The Spiker Memorial Lecture honors Charles W. Spiker's influential research and educational leadership in the field of experimental child psychology. Following Spiker's death in 1993, his students and colleagues endowed this memorial lectureship to honor all that he stood for. Its purpose is to bring to Iowa today's outstanding minds in developmental psychology.

Charles C. Spiker: A Pioneer in Experimental Child Psychology

The following paragraphs are adapted from the opening remarks by Joan Cantor for the Spiker Memorial Lecture on March 5, 1999.

Charles C. Spiker received his doctoral training at Iowa in the Child Welfare Research Station, later renamed the Institute of Child Behavior and Development. He immediately became a faculty member, later served as its Director for 11 years, eventually joined the Psychology faculty, and remained at Iowa for his entire career. He established one of the first doctoral programs in experimental child psychology, and began a brilliant research career directed at investigating the basic nature of learning in children. His ingenious experiments were done within the theoretical context of Hull-Spence theory. He made important extensions of the theory, quantified its axioms, and was highly successful in using parameter estimation techniques to fit theoretical learning curves to his data.

Spiker was not only a brilliant researcher, but also a remarkable teacher. His doctoral students populated the country with centers of excellence in experimental work with children. In 1986, Spiker was honored by his students and colleagues with a festschrift volume, a good deal of which was concerned with describing what Glenn Terrell called the "Spiker Effect" on student careers. Perhaps the best way to give you a sense of Spiker as a teacher is to provide some quotes from the volume:

“Classes were intellectual journeys guided by the clarity of Charlie’s analyses….The result was a kind of intellectual exhilaration that I always hoped I might impart to my students."

Frances Degen Horowitz

"Charlie is an inspiring teacher. He creates an atmosphere in which the student is caught up in the thrill of new theoretical ideas and the excitement of creating an empirical test of those ideas."

David Palermo

Spiker also served as an outstanding role model for young professors. Colleagues learned by his example that a good professor is both a teacher and a scholar, and is one who cooperates rather than competes with his colleagues. His love of teaching, coupled with his own unquenchable thirst for new knowledge, provided his students and colleagues with an unending opportunity to learn along with him, and to be a part of the intellectual excitement that surrounded him.

Glenn Terrell summed it up this way. “Simply stated, Charlie made all of us think. One way or another, he made us think about what we were saying and why, what we were writing and why, and even on occasion, what we were doing and why. He did this…within the bounds of honesty, to produce in his students a highly disciplined and thoughtful approach to psychology. Always the standards of performance for himself and for his students were extraordinarily high."

Spiker Memorial Lecturers

  • Yuko Munakata, PhD


    University of California, Davis
    "Context Matters: The Case of Developing Inhibitory Control"

  • Catherine Tamis-Lemonda, PhD


    New York University
    "The Mountain Stream of Learning and Development in Context"

  • Susan C. Levine, PhD


    Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor in Education and Society
    University of Chicago
    "Variations in Young Children's Math Knowledge: Cognitive and Emotional Factors"

  • Harlene Hayne, PhD


    Professor and Vice-Chancellor
    University of Otago
    "Out of the Mouths of Babes: Memory Development in Infants and Children"

  • Laurence Steinberg, PhD


    Distinguished University Professor of Psychology
    Temple University
    "Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence"

  • Charles Nelson, PhD


    Professor of Pediatrics
    Harvard Medical School
    "The Effects of Early Deprivation on Brain and Behavioral Development"

  • Nathan Fox, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    University of Maryland
    "Attention and Executive Control Moderate Infant Temperament in the Development of Anxiety"

  • Joan Stiles, PhD


    Professor of Cognitive Science
    University of California-San Diego
    "Neural Plasticity and Cognitive Development: Insights from Children with Perinatal Brain Injury"

  • Susan Goldin-Meadow, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    University of Chicago
    "How Our Hands Help Us Think"

  • Robert Lickliter, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Florida International University
    "Development as Explanation: Phenotypic Canalization and Phenotypic Malleability Reconsidered"

  • Annette Karmiloff-Smith, PhD


    Professorial Research Fellow 
    Birkbeck College 
    University of London
    "Modules, Genes and Evolution: Insights from Developmental Disorders"

  • Jeff Elman, PhD


    Professor of Cognitive Science
    University of California, San Diego
    "On Dinosaur Bones and the Meaning of Words"

  • Stephen J. Suomi, PhD


    Chief, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology
    National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Health
    "How Gene x Environment Interactions Shape the Development of Emotional Regulation in Rhesus Monkeys."

  • Les Cohen, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    University of Texas
    "The Development of Infant Causal Perception: Theoretical Issues and Empirical Evidence"

  • Dedre Gentner, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Northwestern University
    "Analogical Learning"

  • Linda Smith, PhD


    Chancellor's Professor of Psychology
    Indiana University
    "Symbolic Play, Early Word Learning, and Shape"

  • Richard Aslin, PhD


    William R. Kenan Professor of Brain & Cognitive Sciences
    University of Rochester
    "Statistical Learning of Auditory and Visual Patterns by Human Infants, Adults, and Monkeys"

  • Megan Gunnar, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Institute of Child Development
    University of Minnesota
    "The Psychobiology of Stress in Human Development"

  • Judy DeLoache, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    University of Illinois
    "Becoming Symbol-Minded"

  • Kurt W. Fischer, PhD


    Professor of Human Development and Psychology
    Harvard University
    "The Dynamics of Cognitive and Brain Development"

  • Elizabeth Bates, PhD


    Professor of Cognitive Science
    University of California, San Diego
    "Rethinking innateness: How the brain gets organized for language and other complicated things"

  • Robert S. Siegler, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Carnegie-Mellon University
    "Microgenetic Studies of Cognitive Development"
    (Co-sponsored by the Sunleaf Lecture Fund)

  • Esther Thelen, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Indiana University
    "Origins of an Embodied Cognition: The Dynamics of Moving, Perceiving, and Thinking in Infancy"

  • Sheldon H. White, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Harvard University
    "A politics of science for psychology"

  • Lewis P. Lipsitt, PhD


    Professor of Psychology
    Brown University
    "Advances in the Study of Infant Behavior and Development: A Hawkeye View"