Bruce Bridgeman


A tribute to Bruce and his work is scheduled for
Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 2:00-5:30 pm. 

The event will be hosted at UC Santa Cruz, in the College Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room.

To RSVP please click HERE.

Bruce Bridgeman was tragically killed in an accident on July 10, 2016 while in Taipei.

Bruce was a UC Santa Cruz professor of psychology and psychobiology and an internationally renowned researcher on spatial orientation and neuroscience.

Bridgeman joined UC Santa Cruz in 1973 and remained with UCSC throughout his career. Though an emeriti professor, Bridgeman was reappointed to teach courses in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, the subject of one of his textbooks, and had several active experiments running in his lab at the time of his death.  “Bruce remained a vital member of the psychology department,” said professor and department chair Campbell Leaper.  “He maintained a very productive research program that included several UCSC students as research assistants.” Read full article...


Presentation on Bruce’s Career
as delivered at the 2016 APA conference


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Lacey Okonski

I felt a great sense of sadness when I learned of Bruce Bridgeman’s passing.  Bruce was the type of intellectual who could put aside theoretical differences, as was often the case for us, and still give his full consideration to support your research or work.  He had an incredible mind as was evidenced by the sheer amount of content he presented in his behavioral neuroscience class.  Beyond his academic greatness, Bruce was also very kind with an amazing sense of humor.  I will always remember him fondly whizzing by me on his bicycle with incredible speed (and chuckling after he would successfully startle me), making South Park jokes at colloquium, casually hanging out in his lab talking about language research, and celebrating the end of the year with Martinelli’s sparkling cider at the Bridgeman home with Sabine and other labmates.  When Bob Bjork came to visit the campus and review our department I remember recounting to him how welcoming the professors at UCSC can be and in particular telling him of how earlier in the day Bruce helped me find some references in his office and even let me borrow a text on the subject marking the relevant pages.  Just before Bruce passed, we had a very fun conversation on Phil Tseng’s facebook thread where ultimately we all joked that Bruce was a Cognitive Lord and I confirmed that this was the case.  I am so glad we got to have this one last joke together and that I was able to pay that one last tribute to a man who I respect so much.  His memorial falls on my birthday but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Rest in Peace Bruce!

Kathy Miller

Bruce’s untimely death leaves a hole in all of our lives. It also leaves an empty space in his driveway where he played with his grandkids. He absolutely radiated with joy and pride when he was with them.

Wolfgang Prinz – Leipzig, Germany

I have longstanding good memories of meeting Bruce and collaborating with him – first in a study year at the Center of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Bielefeld in the mid 80s and then, a decade later, at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich where Bruce visited us regularly and served as a Scientific Advisor for the Institute. The last time I saw him was again in Bielefeld at a conference on occasion of the 25th anniversary of our former study year.

What I liked so much about Bruce’s science was the classical style of his approach. As concerns his research agenda, he was very much committed to classical problems of perception and action and the legacy of authorities like Helmholtz, von Holst and Gibson, rather than tackling novel issues in the field that may be easier to solve. As concerns his style of doing science, he was likewise committed to the classical attitude of friendly skepticism – skeptical reflections and discussions of theoretically motivated opinions rather than mere collection of data and empirically substantiated facts.

As I see it, Bruce was, on a worldwide scale, certainly one of the most prominent scholars engaged in the study of relationships between perception and action in the spatial domain. Moreover, he had the talent to practice his science and its in-built skepticism in an extremely friendly and constructive manner so that talking to him was always a pleasurable intellectual experience. I am sure that his memory will be enduring.


A conference at Holzhausen, Bavaria, Germany, August 1996

A conference at Holzhausen, Bavaria, Germany, August 1996


Discussion at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research - Munich, November 1999

Discussion at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research – Munich, November 1999


Center of Interdisciplinary Research, University of Bielefeld, June 2010

Center of Interdisciplinary Research, University of Bielefeld, June 2010

Elizabeth Stark

Bruce did a post-doc with my father at UC Berkeley, when I was very little, and in the years I was growing up, we visited the Bridgemans; I have happy memories of this time. My father was enormously pleased by Bruce’s professional success and his brilliance, as well as by his personal success-his wonderful family. I loved them. I remember playing with—and adoring—Natalie when she was little, remember Tess as a tiny baby, already full of personality and vigor. As we played, our parents talked and laughed in the bright, open living room of the Bridgemans’ house. I remember Bruce’s smile, his calm, solid presence, so complemented by and contented with Diane’s. When I graduated from UCSC, the Bridgemans’ generously hosted my graduation party. I have such a strong, visceral sense of Bruce—how his whole being expressed his good nature and good humor, his alert intelligence conscientiously applied. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.

Trevor Chen

As a prospective graduate student in the spring of 2001, I first met Professor Bruce Bridgeman during my visit to UC Santa Cruz. He kindly gave a presentation on the psychology of vision. During his lab tour, he showed me various fascinating illusions in visual and spatial perception before explaining the underlying principles of these phenomena. Afterwards, he talked to me about graduate school and research. His passion for science was inspiring.

Later that year, upon my arrival for the start of Fall Quarter, I attended an orientation followed by a gathering, during which Bruce sang with students. Others informed me that Professor Bridgeman and Professor Massaro, both renowned experts with decades of academic experience, would together teach my first graduate-level course in cognitive psychology. Awestruck by their accomplishments, I looked-up to them and wanted to become a professor like them. Bruce’s sense of humor helped create a relaxing atmosphere that made me less nervous.

Throughout the years, I enjoyed talking with learning from Professor Bridgeman. At colloquiums, seminars, classes, and office hours, he often had insightful and interesting comments. At times, he talked about educational policy or social issues. During lunches, he fondly recalled stories about his daughters using toy trucks to play conversation games, going to schools, and becoming lawyers. It was clear that Bruce was a very proud father.

Although Professor Bridgeman was not my advisor, he was willing to help me. For example, when I was examining research on singing behavior, he agreed to sing in the lab for my project. Also, he was on my dissertation committee, offering enlightening comments that improved my work. Moreover, Bruce provided in-depth knowledge on the history of science as well as academic wisdom in regards to the scientific community.

I never did become a professor; since graduating from UC Santa Cruz, I have been teaching high-school students. During my subsequent visits over the years, Professor Bridgeman shared reminiscences and conversations with me about various topics. Last year (in 2015), he was a guest speaker in my summer camp for high-school students. He could debunk myths and instill wonder at the same time. In his lab tour, he showed the same patience and enthusiasm as what I first witnessed back in 2001.

Following his presentation, we went to eat lunch on-campus, just like when I was in graduate school. Then, after Professor Bridgeman left on his bicycle, I took a good look back at the Psychology Department, one that he helped to build through his research, teaching, and service. My last image of Bruce was that of a smiling scientist who took the time to inspire high-school students. But beyond science, he also taught me the value of human kindness, something that could not be learned from any journal article or textbook.

Wendy Bartlett

Bruce was one special person! He always had that little smile and seemed amused and interested in what I was saying. He and Diane were always one of those special couples who truly loved and respected each other. I always felt part of their family, especially as they kindly let me stay in their apartment on campus at Santa Cruz when they were traveling. They were good friends of my daughter, Elizabeth Stark’s, father. And I would see Bruce at Elwin Marg’s annual conference for years. It was great keeping up with him in that way. It is hard to believe he is not there smiling, but my memory of that smile will last as long as I do! He is dearly missed.

Faye Crosby

Thinking of Bruce brings many very positive memories to mind.  Bruce was a very well-known scholar, and most of the memories concern our very collegial interactions within the department and beyond it at UCSC.  But some of the memories center on our interactions off the hill.  It was always a pleasure to encounter Bruce dressed up in his tuxedo, singing in the chorale.  How lovely to see Bruce and Diane at cultural events.

One particularly vivid memory speaks to Bruce’s commitment not just to our department or to his field but to the environment and future generations.  Bruce was an early adopter of the Prius because of its promise for clean energy.  When he learned that I was considering what car to purchase next, he and Diane came over in their Prius and offered to take me and my then-partner for a spin.  I had been leaning toward the purchase of a Prius (thanks to Bruce) but my partner was more resistant.  Bruce explained the advantages of the car, drove us around the block, and then put my partner behind the wheel.  She was convinced, and we bought a Prius.  Again and again I saw Bruce go out of his way to fulfill his civic obligations.  And although he occasionally muttered some dissatisfaction about shouldering a burden that others ignored, nine times out of ten he went about making the world a better place with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

Bruce’s tragic death has been a shock and a sadness.  I do and I will miss him.

Susie Land

I loved seeing Bruce running around with his grandkids at the end of the street and seeing him come back and forth from work on his bicycle.

Bob and Carol Phelps

Bruce and I were graduate students at Stanford in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Bruce was always calm, collected, but very enthusiastic about his research ideas. Many of them were “impossible” but somehow Bruce didn’t know that and made them work. I guess that’s why he’s been so successful in his career after graduate school.


My wife Carol and I got together socially with Bruce and Diane as often as busy graduate students could, which wasn’t much. But we really enjoyed one another and shared many interests, including the outdoors. We watched their blooming romance and would like to think we egged them on to get married. We stood up for them at their wedding and have some great photos to look back at to fondly remember those days.


After leaving graduate school, Bruce and I saw each other only a few times but somehow there was a strong connection which I never realized until now that Bruce is gone. In retrospect, he could easily have been the brother I never had.


Bob and Carol Phelps

Colleen and Ken Rand

My image of Bruce is of a wonderful tutor who helped me get through perception in graduate school. My undergraduate major was in anthropology and I had zero preparation for a graduate class. There is no question that without Bruce’s patience I would have had to take and retake that course.
Stanford also provided us with the chance to have “free” evenings with Bruce and Diane. The excitement and intensities of studies were enhanced by a lasting friendship.
Although distances have prevented visits (CA vs FL), we’ve kept in touch through holiday greetings (often delightful notes written by Natalie).
We truly regret the untimely death of a marvelous scientist and human being.
Colleen and Ken Rand