Charles E. Osgood

For the broadcaster, see Charles Osgood.

Charles Egerton Osgood (November 20, 1916 – September 15, 1991) was a distinguished American psychologist who developed a technique for measuring the connotative meaning of concepts, known as the semantic differential. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Osgood as the 40th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.[1]


Osgood was born in Somerville, Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University in 1945.[2]

He was a professor of psychology of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana from 1949 to 1984, and a research professor of the Institute of Communications Research (ICR), in the UI College of Communications. He was the Director of the ICR from 1957 to 1984. He served as president of the American Psychological Association from 1962 to 1963.[2]

Among his many awards were the APA's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1960), and the APA's Kurt Lewin Award (1971).

Charles Osgood died in 1991.


At the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, Osgood formulated a new approach to international relations called "Graduated Reciprocation in Tension-reduction", or GRIT. This was first articulated in a paper titled, "Reciprocal Initiative", and developed at greater length in his seminal book, An Alternative To War Or Surrender, both published in 1962. Osgood hoped to be able to reverse the nuclear arms race through a series of carefully calibrated, reciprocal steps which would gradually foster greater trust between the two superpowers. He was appointed to the Social Science Advisory Board of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, serving from 1964 to 1971.[3]



  1. Haggbloom, Steven J.; Warnick, Jason E.; Jones, Vinessa K.; Yarbrough, Gary L.; Russell, Tenea M.; Borecky, Chris M.; McGahhey, Reagan; et al. (2002). "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century". Review of General Psychology. 6 (2): 139–152. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139.
  2. 1 2 U. of I. Archives - Biographical Sketch Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. University of Illinois Archives Archived September 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
Educational offices
Preceded by
Paul E. Meehl
72nd President of the American Psychological Association
Succeeded by
Quinn McNemar
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