To The Nurture Assumption home page
To the No Two Alike home page

Last updated: 10/31/14

Author Profile


[photo of Judith Rich Harris]

Judith Rich Harris was born February 10, 1938, and spent the first part of her childhood moving around with her family from one part of the country to another. Her parents eventually settled in Tucson, Arizona, where the climate permitted her father (invalided by an autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis) to live in reasonable comfort. Harris graduated from Tucson High School and attended the University of Arizona and Brandeis University. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis in 1959 and was awarded the Lila Pearlman Prize in psychology. In 1961 she received a master's degree in psychology from Harvard University.

Harris has been married since 1961 to Charles S. Harris; they have two daughters, born in 1966 and 1969, and four grandchildren, born in 1996, 1999, 2001, and 2004. Before her children were born, Harris worked as a teaching assistant in psychology at MIT (1961-1962), and as a research assistant at Bolt Beranek and Newman (1962-1963) and the University of Pennsylvania (1963-1965).

Since 1977, Harris has suffered from a chronic autoimmune disorder called mixed connective tissue disease - an "overlap" combination of lupus and systemic sclerosis. This disorder can affect virtually any organ in the body. One of its more serious complications is a heart-lung condition known as pulmonary arterial hypertension. Harris was diagnosed with this condition in 2002.

While bedridden for a period of time in the late 1970s, Harris worked out a mathematical model of visual search; this work was published in two articles in the journal Perception and Psychophysics (see publication list below). From 1981 to 1994 she was a writer of textbooks in developmental psychology. She is senior author of The Child (Prentice-Hall, 1984, 1987, 1991) and Infant and Child (1992).

In 1994 Harris had begun work on a new development textbook, without a co-author this time, when she had an idea that led her to formulate a new theory of child development. She abandoned the textbook and instead wrote an article for the Psychological Review. Work on The Nurture Assumption began in 1995; the book was published three years later (Free Press, 1998). But the theory continued to evolve. The final version was presented in No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality (Norton, 2006).

Harris is a member of the Association for Psychological Science and Phi Beta Kappa. In 1998 she received the George A. Miller Award from the American Psychological Association for her article entitled "Where Is the Child's Environment? A Group Socialization Theory of Development" (Psychological Review, 1995). This award is given to an outstanding article, particularly one that makes linkages between diverse fields of psychology. In 2007 she received the David Horrobin Prize for Medical Theory for her article "Parental selection: a third selection process in the evolution of human hairlessness and skin color" (Medical Hypotheses, 2006).


Publications (print)

Stevens, S. S., & Harris, J. R. (1962). The scaling of subjective roughness and smoothness. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 489-494.

Morant, R. B., & Harris, J. R. (1965). Two different after-effects of exposure to visual tilts. American Journal of Psychology, 78, 218-226.

Swets, J. A., Harris, J. R., McElroy, L. S., & Rudloe, H. S. (1966). Computer-aided instruction in perceptual identification. Behavioral Science, 11, 98-104.

Irwin, F. W., Harris, A., & Harris, J. R. (1966). Comparisons of predictions of single random events with judgments of population bias. American Journal of Psychology, 79, 576-583.

Harris, J. R., Shaw, M. L., & Bates, M. (1979). Visual search in multicharacter arrays with and without gaps. Perception & Psychophysics, 26, 69-84.

Lanze, M., Weisstein, N., & Harris, J. R. (1982). Perceived depth vs. structural relevance in the object-superiority effect. Perception & Psychophysics, 31, 376-382.

Harris, J. R., & Harris, C. S. (1984). Through the looking glass: Rapid adaptation to right-left reversal of the visual field. In L. Spillman & B. R. Wooten (Eds.), Sensory Experience, Adaptation, and Perception: Festschrift for Ivo Kohler. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Harris, J. R., & Liebert, R. M. (1984). The Child: Development from Birth through Adolescence. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Harris, J. R., Shaw, M. L., & Altom, M. J. (1985). Serial position curves for reaction time and accuracy in visual search: Tests of a model of overlapping processing. Perception & Psychophysics, 38, 178-187.

Harris, J. R., & Liebert, R. M. (1987). The Child: Development from Birth through Adolescence (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Harris, J. R., & Liebert, R. M. (1991). The Child: A Contemporary View of Development (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Harris, J. R., & Liebert, R. M. (1992). Infant and Child: Development from Birth through Middle Childhood. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Harris, J. R. (1995). Where is the child's environment? A group socialization theory of development. Psychological Review, 102, 458-489.

Harris, J. R. (1997). Book review: The Sociology of Childhood, by W. A. Corsaro. Child Development Abstracts and Bibliography, 71(3), 83.

Harris, J. R. (1998). The nurture assumption: Why children turn out the way they do. New York: Free Press.

Harris, J. R. (1998, September 27). The value of nurture -- and of an open mind. Boston Globe, p. C3.

Harris, J. R. (1998, October 11). Nature or nurture: Parents have no effects on the way kids grow up. Syndicated op-ed, Scripps News Service.

Harris, J. R. (1998, November). Why children turn out the way they do. L.A. Parent, p. 66-67.

Harris, J. R. (1998). The trouble with assumptions (commentary on Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad). Psychological Inquiry, 9, p. 294-297.

Harris, J. R. (1999). How to succeed in childhood. The Wilson Quarterly, 23(1), p. 30-37.

Harris, J. R. (1999, April 25). Don't blame the parents; it's mainly the peers. Los Angeles Times, p. M5.

Harris, J. R. (1999). How many environments does a child have?   Harvard Education Letter, 15(3), 8.

Harris, J. R. (1999). Is it true that parenting has no influence on children's adult personalities? The author of The Nurture Assumption replies to Milton Spett. NJ-ACT Newsletter, Special Supplement, May issue.

Harris, J. R. (1999). How to succeed in childhood (reprint of Wilson Quarterly article). In S. J. Ceci & W. Williams (Eds.), The nature-nurture debate: The essential readings. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Harris, J. R. (2000). Parents have no lasting influence on the personality or intelligence of their children. In R. L Atkinson, R. C. Atkinson, E. E. Smith, D. J. Bem, & S. Nolen-Hoeksema. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology (13th ed.), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace. Also in: E. E. Smith, D. J. Bem, & S. Nolen-Hoeksema, Fundamentals of Psychology (1st ed.), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.

Harris, J. R. (2000). The outcome of parenting: What do we really know? (commentary on Lykken). Journal of Personality, 68(3), 625-637.

Harris, J. R. (2000). Context-specific learning, personality, and birth order. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 174-177.

Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, personality development, and the child's environments. Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 699-710.

Harris, J. R. (2000, May 24). Nurture assumptions (letter to the editor). BMJ British Medical Journal.

Harris, J. R. (2000, October). Neither nature nor nurture? (letter to the editor). Discover.

Harris, J. R. (2001). Where is the child's environment? A group socialization theory of development (reprinting of Psychological Review, 1995). In S. E. Hyman (Ed.), The Science of Mental Health, Vol. 7: Personality and personality disorder. New York: Routledge.

Harris, J. R. (2001). Where is the child's environment? A group socialization theory of development (abridged reprinting of Psychological Review, 1995). In T. Roberts et al. (Eds.), The Broadview anthology of expository prose. Broadview Press.

Harris, J. R. (2001). Don't blame your parents (interview). In R. Kick (Ed.), You are being lied to. New York: The Disinformation Company.

Harris, J. R. (2001, March 8). How Can We Tell Which Teen Will Kill? We Can't. Los Angeles Times, p. B11.

Harris, J. R. (2001, April 24). Day Care Isn't Boot Camp for Bullies. Los Angeles Times, p. B9.

Harris, J. R. (2002). Beyond the nurture assumption: Testing hypotheses about the child's environment. In J. G. Borkowski, S. L. Ramey, & M. Bristol-Power (Eds.), Parenting and the child's world: Influences on academic, intellectual, and socioemotional development. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Harris, J. R. (2002). Finding out what makes us the way we are: Developmental science in the twenty-first century. In J. Brockman (Ed.), The next fifty years. New York: Vintage.

Harris, J. R. (2002, June 14). Raquel, no accent (letter to the editor). New York Times.

Harris, J. R. (2002, September 26). Stories from home (letter to the editor). The [London] Times.

Harris, J. R. (2002, December 16). What parents can't do (letter to the editor). The New Yorker.

Harris, J. R. (2000, September). Personality and birth order: Explaining the differences between siblings (commentary on Townsend). Politics and the Life Sciences, 19, 160-163. (Published in February, 2004.)

Harris, J. R. (2004). The gift of solitude. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Curious minds: How a child becomes a scientist. New York: Pantheon Books. Published in UK as: When we were kids: How a child becomes a scientist. London: Jonathan Cape.

Harris, J. R. (2005). Social behavior and personality development: The role of experiences with siblings and with peers (pp. 245-270). In B. J. Ellis & D. F. Bjorklund (Eds.), Origins of the social mind. New York: Guilford Press.

Harris, J. R. (2005). Three selection processes were involved in human evolution. In J. Brockman (Ed.), What we believe but cannot prove: Today's leading thinkers on science in the age of certainty. London, UK: Free Press.

Harris, J. R. (2006). Are peers more important than parents during the process of development? Yes (reprint of Wilson Quarterly article). In A. M. Guest (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing views in lifespan development. Dubuque, Iowa: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.

Harris, J. R. (2006). Parental selection: A third selection process in the evolution of human hairlessness and skin color. Medical Hypotheses, 66, 1053-1059.

Rebollo, I., & Harris, J. R. (2006). Genes, ambientes e personalidade. In C. Flores-Mendoza & R. Colom (Eds.), Introdução à psicologia das diferenças individuais. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Artmed.

Harris, J. R. (2006). No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality. New York: W. W. Norton.

Rebollo, I., & Harris, J. R. (2008). Persoonlijkheid: onderzoek naar erfelijkheid met hulp van tweelingen. In D. Boomsma (Ed.), Tweelingonderzoek: Wat meerlingen vertellen over de mens. Amsterdam: VU Uitgerverij.

Harris, J. R. (2009). The nurture assumption: Why children turn out the way they do (2nd ed.). New York: Free Press.

Harris, J. R. (2009). How instrumental are parents in the development of their children? In S. Nolen-Hoeksema, B. Fredrickson, G. Loftus, & W. Wagenaar. Atkinson & Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology (15th ed.), Hampshire, UK: Wadsworth.

Harris, J. R. (2009). Birth order. In Richard A. Shweder et al. (Eds.), The Child: An encyclopedic companion (pp. 104-105). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harris, J. R. (2009). Attachment theory underestimates the child (commentary on target article by Marco Del Giudice). Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 32, p. 30.

Harris, J. R. (2011). Explaining individual differences in personality: Why we need a modular theory. In D. M. Buss & Patricia H. Hawley (Eds.), The evolution of personality and individual differences. Oxford University Press.

Harris, J. R. (2011). The power of the parent. Journal of Modern Wisdom, 1, 45-47.


Online Publications

Harris, J. R. (1995). Individual differences within human groups: Commentary on Caporael on group-selection. Psycoloquy, 6(40).

Harris, J. R. (1996). A defense of behavioral genetics by a non-behavioral geneticist: Reply to Caporael on group-selection. Psycoloquy, 7(13).

Harris, J. R. (1997, October). Challenging the nurture assumption (op-ed essay). The Psychology Place

Harris, J. R. (1998, June). How is personality formed? (commentary on an interview with Frank J. Sulloway). Edge.

Harris, J. R. & Kagan, J. (1998, October 28-November 21). The nature of nurture: parents or peers? (debate). Slate.

Harris, J. R. (1999, June). Children don't do things half way: a talk with Judith Rich Harris. Edge

Harris, J. R. (2001, May 20). Why are birth order effects dependent on context? http://judithrichharris.info/tna/birth-order/context.htm

Harris, J. R. (2001, September 3). Why can't birth order account for the differences between siblings? http://judithrichharris.info/tna/birth-order/sibdiff.htm

Harris, J. R. (2002, January 17). Why do people believe that birth order has important effects on personality? http://judithrichharris.info/tna/birth-order/believe.htm

Harris, J. R. (2002, May 22). The mystery of Born to Rebel: Sulloway's re-analysis of old birth order data http://judithrichharris.info/tna/birth-order/methods.htm

Harris, J. R. (2002, August 5). Summer postcard. Edge.

Rowe, D. C. & Harris, J. R. (2002, September 9). A gene-environment interaction in antisocial behavior?. http://judithrichharris.info/tna/roweharris.htm.

Harris, J. R. (2002, October 2). How many environments does a child have? (reprinting of Harvard Education Letter, May/June, 1999). Teachers.net Gazette.

Harris, J. R. et al. (2002, October 18-20). Discussion of Seligman/Pinker debate. Slate.

Harris, J. R. et al. (2002, December 10). Discussion of Landsburg essay. Slate.

Harris, J. R. (2007, October 5). The most important psychology experiment that's never been done: Switching the parents around Research Digest of The British Psychological Society.


Presentations

Rich, J. H., & Morant, R. B. (1960). A two-factor approach to the study of tilt after-effects. Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, New York.

Swets, J. A., Harris, J. R., McElroy, L. S., & Rudloe, H. (1963). Further experiments on learning to identify non-verbal sounds. Paper presented at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Harris, C. S., & Harris, J. R. (1965). Rapid adaptation to right-left reversal of the visual field. Paper presented at the meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Chicago.

Harris, C. S., Harris, J. R., & Karsch, C. W. (1966). Shifts in pointing "straight ahead" after adaptation to sideways-displacing prisms. Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Society, New York.

Harris, J. R., Shaw, M. L., & Bates, M. (1979). Visual search in multicharacter arrays with and without gaps. Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Society, Philadelphia.

Shaw, M. L., & Harris, J. R. (1981). A model of shared processing in visual search. Paper presented at the meeting of the Mathematical Psychology Association, Santa Barbara.

Harris, J. R. (1981). Serial position curves for multicharacter displays: Is processing serial, parallel, or overlapping? Paper presented at the meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Philadelphia.

Harris, J. R. (1998). Don't blame your parents: The nurture assumption on trial. Award address presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco. Full text posted on Gifts of Speech.

Harris, J. R. (1999). Beyond the nurture assumption: Testing hypotheses about the child's environment. Keynote address at Conference on Parenting and the Child's World: Multiple Influences on Intellectual and Social-Emotional Development, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda.

Harris, J. R. (2000). Research on Child Development: What We Can Learn from Medical Research. Invited paper presented at The Brookings Children's Roundtable Project, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC.




To The Nurture Assumption home page
To the No Two Alike home page

Back to top


Visits to this page: Visits to this page: