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Molly Potter (born Mary C. Potter) is an American psychologist and Emeritus Professor of cognitive science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Society of Experimental Psychologists.[1][2][3]

Mary C. Potter
Other namesMolly Potter
Alma materSwarthmore College
Harvard University
Known forRapid serial visual presentation
Spouse(s)David Potter (1952-2019)
AwardsFellow, American Psychological Association
Fellow, Association for Psychological Science
Fellow, Cognitive Science Society
Fellow, Society of Experimental Psychologists
Speaker, Psychonomic Society (2006)
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisDecision-making in a psychophysical situation (1961)
Doctoral advisorJerome Bruner
Doctoral studentsNancy Kanwisher
Daphne Bavelier
William Marslen-Wilson
InfluencedMary C. Potter Award (from Women in Cognitive Science)


Potter was among the scientists who discovered and initially studied Patient HM. Potter's research and the classes she teaches at MIT focus on experimental methods to study human cognition, thereby revealing the implicit data structures and algorithms used by the human brain.


Potter was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1930.[4] Her father was a university administrator at the American University of Beirut and her mother was a nurse. In 1941, her family moved to Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada during WWII. She returned to Beirut for 10th grade and then spent two years of high school at Northfield Mount Herman School. She then attended Swarthmore College for her BA in psychology, and met her husband David. After graduating in 1952, she attended Harvard University for her PhD (then Radcliffe College). She received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 1956 and spent two years at University College London while her husband was a postdoctoral researcher. She completed her thesis in 1961, and continued as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard until 1967 when she accepted a full-time position at MIT.[5] In 2017 she received the Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Experimental Psychologists "for her ground-breaking and impactful discoveries about the human mind's ability to rapidly extract meaning from words, images and visual scenes".[6]


  1. ^ "Fellows". The Society of Experimental Psychologists. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Fellows". Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  3. ^ "APS Fellows". Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  4. ^ Fang, Emily (August 2014). "Molly Potter". Woods Hole Museum.
  5. ^ "NSF GRFP Recipient Mary C. Potter" (PDF). NSF.
  6. ^ "Recent Awardees and Citations". The Society of Experimental Psychologists.