In memoriam: Allen Parducci, 97, influential cognitive psychologist and early pioneer of windsurfing

September 7, 2023 | UCLA Life Sciences


Allen Parducci, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology, died at his home in Pacific Palisades on Aug. 6.

Parducci, who joined the UCLA Department of Psychology in 1957, was professionally renowned for his “range-frequency” theory and foundational research that still provides a viable model for predicting how individuals might make a particular judgment — for example, pleasure versus pain — based on contextual relationships to their other experiences.

In 1995, he wrote “Happiness, Pleasure, and Judgment: The Contextual Theory and Its Applications,” a well-reviewed book that illustrates his predictive theory of happiness.

Among his colleagues, he is remembered with great fondness and respect.

Robert Bjork, distinguished research professor of psychology at UCLA, recalls, “Allen was regarded as a prominent researcher in Europe and the United States. He was also a super-popular teacher at UCLA who made research relevant to his students in a lively and humorous way.”

In 1965, Parducci became the first professor in the UCLA Department of Psychology to receive the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award.

“When my father was a young man teaching introductory psychology in Royce Hall, he had the largest class ever at UCLA,” said Parducci’s daughter Cynthia Parducci Kohrs. “I still run into former students from the 1960s and ’70s who remember him as a rock star.”

Outside of the academic sphere, Parducci was a champion sailor and an early pioneer of windsurfing. In addition to being among the first windsurfers to carve along the shores of Southern California — according to “Surfer Today,” Parducci also contributed a small-but-vital design addition to the “Original Windsurfer,” the prototype that helped launch the now internationally popular sport.

“His adventurous spirit led him to tour much of the U.S. and Europe by bicycle, and to surf all along the beaches of Southern California, including Catalina Island,” Bjork said. “Allen was one of the most unique individuals I have ever gotten to know.”

Ehtibar Dzhafarov, Parducci’s longtime colleague, said: “The world has lost a wonderful person and a deep thinker.”

Parducci is survived by his son, four daughters, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


This piece is also published in UCLA Newsroom.


Video: Watch this interview with Professor Parducci from the early days of windsurfing.

Excerpted from OriginalWindsurfer video “Windsurfing Footage at Malibu Yacht Club and Interview”


Allen Parducci (on far right) with members of the early windsurfing community in southern California.