American Psychological Foundation

Behavioral genetics researcher wins Fantz award

APF has named Wendy Johnson, PhD, as the recipient of the 2010 Robert L. Fantz Award, a $2,000 prize for young investigators. “In five short years, Wendy has amassed a record of achievement, impact and prominence that would justify winning a prestigious midcareer award,” says Matt McGue, PhD, Johnson’s graduate adviser at the University of Minnesota. “I can truly not imagine a more deserving candidate for an award meant to recognize early career scholars in our field.”

APF chose Johnson, a Research Council of the United Kingdom fellow at the Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology and the department of psychology at the University of Edinburgh, for her remarkable contributions to the areas of behavioral genetics, human cognitive abilities and personality. Since completing her PhD in the behavioral genetics and individual differences program at the University of Minnesota in 2005, Johnson has amassed an extensive bibliography, including an influential 2007 Psychological Review (Vol. 114, No. 2) paper in which she advanced an integrated model of the joint effects of genetic and environmental factors. She applied her model to the income-health gradient, showing that the gradient emerges both because high income can serve to suppress genetic risk for health problems, and also because heritable influences on income are likely to facilitate health-promoting behaviors.

Johnson has also examined how personality factors can explain the nature of sex differences in cognitive abilities and how cognitive abilities influence important life outcomes. This research has led her to produce a series of publications on the concern that males are lagging in school achievement, and the role conscientiousness plays in understanding gender differences in academic achievement.

Most recently, Johnson has explored the impact of social and economic factors on physical health and social success, including through a cross-cultural study published in Psychological Science (Vol. 21, No. 9), which showed that family background plays a larger role in whether people attain higher education in the United States than in Sweden.

The Robert L. Fantz Award was established thanks to a bequest from Fantz, a psychologist at Case Western University whose work on the pattern and spatial visual recognition abilities of infants is well-cited in developmental psychology. The award is presented annually to a promising early career researcher in psychology or related fields. APF gives the award to the winner’s institution to further the award winner’s research.


Support your innovative research

APF is accepting applications for the Visionary and Weiss Grants, which support innovative research, education and intervention efforts in four areas of social concern:

  • Understanding and fostering mental-physical health connections.

  • Reducing stigma and prejudice.

  • Understanding and preventing all forms of violence.

  • Addressing long-term psychological needs in the aftermath of disaster.

This year, the Visionary and Weiss program will award $80,000 for research. One-year grants are available in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

Apply by March 15.

Upcoming APF funding deadlines

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

For more information regarding APF’s grants and scholarships, contact Kim Palmer Rowsome, program officer, at (202) 336-5622.