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Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D.


Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook, now in its 8th edition, which brings an evolutionary perspective to the entire field. His recent research focuses on the roles of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn (Basic Books). His research includes surveys of grown unschoolers and graduates of a school designed for Self-Directed Education. He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine. His research findings have led him to become an advocate of Self-Directed Education. He is a founding member and president of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education.

Specific focus and areas of expertise:

• The biological foundations of Self-Directed Education (children’s instincts to learn)
• Empirical evidence for the success of Self-Directed Education
• Conditions that optimize children’s abilities to educate themselves
• The roles of play in children’s intellectual, social, and emotional development
• The harmful consequences of our early academic training
• Psychopathology created by our current standard educational practices
Academic Positions:
The City University of New York. Adjunct Lecturer in Psychology, 1970-71.
The Rockefeller University. Guest Investigator in Neuroscience, 1972.
Boston College, Department of Psychology Faculty, 1972-present (retired early as full Professor with teaching and research duties in 2002; Research Professor 2002-present).

Administrative and Editorial Positions:
Director of the Rockefeller University Summer Biology Program for High-School Students, 1969. Director of NIMH-supported project to study the cue value of hormones, 1973-1975.
Chair of the Boston College Psychology Department, 1978-1980.
Director of National Science Foundation CAUSE project to develop laboratories and undergraduate practicum courses in psychology at Boston College, 1977-1981.
Director of the Graduate Program in Psychology at Boston College, 1987-1989.
Trustee, The Sudbury Valley School, Framingham, MA, 1984-2011.
Director of Undergraduate Program in Psychology at Boston College, 1993-1995.
Book Review Editor, Human Ethology Bulletin, 2002-2006.
Editorial Board, Journal of Social, Evolutionary & Cultural Psychology, 2008-2013.
Organizer (with David Sloan Wilson) of Empowering Neighborhoods and Restoring Outdoor Play:

Workshop and Symposium. Held in Binghamton, NY, Sept. 18-19, 2010. Guest Editor for Special Issue, American Journal of Play, 2010-2011. Editorial Board, Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 2013-present.
Advisory Board, Evolution Institute, 2009-present.

Advisory Board, Save Childhood Movement, 2013-present.
Organizer of team creating the website, 2012-present.
Co-editor of Ancestral Landscapes in Human Development. Oxford University Press, 2014.
President of Board of Directors, Alliance for Self-Directed Education, 2016 to present.
Editorial Advisory Board, American Journal of Play, 2017 to present.
Board of Directors, Let Grow Foundation, 2017 to present.
Director of Library Initiative Research Team, supported by Woodshouse Foundation grant. 2019-2020. 

Areas of Academic Specialization:
Evolutionary psychology. (Especially as applied to exploration and play.)
Developmental psychology and learning. (Intrinsic motivation, self-directed learning, and play).
General psychology. (Author of an introductory psychology textbook and associated instructional materials.) Behavioral biology. (Neurobiology of motivational mechanisms).

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