born in 1929 in Indiana, USA. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1951 with a degree in psychology. He then went on to complete his PhD in psychology at Stanford University in 1955. After receiving his PhD, Atkinson joined the faculty at the University of Michigan and later at Stanford University.

Atkinson was not only a teacher but also a researcher. He was interested in a wide range of topics in psychology, including learning, cognition, and motivation. He was known for his work on computer simulation and the use of computers in studying human behaviour.

Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

Atkinson is perhaps best known for his work on the Atkinson-Shiffrin model of memory. This model is also known as the multi-store model of memory. The model proposed that memory is composed of three stages: sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory.

The sensory memory stage is the initial stage of memory where information is stored briefly in its original sensory form. Short-term memory, on the other hand, is where information is stored for a brief period of time – generally a few seconds. Long-term memory is the final stage of memory where information is stored indefinitely.


Atkinson was also interested in motivation, specifically achievement motivation. He developed the achievement motivation theory, which proposed that people are driven to succeed based on their individual levels of achievement motivation. He believed that achieving a goal was more important than the actual rewards that came with it.

According to Atkinson, achievement motivation is influenced by four factors: probability of success, incentive value of success, fear of failure, and the incentive value of failure. He proposed that those individuals who are highly motivated to achieve are more likely to be successful in their endeavors.


Richard Atkinson was a well-respected and influential psychologist whose work has had a lasting impact on the field of psychology. His contributions to the Atkinson-Shiffrin model of memory and achievement motivation theory are just some of the many reasons why he is remembered as a pioneer in the field.

As the field of psychology continues to evolve, it is important to remember those pioneers like Atkinson who paved the way for newer generations of researchers and practitioners. His legacy will continue to inspire and influence new breakthroughs in psychology for years to come.