My former colleague Robert (Bob) Audley, who has died aged 91, was a leading psychologist at University College London (UCL) for more than 30 years and a major contributor to mathematical psychology in the 1950s and 60s. His research involved creating models to explain how people make choices. The work looked at how people take a sequence of samples of their experience until they have sufficient evidence on which to base a decision or response – a major issue for researchers. Bob’s models produced precise predictions that could be tested.
Bob was born in East Dulwich, south London, to Walter Audley, a railway worker, and his wife, Agnes (nee Baker). He was brought up in Streatham. The second world war began just as he was starting at Battersea grammar school: the school was evacuated first to Worthing, West Sussex, and then to Hertford. After national service, he took at degree at UCL, graduating in psychology in 1952. Following a Fulbright scholarship at Washington State University, he returned to UCL to complete a PhD on mathematical learning theory.
He became a lecturer at UCL in 1957, head of the psychology in 1979, dean of science in 1985, vice-provost in 1988, and fellow of UCL in 1989. He served as president of the British Psychological Society, the professional body for the discipline, between 1969 and 1970 and as President of the Experimental Psychology Society, a learned society, between 1962 and 1964.
In the 70s Bob studied ways to improve map legibility, producing a set of recommendations for map designers. For example, he discovered that when place names are difficult to pronounce, it helps to display them in capital letters.
In the 90s, Bob instigated a programme of work on medical accidents, identifying reasons for medical mistakes, the consequences of them for patients and staff, and on developing methods for increasing patient safety.
As computers came into use, modern psychologists were able to use stimulus sampling approaches of the sort that Bob developed in the 1950s in much more complex tasks. His research on mathematical psychology has been cited much more frequently in the last quarter century than in the previous one.
Retiring in 1994, he lived in Keats Grove, Hampstead, north London, and remained engaged in local intellectual, political and literary life. As a person, he was warm-hearted, urbane and quirkily witty.
He is survived by Vera Elyashiv, his second wife, whom he married in 1990, by his son, Mathew, from his first marriage, to Patricia Bannister, which ended in divorce, and by a stepson.