Born and raised in Philadelphia, Perloff was drafted into the United States Army to fight in the Philippines during World War II. Upon his return, Perloff graduated from Temple University in 1949, and his PhD in psychology from Ohio State University. Following postdoctoral work, he then taught industrial and consumer psychology at Purdue University. Much of his career was spent as professor of Business and Psychology at University of Pittsburgh.
He has been President of the Association for Consumer Research and the American Psychological Association. For his APA presidential address in 1985, he gave a speech in praise of self-interest called "Self-Interest and Personal Responsibility Redux". It was printed in American Psychologist (vol. 42, 1987) and the journal called it "one of 50 classic articles published in the journal's previous 50 years.
In 1995, Perloff was a signatory of a collective statement titled "Mainstream Science on Intelligence", written by Linda Gottfredson and published in the Wall Street Journal as a favorable review of The Bell Curve. Also in 1995, Perloff was named to an American Psychological Association task force that reviewed controversial issues in the study of race and intelligence, titled "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns.
In 1995, he was on an American Psychological Association task force writing a consensus statement on the state of intelligence research in response to the claims being advanced amid the Bell Curve controversy, titled "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns."
At the APA's 2001 APA Annual Convention, Dr. Perloff condemned what he sees as the APA's one-sided political activism. "The APA is too goddamn politically correct...and too goddamn obeisant to special interests!
In 2004, Perloff was the keynote speaker for the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality's Annual Conference. In support of the mission statement of NARTH, he concluded, "The individual's right for self-determination of sexuality -- or sexual autonomy -- is, I am happy to see, inherent in NARTH's position statement: 'NARTH respects each client's dignity, autonomy, and free agency...every individual has the right to claim a gay identity, or to develop their heterosexual potential. The right to seek therapy to change one's sexual adaptation is considered self-evident and inalienable.' I subscribe fully to the aforementioned NARTH position statement."
Datta L-E, Perloff R. Improving Evaluations. 1979: SAGE Focus Editions. ISBN 0-8039-1240-4.