His main academic and research activities have been developed at the National University of Colombia, at the University of the Andes and at the Saint Thomas University. He has also been a visiting professor in several countries: Germany, USA, , Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil and Spain.
His main fields of work and research research are experimental psychology, history of psychology, social issues. He has carried out research in fields such as: the influence of early experiences on animal behavior, the evolution of behavior, patterns of child rearing, the psychological impact of the nuclear war threat, the effects of unemployement, reinforcement schedules, etc. One of his most recent research publication is the social perception of science and the psychology of scientists; the name of the book is Science and the Scientists: A Psychological Perspective.
Rubén Ardila proposed an integrating paradigm for psychology which he named, Experimental synthesis of behavior. His aim is to find a unifying paradigm for psychology, beyond schools and psychological systems. It is not an “eclectic” proposal, but a paradigm derived from the experimental analysis of behavior (hence it’s name). Said unifying paradigm has had great influence in psychology at the international level. There are several groups in different countries around the world which study and investigate the paradigm of the experimental synthesis of behavior.
In 1969, being a graduate student in experimental psychology in the United States, Ardila founded the Latin American Journal of Psychology (RLP) with the aim of having a forum in Spanish for the publication of scientific work of the highest quality. Since its beginning, the RLP was well received by the academic community, it was indexed and nowdays it is included in the main data banks of psychology and behavioral sciences at worldwide levels (for example Social Science Citation Index, PSICODOC, etc.).
In 1982 Ardila wanted to start a series of specialized journals on different areas: clinical psychology, social, experimental, industrial/organizational, etc. The first issue of the journal Advances in Latin American Clinical Psychology (APCL) appeared in the year of 1982.
Ardila has worked in professional organizations since 1970, as President of the Colombian Federation of Psychology (1970-1974), of the Interamerican Society of Psychology (1974-1976), of the Colombian Society of Psychology (1979-1984, 2000-2002) and the Latin American Association for the Analysis and Modification of Behavior (ALAMOC) (1975-1977). Rubén Ardila founded ALAMOC in 1975, and the Colombian Society of Psychology in 1979, and was the first president of said professional associations.
His first psychology book was published in México in 1970: Psychology of Learning. Twenty-seven editions of this book were published, and it helped to introduce research on experimental analysis of behavior in Colombia and other countries (Spain, Argentina, Peru). This book had great influence on the development of psychological research in Spanish-speaking countries. Many psychologists in Latin America and Spain consider it as the book that offered them a scientific alternative at their University training
Other books published by Ardila are:
Thirty six books in total, several of them translated into other languages. And 250 scientific papers. The topic of the books are experimental psychology, behavior analysis, professional issues, social problems, conceptual problems, history of psychology, psychology in Colombia and Latin América, international psychology and others.
At a personal level, Ardila has a son, David Rubén, who received his Ph.D. in Physics (2002) at the University of California in Berkeley. David is married to Deborah Howell and they have a son, Alejandro Rubén.
Rubén Ardila has also been a restless traveler since his adolescence. As a member of the Executive Committee of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) he has had the opportunity to travel in the five continents. Every trip has always been preceeded by months of study on the history and culture of the place he is going to visit.
Ardila has written scientific books, articles in technical journals, articles in newspapers and a couple of novels. His most popular has been Walden Three, which has been translated into English, German and Portuguese. His interests are history, traveling, literature, good conversation with his friends of all nations, and obviously, psychology.
In 2003 Ardila received the degree of “Doctor honoris causa”, granted by the University Ricardo Palma (Peru).
In 2003 some of Ardila’s international colleagues contributed to a Festschrift edited by Luis Flórez-Alarcón. The reference is:
Flórez-Alarcón, L. (Ed.). (2003). The legacy of Rubén Ardila. Psychology: from biology to culture. Bogotá: National University of Colombia.
Ruben Ardila was granted the National Science Award- Life and Work, for the year 2004. This is the main Award granted in Colombia to a scientist for a lifetime devoted to science.
In 2007 Ardila received the APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology.
He belonged to the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences since 2007. In 2014 he became “Member at Large” (“Miembro de Número”) of the Academy. He was also member of the Board of Directors of the Colombian Association of Advancement of Science.
In 2014 Ardila received the degree of “Doctor honoris causa”, granted by the University Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (Peru).
In 2016 he recieved the degree of “Doctor honoris causa”, granted by the National University of Rosario (Argentina)
Ruben Ardila was part of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP) and President of Division 18 (History of Psychology) of the Association.
He received the 2022 IAAP Distinguisehed Professional Contributions Award.