Standard Article

Spence, Kenneth W. (1907–1967)

  1. Staff

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0934

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Staff 2010. Spence, Kenneth W. (1907–1967). Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Kenneth W. Spence was born in Chicago in 1907, but his family soon moved to Montreal where he spent most of his early years. He attended McGill University, graduated in 1929, and went on to earn a master's degree in 1930. He completed his graduate work at Yale, primarily under the direction of Robert Yerkes, and he was also influenced by Clark Hull. Hence his early research was with primates and was focused on learning and visual discrimination. Spence received his PhD from Yale in 1933 and then moved to the Yale (later Yerkes) Laboratory of Primate Biology in Orange Park, Florida. He worked there for four years, after which he accepted his first faculty position, a one-year temporary appointment, in psychology at the University of Virginia, where he spent the 1937–1938 academic year. In 1938, he moved to the University of Iowa (then the State University of Iowa), where he remained until 1964. He moved to the University of Texas in 1964 and stayed there until his death in Austin in 1967. In 1959, he married Janet Taylor Spence, who has had a long and distinguished career of her own.


  • experimental psychology;
  • conditioning;
  • learning;
  • motivation