"Although I have been basically an academic for most of my life, the way I got there has taken some surprising turns. The first four chapters of this memoir describe what I can remember and discover about my early life: an unsuspected ancestry, fun in WW2 London, comical schooldays, and a spell in colonial Africa interrupting a wobbly college career at the end of which I left England for America. In the US I followed again a slightly erratic graduate-school trajectory that ended up in a Harvard basement." This is not just a witty transatlantic autobiography from a talented English working-class kid who made his name in the USA but also a learned and entertaining romp through the subject he has made his own. Growing up in a modest odd family out in wartime England, and with a natural resistance to regimentation, John Staddon was the precocious self-driven polymath who first studied chemical engineering but switched to psychology because there were only four or five classes a week. By way of his wide-ranging interests in biology, artificial intelligence, economics, philosophy and behavioural neuroscience, John Staddon introduces his important work on how animals learn. He discusses the still relatively new and exciting field of behavioural psychobiology, explains theoretical research on choice and interval timing and debates so-called superstition in the learned behaviour of pigeons, rats, fish - and people. Here is a most entertaining life story interwoven with expansive thoughts across the marvellously wide spectrum of behavioural psychology.
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