Stephen Ceci is a contemporary psychologist who studies intelligence and memory and has conducted extensive research into the validity of children's courtroom testimony.

Professional Life

Stephen J. Ceci is a scientist, author, lecturer, and clinical psychologist. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware in 1973 and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1975 with his master’s degree. He traveled to England and studied at the University of Exeter with Michael Howe, earning his PhD in 1978. 

Ceci is currently on staff at Cornell University as a psychologist. He has received numerous awards for his work in memory and intelligence, including the Lifetime Contribution Award from both the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. He also received the American Academy of Forensic Psychology’s Lifetime Distinguished Contribution Award and the James McKeen Cattell Award from the Association for Psychological Science. Ceci focuses his work on determining the validity of testimony cited by children in court proceedings, specifically in the area of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

Contribution to Psychology

Ceci has extensively studied children's competence to testify in court cases. Children frequently testify in custody disputes, child-abuse cases, and occasionally as witnesses in other litigation. Ceci examined several elements of children's testimony, including:

  • Competence—how, when, and whether children are competent to testify in court, including how to assess whether a child understands the difference between a truth and a lie.
  • Suggestibility—the tendency of young children to repeat things they have heard, even if those things are untrue. Children's memories can be altered fairly easily by suggestive statements. 
  • Confessions by coercion—many people can be induced to falsely confess to a crime, but children are particularly susceptible to this behavior. The influence of a strong authority figure or threats can cause children to inaccurately recall events or confess to things they did not do. 

Ceci is also interested in sex differences in participation in math and science and has developed several outreach programs designed to increase women's participation in these fields. His most recent book, The Mathematics of Sex, argues that women's underrepresentation is a combination of both biology and culture. Slight differences between boys and girls are exaggerated into significant disparities by cultural forces such as gender stereotypes, beliefs about women's abilities, and discrimination, according to Ceci.

Ceci participated in a task force sponsored by the American Psychological Association that published a report in response to the book The Bell Curve. This controversial book argued that race-based IQ differences are innate, rather than the result of environmental influences or testing errors. Ceci's bioecological theory of intelligence, by contrast, emphasizes the role of culture in shaping intelligence and argues that the intellectual capacities of people in developing countries are frequently underestimated due to cultural biases