History Timeline

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.

  • 1940


  • 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.

  • 1949

    Robert M. Gottsdanker joins the department.

  • 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 Robert Reynolds, the Bio-Psychology program was established.

  • 1960

    John W. Cotton joins the department.

  • 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.

  • 1963

    John Foley and Howard Kendler join the department.

  • 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.

    David M. Messick joins the department

    The Ph.D. in Psychology was approved and established.

  • 1965

    Walter C. Gogel, Harry J. Carlisle, and David Premack join the department.

  • 1966

    Tracy S. Kendler joins the department.

  • 1968

    Gerald S. Blum joins the department.

  • 1969

    Gerald H. Jacobs and A. Robert Sherman join the department.

  • 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.

    Jack M. Loomis and Daphne B. Bugental join the department.

    premack.pngDavid 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.

  • 1976

    Loy D. Lytle and David L. Hamilton join the department.

  • 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.

  • 1995

    James J. Blascovich joins the department.

  • 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.

  • 2017

    Building 429 was an old army barrack next to the Psychology building that, until it was demolished in 2017, served to provide our graduate students with offices.