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Recipients of 2009 APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards

The American Psychological Association recipients of the 2009 APA Distinguished Scientific Awards.

By Suzanne Wandersman

The American Psychological Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2009 APA Distinguished Scientific Awards.

Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards

Susan E. Carey (Department of Psychology, Harvard University).  Dr. Carey is being honored for her contributions to the fields of cognitive development, cognitive science, and developmental psychology.

Her early research examined children’s thinking and language understanding.  This work altered our understanding of the nature of children’s word learning.  She documented the process of “fast mapping,” where a child can learn the meaning of a new word with a single exposure. 

Dr. Carey’s 1985 book, Conceptual Change in Childhood, describes her work on children’s understanding of living things.  The book articulates the idea of conceptual development as analogous to scientific theory change.  She recently published The Origin of Concepts, which further elaborates her model of the origin, representation, and development of abstract concepts and the nature of conceptual change.

She has also carried out seminal research on how infants individuate, identify, and count physical objects and on how adults perceive and recognize faces. 

Dr. Carey has significantly advanced our fundamental understanding of language, concepts, perception, number, and development.   

Alice H. Eagly (Department of Psychology, Northwestern University).  Dr. Eagly is being honored for her work on social psychology, the psychology of gender, the psychology of attitudes, and the use of meta-analytic techniques.
Her work on gender has advanced our understanding of how nature and nurture intertwine in producing sex differences and similarities.  Dr. Eagly recognized the value of meta-analysis as a tool for understanding sex differences and similarities and has become one of the most sophisticated meta-analysts in the field.  Her work represents a consistent effort to identify the moderating conditions that help determine why women and men behave differently in some contexts but similarly in others.  Dr. Eagly’s analyses of gender have produced insights into such diverse domains as altruism and heroism, conformity, social influence, aggressive behavior, and leadership.

She has constructed and continued to refine a social role theory which claims that the causal origins of observed psychological sex differences lie in the distribution of women and men into societal roles.  According to the theory, this distribution arises from biological differences related to reproductive roles and physical strength in interaction with the demands of the economy and social structure.

Dr. Eagly’s research on attitudes has spanned her career.  Her early research developed a theoretical account of findings related to source effects on persuasion.  She documented the attributional processes through which different communicators and communications were more or less effective at influencing their intended audiences.  Her subsequent research on attitudes addressed the nature of prejudice and the congeniality effect in people’s selection of and memory for attitude-relevant information.  In 1993, she and Shelley Chaiken pubished a landmark book, The Psychology of Attitudes.  Currently, Dr. Eagly is working on a theory of prejudice that focuses on the impact of the fit or lack of fit between group stereotypes and desirable social roles.  Some of this work is described in her 2007 book with Linda Carli, Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders.
Dr. Eagly has made major contributions to our understanding of attitude structure and function and the psychology of gender and has been a leader in the use of meta-analysis techniques in psychology. 

Steven F. Maier (Department of Psychology, University of Colorado).  Dr. Maier is being honored for his contributions to psychology, neuroscience, and psychoneuroimmunology.

His early research focused on understanding the factors that determine when an experience is stressful.  With Martin Seligman and Bruce Overmier, he developed the theory of learned helplessness, according to which aversive events are stressful for an animal only if they cannot be controlled by the animal.  This work has inspired a great deal of further research on human behavior and psychopathology.

Dr. Maier later moved to research on pain, examining the impact of psychological variables on the perception of pain and the activity of neural pathways for pain. He demonstrated that stressors in the environment can directly alter the activity of neurons in the spinal cord involved in processing pain signals, which led to an important line of research on “stress-induced analgesia.” 

Later, Dr. Maier became interested in the relationship between behavior and the immune system.  He showed that stress, understood in terms of control over aversive events, can alter immune function, and he went on to delineate the underlying biological mechanisms and address the implications for disease processes.  This work significantly advanced the new discipline of psychoneuroimmunology. 

Recently, Dr. Maier has returned to the study of learned helplessness with the intent of understanding the neurobiological basis of the effects of control, and he has begun to examine the nature and effects of neuroinflammation.

Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology

Nancy E. Adler (Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco).  Dr. Adler is being honored for her contributions to health psychology and for enhancing understanding of psychological perspectives on current issues in health policy at the national and international levels.

Her early research addressed the causes of health behaviors, particularly in adolescents.  Dr. Adler’s work helped to explain why individuals engage in health-damaging behaviors and how their understanding of risk affects their choices.  This research was primarily in reproductive health, examining adolescent decision-making regarding contraception, conscious and preconscious motivation for pregnancy, and perception of risk of sexually transmitted diseases. 

Recently, Dr. Adler has been investigating the relations between socioeconomic status (SES) and health.  Her research focuses on how the primary components of SES (income, education, and occupation) are involved in key domains of life and shape life course, including physical and psychological development and health practices.
 
Through her position as director of the MacArthur Research Network on SES and Health, Dr. Adler has brought to psychology an awareness of the impact of social class on mental and physical health and demonstrated to researchers in other fields and to policymakers the important contributions that psychology can make.

Dr. Adler is an innovative and productive researcher examining important issues of health and well-being and serves as an effective spokesperson for the role of psychology in addressing these issues.

Distinguished Scientific Awards for Early Career Contributions to Psychology

Applied research

Robert E. Ployhart (Department of Management, University of South Carolina).  Dr. Ployhart is recognized for his contributions to the areas of personnel selection and job performance as well as in statistics and measurement.  His work on applicant reactions has made productive use of justice theory, attribution theory, and stereotype threat theory to understand applicant perceptions and behavior.  His research on performance ratings has been influential and innovative, especially in its use of longitudinal modeling methods to examine performance variability over time.  Dr. Ployhart received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1999. 

Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience

Adam K. Anderson (Department of Psychology, University of Toronto).  Dr. Anderson is recognized for contributions to our understanding of the psychological and neural bases of emotions and their expression.  His studies have shown how emotions influence cognitive systems to shape the contents of awareness and memory.  His work is integrative and multi-disciplinary, drawing upon methods from cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, peripheral psychophysiology, and functional neuroimaging.  Dr. Anderson received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2000.

Individual differences
(two awardees)

Daniel J. Bauer (Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).  Dr. Bauer is recognized for his work on quantitative methodology and on individual differences in stability and change over time.  His primary work is in the statistical modeling of longitudinal data.  His collaborative research on adolescent social development focusing on problem behaviors provides empirical feedback on the performance of his quantitative models and helps to stimulate the development of new models.  Dr. Bauer received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000.

Ahmad R. Hariri  (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine). 
Dr. Hariri is recognized for his multidisciplinary approach to advancing understanding of the basic mechanisms and pathways leading to individual differences in behavior and risk for neuropsychiatric disease.  His earlier collaborative work investigated the interface of genes, brain, and behavior, a field that he and his colleagues termed “imaging genetics.”  Dr. Hariri’s recent research identifies the neurobiological mechanisms contributing to individual differences in impulsivity, reward sensitivity, and associated risk for addiction.  Dr. Hariri received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000.

Perception and motor performance

Christian N.L. Olivers  (Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands).  Dr. Olivers is recognized for his contributions to the study of attention through his analysis of the "attentional blink" phenomenon. Dr. Olivers developed a new account of the attentional blink in terms of a selection mechanism that enhances perception of task-relevant information and suppresses perception of task-irrelevant information.  Dr. Olivers has produced persuasive experimental evidence for this account and its superiority to previous approaches and has pursued its implications for broader models of attention.  Dr. Olivers received his Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom in 2001.

Social psychology

Jennifer A. Richeson (Department of Psychology, Northwestern University).  Dr. Richeson is recognized for her innovative studies of the cognitive and behavioral underpinnings of stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and inter-group conflict.  Her research extends and integrates approaches from work on executive control, resource depletion, and self-regulation.  Her studies examine the experiences and behaviors both of members of devalued groups and of members of dominant groups. This research points the way to novel approaches to improving interactions across diverse individuals and groups.  Dr. Richeson received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2000.

See the Science Directorate website for further information on APA Scientific Awards.