Forrest W. Young

Professor, Quantitative Psychology


Forrest W. Young, Professor of Psychometrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received his PhD in Psychometrics from the University of Southern California in 1967. He has been on the faculty of UNC-CH ever since.

Prof. Young's teaching interests focus on "Seeing what your data seem to say". This visually intuitive approach to statistics helps to clarify the meaning of data. His courses, ranging from his introductory undergraduate course on Psychological Statistics, to his advanced graduate courses on Data Analysis, Visualization and Exploration, reflect this focus.

To make the process of understanding data visually intuitive, the burden is moved from the person to the computer. You don't need to make an intensive effort to understand your data: Rather, your computer makes intensive calculations so that the data can be shown to you in a visually comprehensible way.

This approach to the role of computers is based on the intelligence augmentation (IA) philosophy of Computer Science: Your computer is a device which should augment your intelligence. It is also based on a Cognitive Science theory for the construction of an environment for data analysis.

Prof Young and his students, over the course of a 10-year research and development project, have created ViSta, a visual statistics system instantiating Prof. Young's theories concerning visual environments for statistical analysis.

ViSta is a freely available system that is being used for teaching introductory and multivariate statistics, for data analysis by statistically inexperienced researchers, and for advanced research and development in graphical and computational statistics.

ViSta is based not only on Prof. Young's theory-based approach to data analysis, but also on his 30-year career in computational and graphical statistics.

Prof. Young's early research interests focused on Multidimensional and Nonlinear Multivariate Data Analysis (for which he was elected the President of the Psychometric Society, and received the American Market Research Association's O'Dell award, both in 1981). Via these research interests, Prof. Young became involved in software development early in his career.

Prof. Young has served as a professional consultant on statistical system interface design with SAS Institute, Statistical Sciences (the S-Plus system), and BMDP Inc. He has written or designed data analysis modules for the SAS, SPSS and IMSL systems. He is a member of the American Statistical Association's sections on Computational and Graphical Statistics.