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Committee on Scientific Awards Names Recipients

The Committee on Scientific Awards selected winners of the 2005 APA scientific awards in recognition of their outstanding theoretical or empirical contributions to basic or applied research in psychology.

By Suzanne Wandersman

The Committee on Scientific Awards selected the following individuals to receive the 2005 APA scientific awards in recognition of their outstanding theoretical or empirical contributions to basic or applied research in psychology.

Recipients of 2005 APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards

Charles G. Gross, Professor of Psychology, Princeton University
Gross is being honored for his research on the neural basis of higher cortical function and his contributions to the field of cognitive neuroscience. He was honored by election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999.

Gross began his career as a pioneer in the study of high-order visual perception and the extrastriate cortex. In a series of studies beginning in the late 1960's, Gross and his colleagues showed that single neurons in inferior temporal (IT) cortex not only had visual responses but also responded selectively to very complex features of objects, such as their overall shape or texture, and that a few neurons even responded selectively to specific objects, such as faces or hands. This was a revolutionary view at the time, because it indicated that individual neurons in the cortex coded global object features, rather than lines and edges, and that some types of significant objects might even be encoded by specific neurons. Furthermore, Gross was not content to simply study the anatomy and physiology of neurons - he also realized a need to understand the function of these areas in the context of the animal's perceptual state and behavior. Thus, he conducted many of the first behavioral studies of the effects of IT lesions on perception and memory, which clearly showed the behavioral relevance of the physiological properties he had discovered.

The neuroscience field has changed in large part due to Gross's research and the work he stimulated in other labs. The original findings on extrastriate cortex from his lab have now been replicated innumerable times and appear in undergraduate neuroscience textbooks. An entire field has been spawned by his work, spanning animal physiology and anatomy to human psychological studies and brain imaging, yielding tremendous insights into how the visual system recognizes and remembers objects.

His other line of work has been investigating the physiological and perceptual consequences of ablation of primary visual cortex. Gross was involved in some of the early descriptions of "blindsight." Recently, Gross has been studying how the brain represents visual and tactile space. Gross with Elizabeth Gould and colleagues published one of the first demonstrations that new neurons are born and incorporated into the adult brain.

Also, Gross with Michael Graziano and colleagues have published some of the first work showing that neurons in premotor cortex and other structures not traditionally thought to be "visual" have visual receptive fields, and these receptive fields are spatially linked to specific parts of the body surface. Some receptive fields appear to move with the arm, for example, showing that the coordinate frame for visually guided arm movements may be the arm itself. This finding is beginning to transform the field of visuo-motor coordination. Gross' career has propelled the formulation and expansion of cognitive neuroscience.

Douglas L. Medin, Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University
Medin is being honored for his contributions to our broad understanding of human cognition with regard to learning, memory, attention, and decision-making. He was honored by election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

In his early career he made substantial contributions to the study of perceptual processes, learning, and memory in non-human primates. His major influence on the field is his groundbreaking work on the study of human learning and memory. This work began with his influential studies of concepts and categories. He extended his research into similarity processing, reasoning and decision-making. In his current research he is studying cultural models of biological phenomena. He has become one of the leading authorities on culture and cognition and he has developed new paradigms for the study of how higher-order cognitive processes are influenced by culture and expertise.

The major overarching theme in Medin's research is that of concepts and categories. In the 1970's Medin developed an exemplar model that demonstrated that key phenomena taken as support of prototype models could also be explained by exemplar models. This context theory of classification learning opened the way for a theoretical revolution in our understanding of human cognition, firmly establishing the importance of exemplar or instance-based processes in conceptual structure and the use of categorical knowledge. His 1981 book (Categories and Concepts, co-authored with Ed Smith) provided the classic integration of psychological research on the basic elements of thought processes. This book set the themes for research on concepts that still dominate the field.

Medin has explored both exemplar-based models and theory-based models. His contributions range from precise mathematical models to global theoretical frameworks. His research on typicality and feature similarity showed that judgments along one dimension often depend on the values of other dimensions; his findings on family resemblance fundamentally delineated the conditions under which different kinds of conceptual cohesiveness effects apply during encoding; and his current research on category-based inference is showing that ecological knowledge may preempt the use of similarity and category structure in determining induction from exemplars.

In the late 1980's, Medin proposed an account of conceptual structures as theory-based and this work spearheaded another theoretical revolution in cognitive research. One outgrowth of this approach was the development of the notion of psychological essentialism-the view that people have an implicit theory that category membership is governed by an immutable inner essence. This notion has gained influence in developmental and social psychology, as well as cognitive psychology, as researchers attempt to understand the nature of lay conceptualizations of the natural and social worlds and their implications for judgment and action.

His current work explores the ways in which expertise and culture-bound experiences shape the nature of concepts, reasoning, and decision making. Medin is looking at how expertise and culture influence the conceptual organization of biological categories. He is looking at how the correlational structure of things in the world interacts with theories, goals, and belief systems to determine categorization. Medin's work shows that different kinds of expertise in the same domain lead to systematic differences in categorization and reasoning. Medin's work has helped us to understand human thought processes, and its integration of the natural (biological) world and the cultural environment within the workings of the human mind.

Robert S. Siegler, Teresa Heinz Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Siegler is being honored for his contributions in the field of developmental psychology and cognitive development. Siegler's work focuses on the development of reasoning and problem solving. Early in his career, he helped to establish the information-processing approach as one of the dominant paradigms in the study of cognitive development. He formulated the rule assessment method as a means of diagnosing the rules that children use in reasoning in various domains. His early work also focused attention on the importance of considering problem encoding, the mental representation of problem features, for understanding improvements in problem solving and heightened response to instruction. Siegler's next line of research focused on strategy choice. This research began with the observation that on many problems, an individual child or adult uses a variety of strategies; even given the identical problem on two occasions close in time, the same person often uses a different strategy the second time than the first. Siegler found that even preschoolers choose adaptively among the strategies; for example, they use fast and easy to execute strategies when they yield accurate performance and use slower and more demanding strategies when those are necessary for accurate performance. Subsequent research has demonstrated that such adaptive strategy choices are typical from infancy to adulthood.

Most recently, Siegler has promoted the use of the microgenetic method as a means for studying change as it occurs. In microgenetic studies, children are intensively observed throughout periods of change; the high density of observations, relative to the rate of change, allows insights into the representations and processes that underlie the changes. Such studies have highlighted several general characteristics of cognitive change, for example that changes are usually uneven, involving regressions as well as advances, and that the short-term changes seen in microgenetic studies closely parallel longer term changes with age. The method is being used increasingly widely, in part due to Siegler's influence.

These and related findings led Siegler to formulate overlapping waves theory. The basic idea of this theory is that cognitive evolution, like species evolution, is a process of variation and selection. The theory focuses on the issues of how varying representations and strategies come into existence, how they are selected among at any one time, and how experience using the representations and strategies leads to continuous change in thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.

Over the course of his career, Siegler has investigated the development of many fundamental mathematical and scientific concepts, including conservation, counting, basic arithmetic, estimation, formal scientific reasoning, and biological concepts. His work has yielded important insights and valuable data about children's thinking and about developmental change. He has also paid attention to the educational implications of his research, focusing on issues such as the relations between conceptual and procedural knowledge of mathematics, and the importance of psychological tools, such as the mental number line, in thinking and reasoning. Taken as a whole, Siegler's work has greatly increased understanding of cognitive development.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology

Karen A. Matthews, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Epidemiology; Director of the Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center; Program Director of the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Training Program, University of Pittsburgh
Matthews is being honored for her research contributions in the areas of health psychology and behavioral medicine. Matthews was honored by election to the Institute of Medicine in 2002. Matthews' work spans a range of domains, but can be grouped into three broad areas: (1) the focus on individual differences, such as personality, demographic, and socioeconomic risk factors; (2) her work on the early development of childhood and adolescent risk for disease; and (3) contributions in the area of women's health-in particular, psychological and biological influences on menopause.

She is well known for her research on psychosocial factors linked to risk for cardiovascular disease. She was trained in psychology and in epidemiology and has been able to use the tools of both disciplines to conduct cutting-edge research that is highly regarded in both fields. Using epidemiological methods, she has been effective in identifying risk factors, and then using psychological methods, she has determined the mechanisms by which these factors may act to influence health.

Matthews was the first to break apart the Type A construct to identify the key components related to coronary risk. She reported that only some Type A characteristics (notably hostility) were associated with coronary risk. This helped stimulate research that documented the link between hostility and cardiovascular disease. She contributed further to this work by suggesting models of how the toxic elements of Type A could operate to result in cardiovascular disease. She showed that hostile individuals were more autonomically reactive to acute stressors, engaged in more health damaging behaviors, and exhibited a number of biological risk factors associated with sympathetic nervous system activation.

Matthews' work has been strong in delineating developmental processes in risk factors. This work has been important not only in increasing understanding of the biological pathways, but also of the psychological effects of early family experiences. Her work demonstrated that the link between hostility and autonomic reactivity to stress occurred even in childhood. She showed that the development of hostile traits and cardiovascular reactivity in children results in part from conflictual family interactions, genetic factors, and propensity to interpret ambiguous information in a negative way. She has also done work in how race and SES moderate psychosocial risk including work on how persons of low SES perceive ambiguous situations as threatening.

Matthews is also known for her work in women's health. She has systematically demonstrated gender differences in cardiovascular reactivity to stress, and has evaluated hormonal, dispositional, and environmental factors accounting for those gender differences. She has described the interactive effects of behavior and reproductive hormones in women's risk of coronary heart disease, and has shown how cigarette smoking and contraceptive use influence women's lipid, lipoprotein, and cardiovascular response to stressors. One of her studies, the Pittsburgh Healthy Women Study, is the first intensive study of the psychological, social and biological changes in healthy women as they traverse the perimenopause.

Matthews' work has had a broad impact on psychology. She has asked key questions at the intersection of health and biology in areas that are not necessarily in the mainstream of psychological research. Her work on the development of hostility in children and her recent work on socioeconomic status in children has important implications for developmental psychology. Her work on hostility has implications for personality and cognitive psychology. Her work has had an impact on social epidemiology and medicine and women's health. She has been able to convince the health disciplines, including medicine, to appreciate and accept the importance of psychosocial factors in physical health.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution to Psychology (Social Psychology)

Dijksterhuis is recognized for his research contributions in the area of social psychology. He is an innovative and creative researcher. The theme of his research is the study of unconscious influences on behavior, its many and varied facets. He found that improvements in intellectual performance can be produced by subtle priming of social categories. His Trivial Pursuit effect with van Knippenberg became well known, strong, and interesting. Dijksterhuis worked with John Bargh on automatic behavior in social psychology. He grew this theory into the widest array of new paradigms for testing its effects, and he has made the breadth and complexity of this phenomenon come to light. Dijksterhuis earned his PhD at the University of Nijmegen, Netherlands in 1996.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution to Psychology (Perception/Motor Performance)

Knoblich is recognized for path-breaking research on the coupling between perception and action. He has asked new questions about such coupling and developed new methods for answering them. He has asked how well people can distinguish between dynamically emerging outcomes of their own activity and dynamically emerging outcomes of others' activities. Similarly, he has asked how well people can predict the outcomes of their own actions compared to how well they can predict the outcome of others' actions. Both lines of work have shown powerful effects of internal models of action-perception relations. Knoblich has studied the coordination of action by multiple agents. He has studied how groups of individuals perform tasks that have traditionally been studied in isolated performers only. This work has revealed that the formation of internal models is not restricted to oneself, but instead can extend to others with whom one acts. Such joint models are surprisingly detailed and apply to individuals in whom such capacities might not be expected (autistic children). Knoblich earned his PhD at the University of Hamburg, Germany in 1997.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution to Psychology (Individual Differences)

Krueger is recognized for his research on personality and psychopathology. His work combines quantitative methods from psychometrics and behavioral genetics with clinical insights and personality theories. His contributions to the study of mental disorder have focused on developing a framework for studying persons with multiple disorders. Using factor analytic and item response techniques, Krueger identified two broad factors underlying common forms of adult psychopathology-internalizing and externalizing. His research program has targeted personality as a core psychopathological process that underlies multiple disorders. His work has focused on Negative Emotionality and Constraint, two separate individual difference dimensions with particular relevance to psychopathology. His current research focuses on the investigation of genetic and environmental causes of individual variation in core psychopathological processes and the application of psychometric methods to delineating these processes. Krueger earned his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution to Psychology
(Applied Psychology)


Hendree Jones, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Frederick P. Morgeson, Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan State University
Jones and Morgeson will share the award. Jones is recognized for her outstanding contributions to our understanding of the problem of substance abuse during pregnancy and our understanding and treatment of a variety of drugs of abuse. Early in her career, she developed an animal model for prenatal exposure to inhalants under conditions that mimic abuse in humans. As a post-doctoral fellow, Jones ran the day-to-day operation of several in-patient laboratory studies comparing the physiological, subjective and behavioral effects of stimulant drugs and oversaw the development and implementation of a large-scale clinical trial. As a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, she has made major research findings in creating and modifying treatments for pregnant drug dependent women. She is one of the first researchers to examine contingency management procedures in pregnant women. She has also pioneered the examination of the use of buprenorphine for treating pregnant opioid dependent women. Jones earned her PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University-Medical College of Virginia in 1997.

Morgeson is recognized for his contributions to the area of job analysis and design, personnel selection, and theory development. His research on job analysis inaccuracy represents the first attempt to systematically describe inaccuracy in job analysis, taking job analysis research in a completely new direction. His research in personnel selection is likely to shape research for years to come. In particular, his meta-analysis on situational judgment tests and narrative review of the employment interview are likely to be very influential as scholars continue to conduct research in these areas. Morgeson developed a model that offers guidelines for developing multilevel theories. Prior to his work, there was little guidance about how to link constructs across levels. This model has already been cited by scholars in the development and testing of new theories across a diverse set of research topics. The influence of this paper is likely to increase as scholars recognize the importance of multilevel theorizing. Morgeson earned his PhD at Purdue University in 1998.

Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contribution to Psychology (Behavioral/Cognitive Neuroscience)

Poldrack is recognized for his outstanding contributions to our understanding of the cognitive and neural bases of learning and memory. He uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as his principal research tool. Poldrack's research examines the neural basis of skill learning, the neural basis of reading and reading disorders, and the organization of frontal lobe function. His efforts to understand priming and skill learning at the cognitive and neural levels has made a significant impact because his findings have questioned the field's initial conceptualization of skill and repetition priming as depending on distinct processes. His research on neuronal plasticity and disruptions within the language system will likely have long-term significance for the teaching of reading. Poldrack and his collaborators were the first to use diffusion tensor imaging to relate axonal abnormalities to the extent of language deficits in adults. His use of meta-analysis of fMRI data has demonstrated a functional segregation of phonological and semantic processing within the left inferior frontal gyrus. His contributions have had a major impact on the field. Poldrack earned his PhD at the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1995.

The 2005 winners will be honored at the APA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., August 18-21, 2005.