History of the Department

History of the Department

The department was founded in the 1940s and has had a long and distinguished tradition of strong, empirically based teaching and research in experimental psychology. Below is a list of significant events and to the right a list of distinguished former department faculty.


1941 William Altus, Professor of Psychology, and Alma MacGregor, Professor of Psychology, were appointed to the Department of Education of the Santa Barbara State College, located on the Riviera campus close to downtown Santa Barbara.
1944 Governor Earl Warren and the Regents of the University of California moved Santa Barbara State College to the University of California system. From 1944 to 1958 the school was called Santa Barbara College of the University of California.
1946 A Bachelor of Arts in Psychology was approved by the Regents of the University of California.
1950 The Department of Psychology was established.

William Altus was appointed inaugural Chair of the Department of Psychology.
1954 The Department of Psychology moved to the Goleta campus, current home to UCSB.
1955 Robert Gottsdanker, an expert in motor performance, was appointed Chair. The department had core expertise in perception, learning, and motor performance.
1956 The Social Psychology area was established with the appointment of Charles McClintock.
1957 With the appointment of Bill Reynolds, the Bio-Psychology program was established.
1961 William D. Altus, Professor of Psychology, by then Professor Emeritus, is named UCSB's 7th Faculty Research Lecturer. Starting in 1955, the Faculty Research Lectureship has been awarded annually to the faculty member determined to be the most distinguished for research or other creative achievement. This award is considered to be the highest honor the UCSB faculty can bestow on one of its members.
1964 Psychology (Building 551), built according to the specifications for a UC laboratory building, opened, giving the department its first permanent home and establishing it as an empirical science on the UCSB campus. The building was erected in a premier site on campus – next to and facing the Library, the acknowledged intellectual center of the campus, and on the “science” side of the campus.

The Ph.D. in Psychology was approved and established.
1974 By 1974 the Department of Psychology offered 4 different B.A. degrees, in general, experimental, developmental, and physiological psychology.

The department’s first Bachelor of Science degree, the B.S. in Physiological Psychology, was approved by the Academic Senate and the B.A. of the same name was disestablished.

David Premack, Professor of Psychology at UCSB from 1965 through 1975, became the second Professor of Psychology to be named a UCSB Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor bestowed on a UCSB Academic Senate member. Premack, famous for his work on reinforcement and on comparative cognition with chimpanzees, and coiner of the term, Theory of Mind, made contributions that significantly advanced psychological science's understanding of the nature of both human and animal minds.
1988 In response to widespread discussion of creating three divisions within the College of Letters and Science at UCSB, the Department of Psychology faculty voted overwhelmingly to be a department in the science division.
1992 The Department of Psychology became a member of the Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences division of the College of Letters and Science.
1996 Gerald Jacobs is named UCSB Faculty Research Lecturer for his groundbreaking work on color vision.
2005 The Sage Center for the Study of the Mind was established by a generous endowment from Sage Publications. Michael Gazzaniga became its inaugural Director.
2006 Building 251, Psychology East, opened. The three-story building is the current home of the department's administrative and faculty offices.
2007 The University of California Santa Barbara Brain Imaging Center, under the directorship of Scott Grafton, came on line.
2010 The vote of the faculty to change the name of the department was approved by the Academic Senate and the University of California, and the Department of Psychology became the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
2012 Leda Cosmides, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, shares the 2012 UCSB Faculty Research Lecturer award with John Toobey, Professor of Anthropology, for their contribution to the creation of the field of evolutionary psychology.
2016 The B.A.in psychology was disestablished, and replaced with a Bachelor of Science in Psychological and Brain Sciences. The first cohort pursuing the B.S. in Psychological and Brain Sciences entered in the Fall of 2016.

The Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences replaced the Ph.D. in Psychology.

Scott Grafton became the inaugural holder of the Bedrosian Coyne Presidential Chair in Neuroscience, the first endowed chair in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

On June 13, 2016, Scott Grafton gave his inaugural lecture celebrating his appointment to the Bedrosian Coyne Presidential Chair in Neuroscience.

On September 13, 2016, Grace Merriman Thompson Altus passed away and a biography of her was published in The Independent.