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Who are the most influential thinkers in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

About our data on gender

List of the most influential people in Psychology, for the years 1970 – 2020

Steven Pinker
# 1
Steven Pinker

1954 - Present (67 years)

#183 person's overall influence

Cognitive scientist, linguist, and author, Steven Pinker currently holds the title of Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Previously, Pinker taught at Stanford University at MIT. Pinker earned his bachelor’s in psychology from McGill University in 1976, and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1979 at Harvard.

Martin Seligman
# 2
Martin Seligman

1942 - Present (79 years)

#1200 person's overall influence

Martin Seligman currently holds the title of Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, he taught at Cornell University, and was the president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman earned his bachelor’s in philosophy at Princeton University in 1964, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Noam Chomsky
# 3
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (93 years)

#40 person's overall influence

Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

# 4
Jorge Ferrer

1968 - Present (53 years)

#4463 person's overall influence

Jorge N. Ferrer is a US-based Spanish psychologist and participatory thinker, best known for his work bridging participatory theory with transpersonal psychology, religious studies, integral education, and sexuality and intimate relationships. Ferrer is a professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies , San Francisco, where he served as chair of the department of East-West Psychology.

Carl Rogers
# 5
Carl Rogers

1902 - 1987 (85 years)

#1295 person's overall influence

Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1956.

Daniel Kahneman
# 6
Daniel Kahneman

1934 - Present (87 years)

#729 person's overall influence

Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and economist who is currently the Eugene Higgins Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus for the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He earned a B.S. in psychology from Hebrew University and an M.A. and Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley. Kahneman is world-famous for his groundbreaking work on the psychology of judgement and decision making. His studies, along with Amos Tversky, developed into prospect theory which examines behavioral economics and finance and how huma

Erik Erikson
# 7
Erik Erikson

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#1311 person's overall influence

Erik Homburger Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.

Hans Eysenck
# 8
Hans Eysenck

1916 - 1997 (81 years)

#1533 person's overall influence

Hans Jürgen Eysenck was a German-born British psychologist who spent his professional career in Great Britain. He is best remembered for his work on intelligence and personality, although he worked on other issues within psychology. At the time of his death, Eysenck was the living psychologist most frequently cited in the peer-reviewed scientific journal literature. A 2019 study found him to be the third most controversial of 55 intelligence researchers.

Jean Piaget
# 9
Jean Piaget

1896 - 1980 (84 years)

#261 person's overall influence

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology".

Albert Bandura
# 10
Albert Bandura

1925 - Present (96 years)

#2289 person's overall influence

Albert Bandura currently holds the title of David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. A top name in social psychology, Bandura was born in Mundare, Alberta, Canada, and earned his bachelor of arts at the University of British Columbia in 1949. He soon moved to the U.S. and earned his MA in 1951 and PhD in 1952 at the University of Iowa. Bandura began teaching at Stanford in 1953.

Rollo May
# 11
Rollo May

1909 - 1994 (85 years)

#3487 person's overall influence

Rollo Reece May was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will . He is often associated with humanistic psychology and existentialist philosophy, and alongside Viktor Frankl, was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was a close friend who had a significant influence on his work.

# 12
James Hillman

1926 - 2011 (85 years)

#3285 person's overall influence

James Hillman was an American psychologist. He studied at, and then guided studies for, the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He founded a movement toward archetypal psychology and retired into private practice, writing and traveling to lecture, until his death at his home in Connecticut.

B. F. Skinner
# 13
B. F. Skinner

1904 - 1990 (86 years)

#517 person's overall influence

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was a professor of psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.

# 14
John Tooby

1952 - Present (69 years)

#2626 person's overall influence

John Tooby is an American anthropologist, who, together with psychologist wife Leda Cosmides, helped pioneer the field of evolutionary psychology. Tooby received his PhD in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University in 1989 and is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

# 15
Leda Cosmides

1957 - Present (64 years)

#2763 person's overall influence

Leda Cosmides currently holds the title of Distinguished Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. She also co-founded and co-directs the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology. Cosmides completed both her undergraduate studies in biology and her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Harvard University by 1985.

Stanislav Grof
# 16
Stanislav Grof

1931 - Present (90 years)

#2869 person's overall influence

Stanislav "Stan" Grof is a Czech psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche. Grof received the VISION 97 award granted by the Foundation of Dagmar and Václav Havel in Prague on October 5, 2007.

Jerome Bruner
# 17
Jerome Bruner

1915 - 2016 (101 years)

#1893 person's overall influence

Jerome Seymour Bruner was an American psychologist who made significant contributions to human cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology. Bruner was a senior research fellow at the New York University School of Law. He received a B.A. in 1937 from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1941. He taught and did research at Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and New York University. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Bruner as the 28th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

# 18
Ulric Neisser

1928 - 2012 (84 years)

#8851 person's overall influence

Ulric Gustav Neisser was a German-born American psychologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been referred to as the "father of cognitive psychology". Neisser researched and wrote about perception and memory. He posited that a person's mental processes could be measured and subsequently analyzed. In 1967, Neisser published Cognitive Psychology, which he later said was considered an attack on behaviorist psychological paradigms. Cognitive Psychology brought Neisser instant fame and recognition in the field of psychology. While Cognitive Psychology was considered uncon

Erich Fromm
# 19
Erich Fromm

1900 - 1980 (80 years)

#792 person's overall influence

Erich Seligmann Fromm was a social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was a German Jew who fled the Nazi regime and settled in the US. He was one of the Founders of The William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology in New York City and was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.

Daniel Dennett
# 20
Daniel Dennett

1942 - Present (79 years)

#171 person's overall influence

Currently appointed as the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University (and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies) Daniel Dennett is a philosopher concerned with questions of the mind and cognitive science, and is colloquially known as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism.” As an undergraduate, Dennett studied at Wesleyan University and Harvard University before earning his PhD in philosophy at Oxford University in 1965.

Albert Ellis
# 21
Albert Ellis

1913 - 2007 (94 years)

#9601 person's overall influence

Albert Ellis was an American psychologist who in 1955 developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy . He held MA and PhD degrees in clinical psychology from Columbia University and the American Board of Professional Psychology . He also founded and was the President of the New York City-based Albert Ellis Institute for decades. He is generally considered to be one of the originators of the cognitive revolutionary paradigm shift in psychotherapy and an early proponent of cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Michel Foucault
# 22
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

Robert Sternberg
# 23
Robert Sternberg

1949 - Present (72 years)

#1784 person's overall influence

Robert Sternberg currently holds the title of Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. Previously, he has held professorial and administrative roles at the University of Wyoming, Oklahoma State University, Tufts University, and Yale University. Additionally, Sternberg is a former president of the American Psychological Association. Sternberg earned his BA in psychology at Yale, and his Ph.D. at Stanford in 1975.

Aaron T. Beck
# 24
Aaron T. Beck

1921 - Present (100 years)

#11245 person's overall influence

Aaron Temkin Beck is an American psychiatrist who is professor emeritus in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He is regarded as the father of both cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. His pioneering theories are widely used in the treatment of clinical depression and various anxiety disorders. Beck also developed self-report measures of depression and anxiety, notably the Beck Depression Inventory which became one of the most widely used instruments for measuring depression severity. In 1994, he and his daughter, psychologist Judith S. Beck, founde

# 25
Jerome Kagan

1929 - Present (92 years)

#10090 person's overall influence

Jerome Kagan is an American psychologist, and Daniel and Amy Starch Research Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Harvard University, and co-faculty at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He is one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology.

John Bowlby
# 26
John Bowlby

1907 - 1990 (83 years)

#1873 person's overall influence

Edward John Mostyn Bowlby, CBE, FRCP, FRCPsych was a British psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Bowlby as the 49th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Christopher French
# 27
Christopher French

1956 - Present (65 years)

#9390 person's overall influence

Christopher French is a British psychologist who specializes in the study of the paranormal, referring to events depicted in popular culture and lore that do not have normal or scientific explanations. French is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, as well as head of the University of London’s Anomalistic psychology research unit.

Susan Fiske
# 28
Susan Fiske

1952 - Present (69 years)

#9052 person's overall influence

Susan Tufts Fiske currently holds the position of Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Fiske has previously held positions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Harvard University. Fiske completed her undergraduate studies and Ph.D. at Harvard in 1978.

Daniel Goleman
# 29
Daniel Goleman

1946 - Present (75 years)

#7676 person's overall influence

Daniel Goleman is an author and science journalist. For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences. His 1995 book Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times Best Seller list for a year-and-a-half, a best-seller in many countries, and is in print worldwide in 40 languages. Apart from his books on emotional intelligence, Goleman has written books on topics including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis, and the Dalai Lama’s vision for the future.

# 30
Alan E. Kazdin

1945 - Present (76 years)

#28767 person's overall influence

Alan Edward Kazdin is the John M. Musser research professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University. He is a Sterling Professor emeritus and was the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. Kazdin's research has focused primarily on the treatment of aggressive and antisocial behavior in children.

Viktor Frankl
# 31
Viktor Frankl

1905 - 1997 (92 years)

#2430 person's overall influence

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. A Holocaust survivor, he was the founder of logotherapy - a meaning-centered school of psychotherapy, considered the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy - following the theories developed by Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. Logotherapy is part of existential and humanistic psychology theories. He is the author of over 39 books; he is most noted for his best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps.

Richard Herrnstein
# 32
Richard Herrnstein

1930 - 1994 (64 years)

#1189 person's overall influence

Richard Julius Herrnstein was an American psychologist at Harvard University. He was an active researcher in animal learning in the Skinnerian tradition. Herrnstein was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology until his death, and previously chaired the Harvard Department of Psychology for five years. With political scientist Charles Murray, he co-wrote The Bell Curve, a controversial 1994 book on human intelligence. He was one of the founders of the Society for Quantitative Analysis of Behavior.

# 33
John Bargh

1955 - Present (66 years)

#22272 person's overall influence

John Bargh currently holds the titles of James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology and Professor of Management at Yale University. He is also the founder of the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation (ACME) Laboratory at Yale. Previously, Bargh worked at New York University. Bargh completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
# 34
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

1934 - Present (87 years)

#2423 person's overall influence

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian-American Psychologist who is currently the Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University. Before Claremont, Csikszentmihalyi was Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago as well as the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College. Csikszentmihalyi coined the now well-known term “flow,” referring to the intense state of focus humans achieve when actively engaged in interesting tasks. Mihaly received his B.A. and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago before becoming a p...

Philip Zimbardo
# 35
Philip Zimbardo

1933 - Present (88 years)

#5227 person's overall influence

Philip Zimbardo holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, and previously taught at Columbia University, New York University, and Yale University. In 1954, Zimbardo earned his BA in psychology, sociology, and anthropology from Brooklyn College, and completed his MS and Ph.D. in psychology at Yale University in 1959.

Jack Kornfield
# 36
Jack Kornfield

1945 - Present (76 years)

#21510 person's overall influence

Jack Kornfield is a bestselling American author and teacher in the vipassana movement in American Theravada Buddhism. He trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India, first as a student of the Thai forest master Ajahn Chah and Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. He has taught meditation worldwide since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West. In 1975, he co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, and subsequently in 1987, Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California....

Daniel Gilbert
# 37
Daniel Gilbert

1957 - Present (64 years)

#12917 person's overall influence

Daniel Todd Gilbert currently holds the title of Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Previously, Gilbert worked at the University of Texas at Austin. Gilbert completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Denver, and earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University in 1985.

# 38
Kenneth J. Gergen

1934 - Present (87 years)

#23318 person's overall influence

Kenneth J. Gergen is an American social psychologist and emeritus professor at Swarthmore College. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and his PhD from Duke University .

Ed Diener
# 39
Ed Diener

1946 - Present (75 years)

#16883 person's overall influence

Currently, Ed Diener is everywhere, holding professor of psychology spots at the University of Utah and the University of Virginia, as well as being a senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. On top of that, he holds the title of Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois. Diener earned his BA in psychology from California State University at Fresno in 1968, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1974. Though he retired from teaching in 2008, Diener came back to the game in 2015.

Charles Tart
# 40
Charles Tart

1937 - Present (84 years)

#11594 person's overall influence

Charles T. Tart is an American psychologist and parapsychologist known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness , as one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology, and for his research in parapsychology.

Stanley Milgram
# 41
Stanley Milgram

1933 - 1984 (51 years)

#2898 person's overall influence

Stanley Milgram was an American social psychologist, best known for his controversial experiments on obedience conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale.

Howard Gardner
# 42
Howard Gardner

1943 - Present (78 years)

#1572 person's overall influence

Howard Gardner was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1943. He grew up in a household where education was highly valued, and as a result, he grew up a curious and highly motivated student. Gardner completed his BA in social relations at Harvard in 1965, a master’s at the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology at Harvard, where he studied under such luminaries as Erik Erikson and Jerome Bruner. Having spent his entire career advancing our understanding of teaching and learning, Howard Gardner currently holds the title of the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Research Pr

Roy Baumeister
# 43
Roy Baumeister

1953 - Present (68 years)

#10116 person's overall influence

Roy Baumeister currently holds the title of Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He previously has held professorial roles at Florida State University and Case Western Reserve University. Baumeister earned his BA at Princeton University and his MA from Duke University, before returning to Princeton for his Ph.D.

James Alcock
# 44
James Alcock

1942 - Present (79 years)

#7276 person's overall influence

James Alcock is a skeptic, a Canadian educator, and Professor of Psychology at York University in Canada. Alcock is most known for his critical stance towards parapsychology, the study of psychic phenomena like extrasensory perception (telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and psychometry), as well as other purported unexplained reports like near death experiences. Alcock received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics at McGill University, and his Ph.D. at McMaster University.

Ellen Langer
# 45
Ellen Langer

1947 - Present (74 years)

#20271 person's overall influence

Ellen Jane Langer is a professor of psychology at Harvard University; in 1981, she became the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard. Langer studies the illusion of control, decision-making, aging, and mindfulness theory. Her most influential work is Counterclockwise, published in 2009, which answers the questions of aging from her extensive research, and increased interest in the particulars of aging across the nation.

Thomas Szasz
# 46
Thomas Szasz

1920 - 2012 (92 years)

#2740 person's overall influence

Thomas Stephen Szasz was a Hungarian-American academic, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He served for most of his career as professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. A distinguished lifetime fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a life member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, he was best known as a social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, as what he saw as the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as scientism. His books The Myth of Mental Illness and Th...

Daryl Bem
# 47
Daryl Bem

1938 - Present (83 years)

#8955 person's overall influence

Daryl Bem holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Cornell University. Previously, Bem has held professorial roles at Stanford University, Harvard University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Bem was initially a student of physics, and earned his BA in the field at Reed College. Bem soon went to MIT, but decided to change his career path to psychology after becoming inspired by the Civil Rights Movement.

# 48
Daniel Wegner

1948 - 2013 (65 years)

#17335 person's overall influence

Daniel Merton Wegner was an American social psychologist. He was a professor of psychology at Harvard University and a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was known for applying experimental psychology to the topics of mental control and conscious will, and for originating the study of transactive memory and action identification. In The Illusion of Conscious Will and other works, he argued that the human sense of free will is an illusion.

Mark Epstein
# 49
Mark Epstein

1953 - Present (68 years)

#33525 person's overall influence

Mark Epstein is an American author and psychotherapist who integrates Buddha's teachings with Sigmund Freud's approaches to trauma. He often writes about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy.

Amos Tversky
# 50
Amos Tversky

1937 - 1996 (59 years)

#2051 person's overall influence

Amos Nathan Tversky was an Israeli cognitive and mathematical psychologist, a student of cognitive science, a collaborator of Daniel Kahneman, and a key figure in the discovery of systematic human cognitive bias and handling of risk.