R. Duncan Luce

May 16, 1925 – April 23, 2012

Brief Biography

Robert Duncan Luce was a renowned figure in mathematical psychology whose work in operations research included decision theory and choice behavior. Luce studied Aeronautical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology prior to pursuing mathematics at the graduate level. He received his PhD under the super of Irvin S. Cohen in 1950.  

For his first three postdoctoral years, Luce co-directed the Group Networks Laboratory at MIT. In 1953, he was appointed Managing Director of the Behavioral Models Project at Columbia University, where he concurrently taught courses on mathematical statistics and sociology as an assistant professor. At Columbia, he worked with influential decision scientist Howard Raiffa. The pair co-authoredGames and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey(1957), the publication that launched their careers into the forefront of decision analysis. Luce left Columbia for Harvard, though shortly afterward joined the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology.

During this period, Luce continued his work in mathematical psychology, publishing three more books between 1959 and 1963. Handbook of Mathematical Psychology (1963), co-edited with Robert R. Bush and Eugene Galaner, consisted of twenty-one essays that surveyed mathematical thinking in five roughly-delineated areas of psychology: the psychophysics of perception, discrimination and choice, stochastic learning theory, mathematical methods, psycholinguistics, and social psychology. Luce left UPenn to accept a visiting position at the Institute for Advanced Study prior to joining the faculty of Social Science at the University of California, Irvine in 1972. Two years earlier, the American Psychological Association honored him with the APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions.

In probability theory, Luce formulated the so-called Luce’s choice axiom, in his 1959 Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis. The axiom formalized the principle that additional options should not affect the probability of selecting one item over another. The publication effectively introduced graph-theoretic models into the social sciences and coined the term “clique” for a complete subgraph in graph theory.

From 1976 to 2000, Luce held a variety of positions with professional service organizations. He was President of both the Society of Mathematical Psychology (1979) and of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences (1988-1991). He also chaired the Psychology Sections of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences, into which he was elected in 1972. In 2003, he was awarded the Frank P. Ramsey Medal by the Decision Analysis Society of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for career contributions to decision analysis.

Luce returned to Harvard as the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Cognitive Science. From 1981 to 1984, he chaired the university’s Department of Psychology and Social Relations. Luce retired from Harvard in 1988 but moved back to Irvine, where he continued his career as a Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Director of the Irvine Research Unit in Mathematical Behavioral Science. At eighty-seven years old, he passed away after a brief illness.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for R. Duncan Luce


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS 1945

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD 1950 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

  • Mathematical Psychology 

Memoirs and Autobiographies


R. Duncan Luce Vita


Los Angeles Times (2012) R. Duncan Luce dies at 87; UC Irvine mathematical psychologist. August 23. (link


R. Duncan Luce Papers. MS.F.028. University of California Irvine:Department of Special Collections and Archives. Irvine, CA. (link

Awards and Honors

American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1966

American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award 1970

National Academy of Sciences 1972

American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award 2001

Frank P. Ramsey Medal 2003

National Medal of Science 2003

Eastern Psychology Association Fellow 2010

Econometric Society Fellow 2010

Professional Service

American Association for the Advancement of Science Psychology Section, Chair 1999-2000

Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, President 1988-1991, Vice President 1984-1987

National Academy of Sciences Psychology Section, Chairman 1980-1983

Society for Mathematical Psychology, President 1979

Psychometric Society, President 1976-1977

Selected Publications

Luce R. D. & Raiffa H. (1957) Games and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Luce R. D. (1959) Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Luce R. D., ed. (1960) Developments in Mathematical Psychology: Information, Learning, Tracking. Free Press: Glencoe, IL.

Bush R. R., Galanter E., & Luce R. D., eds. (1963) Handbook of Mathematical Psychology, Vols. 1 & 2. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Krantz D. H., Luce R. D., Suppes P., & Tversky A. (1971) Foundations of Measurement, Volume I. Academic Press: Boston.

Luce R. D. (1986) Response Times. Oxford University Press: New York.

Krantz D. H., Luce R. D., Suppes P., & Tversky A. (1989) Foundations of Measurement, Volume II. Academy Press: Boston.

Krantz D. H., Luce R. D., Suppes P., & Tversky A. (1990) Foundations of Measurement, Volume III. Academy Press: Boston.

Luce R. D. (1993) Sound and Hearing. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ.

Luce R. D. (2000) Utility of Gains and Losses: Measurement-Theoretical and Experimental Approaches. Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ.