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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 2000 – 2020

Martin Seligman
# 1
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.

Steven Pinker
# 2
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.

Daniel Kahneman
# 3
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

Noam Chomsky
# 4
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.

Girishwar Misra
# 5
Girishwar Misra

1951 - Present (70 years)

#45596 person's overall influence

Girishwar Misra is one of the leaders in the emerging field of Indian psychology, where he serves currently as Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, India. Prior to his role as Vice Chancellor, Misra was a Fulbright Fellow at Swarthmore College and at the University of Michigan. He received his MA and Ph.D. in Psychology in Gorakhpur University in India.

Christopher French
# 6
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.

# 7
Nirbhay N. Singh
#58959 person's overall influence

Nirbhay N. Singh is a psychologist who has been a professor at many universities and has served as editor-in-chief of several psychology journals, and founding editor of multiple journals that include Mindfulness. Singh received graduate education in New Zealand and has held academic posts in the United States.

# 8
Koneru Ramakrishna Rao

1932 - Present (89 years)

#53908 person's overall influence

Koneru Ramakrishna Rao is a philosopher, psychologist, parapsychologist, educationist, teacher, researcher and administrator. The Government of India awarded him the civilian honour of Padma Shri in 2011.

Daniel Dennett
# 9
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.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
# 10
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...

Susan Fiske
# 11
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.

Jonathan Haidt
# 12
Jonathan Haidt

1963 - Present (58 years)

#6035 person's overall influence

Jonathan David Haidt currently holds the title of Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University. Previously, Haidt has held positions at Princeton University, and the University of Virginia. Additionally Haidt is the co-founder of the non-profit group Heterodox Academy. In 1985, Haidt earned his BA in philosophy from Yale University, and completed his Ph.D. in psychology in 1992 at the University of Pennsylvania.

# 13
Christopher Peterson

1950 - 2012 (62 years)

#26263 person's overall influence

Christopher Peterson was the Arthur F. Thurnau professor of psychology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the former chair of the clinical psychology area. He was science director of the VIA Institute on Character, and co-author of Character Strengths and Virtues for the classification of character strengths. He was a member of the Positive Psychology Steering Committee and the International Positive Psychology Association board of directors, a senior fellow at the Positive Psychology Center and a lecturer for the Master of Applied Positive Psy

Barbara Fredrickson
# 14
Barbara Fredrickson

1964 - Present (57 years)

#22394 person's overall influence

Barbara Fredrickson currently holds the title of Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is the director of the social psychology program. Additionally, she is on the faculty of the Authentic Happiness program at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, and President of the International Positive Psychology Association. Previously, she held positions at Duke University and the University of Michigan. Fredrickson completed her undergraduate studies at Carleton

David Chalmers
# 15
David Chalmers

1966 - Present (55 years)

#1702 person's overall influence

David Chalmers serves currently as Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University, as well as University Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science, and co-Director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness (with philosopher Ned Block) at New York University. One of the world’s most influential philosophers on the problem of consciousness, Chalmers has a degree in pure mathematics from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and received his Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science from Indiana University Bloomingt...

Albert Bandura
# 16
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.

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.

Aaron T. Beck
# 18
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

# 19
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.

Jordan Peterson
# 20
Jordan Peterson

1962 - Present (59 years)

#6555 person's overall influence

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist. He is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada. Peterson became a household name in Canada, the United States, and indeed around the world for his invocation of free speech rights regarding the use of preferred pronouns by students at the University of Toronto. He received his bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Alberta, and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from McGill University.

Roy Baumeister
# 21
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.

# 22
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.

# 23
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.

Daniel Gilbert
# 24
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.

James Alcock
# 25
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.

Philip Zimbardo
# 26
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.

Ed Diener
# 27
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.

Richard Wiseman
# 28
Richard Wiseman

1966 - Present (55 years)

#6282 person's overall influence

Wiseman is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Wiseman is known for his insightful and often humorous commentary on human psychology, and his books have been translated into over 30 languages. He is also (along with Chris French and James Alcock) a critic of parapsychology, which he counts as pseudoscience. He received a degree in Psychology from University College London and later received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Howard Gardner
# 29
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

Sonja Lyubomirsky
# 30
Sonja Lyubomirsky

1967 - Present (54 years)

#25383 person's overall influence

Sonja Lyubomirsky is an American professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of the bestseller The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, a book of strategies backed by scientific research that can be used to increase happiness.

Stanislav Grof
# 31
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.

# 32
Yang Kuo-shu

1932 - 2018 (86 years)

#37780 person's overall influence

Yang Kuo-shu was a Chinese psychologist and political activist in Taiwan, considered the founder of indigenized Chinese psychology. He served as professor and Chair of the Psychology Department of National Taiwan University. He became Vice-President of Academic Sinica in 1996, and was elected as an academician in 1998. He was an advocate for political freedom and democracy during the Martial Law era, and was the founding president of the Taipei Society.

Robert Sternberg
# 33
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.

Gary Marcus
# 34
Gary Marcus

1970 - Present (51 years)

#4605 person's overall influence

Gary F. Marcus is an American scientist, author, and entrepreneur who is a professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University and was founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence, a machine learning company later acquired by Uber.

James C. Kaufman
# 35
James C. Kaufman

1974 - Present (47 years)

#28739 person's overall influence

James C. Kaufman is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, and previously worked at California State University, San Bernardino. Kaufman completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, and earned his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Yale University.

Paul Bloom
# 36
Paul Bloom

1963 - Present (58 years)

#6164 person's overall influence

Paul Bloom currently holds the title of Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. A native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Paul Bloom earned his BA in psychology at McGill University in 1985. He then completed his PhD in cognitive psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990. Prior to his role at Yale, Bloom taught at the University of Arizona.

John O'Keefe
# 37
John O'Keefe

2008 - Present (13 years)

#10589 person's overall influence

John O'Keefe, is an American-British neuroscientist, psychologist and a professor at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour and the Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at University College London. He discovered place cells in the hippocampus, and that they show a specific kind of temporal coding in the form of theta phase precession. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014, together with May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser; he has received several other awards. He has worked at the University College London for his entire career, b...

Daniel Goleman
# 38
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.

Dan Sperber
# 39
Dan Sperber

1942 - Present (79 years)

#10914 person's overall influence

Dan Sperber is a French social and cognitive scientist. His most influential work has been in the fields of cognitive anthropology and linguistic pragmatics: developing, with British psychologist Deirdre Wilson, relevance theory in the latter; and an approach to cultural evolution known as the epidemiology of representations in the former. Sperber currently holds the positions of Directeur de Recherche émérite at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Director of the International Cognition and Culture Institute.

# 40
Pascal Boyer
#11767 person's overall influence

Pascal Robert Boyer is a French-American cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, mostly known for his work in the cognitive science of religion. He taught at the University of Cambridge for eight years, before taking up the position of Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches classes on evolutionary psychology and anthropology. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Lyon, France. He studied philosophy and anthropology at Unive...

# 41
Corey Keyes

1950 - Present (71 years)

#41204 person's overall influence

Corey Keyes is an American sociologist and psychologist. He is known for his work with positive psychology. Keyes currently teaches at Emory University in Georgia.

Daryl Bem
# 42
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.

Paul Ekman
# 43
Paul Ekman

1930 - Present (91 years)

#4950 person's overall influence

Paul Ekman holds the title of Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Francisco. He is the founder of the Paul Ekman Group. Previously, Ekman worked as a research associate at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital. Ekman completed his undergraduate studies at New York University in 1954, and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Adelphi University in 1958. Shortly thereafter, Ekman was drafted into the Army.

# 44
Diederik A. Stapel

1966 - Present (55 years)

#58690 person's overall influence

Diederik Alexander Stapel is a Dutch former professor of social psychology at Tilburg University. In 2011 Tilburg University suspended Stapel for fabricating and manipulating data for his research publications. This scientific misconduct took place over a number of years and affected dozens of his publications. , Stapel has had 58 of these publications retracted.

# 45
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.

Rodney L. Lowman
# 46
Rodney L. Lowman

1949 - Present (72 years)

#63342 person's overall influence

Rodney L. Lowman is president of Lowman & Richardson, a consulting psychology service in San Diego, California, as well as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Alliant International University. Lowman first earned his BS in business in 1969 at Oklahoma State University before earning a BA in psychology at the University of Oklahoma in 1973. He then earned an MA and PhD in industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Michigan in 1979.

David Buss
# 47
David Buss

1953 - Present (68 years)

#4145 person's overall influence

David Buss currently holds the title of professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, he held positions at Harvard University and the University of Michigan. Buss completed his Ph.D. in 1981 at the University of California Berkeley.

Edward de Bono
# 48
Edward de Bono

1933 - Present (88 years)

#9883 person's overall influence

Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono is a Maltese physician, psychologist, author, inventor, philosopher and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools.

Hubert Hermans
# 49
Hubert Hermans

1937 - Present (84 years)

#65258 person's overall influence

Hubert J.M. Hermans is a Dutch psychologist and Emeritus Professor at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, internationally known as the creator of dialogical self theory.

Jean Decety
# 50
Jean Decety

1960 - Present (61 years)

#22277 person's overall influence

Jean Decety is an American and French neuroscientist who is currently the Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. His area of specialty is in cognitive neuroscience and psychology, including social, affective, and developmental neuroscience. Decety received three advanced degrees in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and biomedical engineering from Université Claude Bernard in France. He also received his Ph.D. from Bernard.