2010 APA Distinguished Scientific Award Recipients

The American Psychological Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2010 APA Distinguished Scientific Awards

The APA Distinguished Scientific Awards, which are among the highest honors for scientific achievement by psychologists, are made in three categories:

  • The Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award recognizes senior scientists for distinguished theoretical or empirical contributions to basic research in psychology.  This award, which was first made in 1956, is typically given to three scientists each year.

  • The Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology recognizes psychologists who have made distinguished theoretical or empirical advances in psychology leading to the understanding or amelioration of important practical problems.  This award, which was first made in 1973, is typically given to one scientist each year. 

  • The Award for Distinguished Early Career Scientific Contribution to Psychology recognizes excellent psychologists who are at early stages of their research careers (up to 10 years after receiving their doctorates).  The award, which was first made in 1974, is currently given to scientists in five specific research areas each year.  (A total of ten research areas are considered, with each area covered in alternating years.)

The Committee on Scientific Awards, which is overseen by the APA Board of Scientific Affairs and staffed by the APA Science Directorate, selects the recipients of these awards on the basis of nominations submitted by a wide range of scientists and institutions.  Reviewers with expertise in particular areas of research provide further advice to the committee. 

The recipients will accept their awards at a ceremony at the 2010 APA Convention in San Diego and will be guests of honor at the Science Directorate’s reception at the Convention.  The winners of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and the Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology will also deliver featured lectures at the Convention. 

The recipients and their award citations are shown below.  Further information about the recipients’ backgrounds and research will appear in the November awards issue of American Psychologist.

2010 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards

Jonathan D. CohenJonathan D. Cohen
Princeton University

For his seminal contributions to our understanding of cognitive control and the brain basis of executive processes. Through a synergistic combination of computational modeling, functional brain imaging, and cognitive behavior analysis, Jonathan D. Cohen has provided novel and deep insights into our most cherished mental functions and our most puzzling and debilitating psychiatric disorders. His pioneering work on cognitive impairment in schizophrenia introduced new theoretical frameworks based on context representation and goal maintenance. His research has defined new fields and key questions in domains ranging from neuromodulation to neuroeconomics. His enthusiasm and innovative style inspire and energize everyone who collaborates with him.


Susan T. FiskeSusan T. Fiske
Princeton University

Susan T. Fiske’s elegant theories and investigations have made her a guiding force in social psychology, and her groundbreaking work includes several foundational theories. Her continuum model was one of the first dual process models contrasting automaticity and control. Her power-as-control theory highlights how powerful people can unwittingly stereotype and neglect subordinates. Her research on ambivalent sexism distinguishes benevolent and hostile prejudices. And her stereotype content model demonstrates universal dimensions of social cognition. Fiske undertakes methods ranging from brain imaging to laboratory experiments to representative sample surveys to cultural comparisons. Social psychology, law, and related fields reflect her impact.


Joseph E. LeDouxJoseph E. LeDoux
New York University

For his success in reinvigorating the field of emotion by uncovering the neural mechanisms of emotional learning, particularly with respect to fear. By applying the tools of modern neuroscience to the study of fear, Joseph E. LeDoux revolutionized the way psychologists view emotional learning and the importance of unconscious versus conscious processes. His findings have led to novel ways to treat anxiety disorders through manipulation of extinction and reconsolidation processes. Through his accessible and interesting books on the emotional brain, LeDoux has educated both clinicians and the general public, increasing emotional self-awareness and self-understanding.

2010 Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology

David M. ClarkDavid M. Clark
King’s College London and Maudsley Hospital

For research on the nature and treatment of the anxiety disorders and its subsequent translation into broad social policy. David M. Clark’s identification of the causal role played by catastrophic misinterpretations (heart attack) of benign sensations (anxiety-related cardiac acceleration) led him to develop one of the most powerful interventions yet devised for the treatment of panic disorder (inducing attacks to disconfirm the catastrophic cognitions). He subsequently applied his research strategy to revolutionize our understanding and treatment of social phobia (with Adrian Wells), health anxiety (with Paul Salkovskis), and posttraumatic stress disorder (with Anke Ehlers). His approach has been so successful that the resulting treatments have become a major component of the British government’s £300 million Improving Access to Psychological Therapies initiative, the largest exercise in social engineering relevant to mental health in the history of the field. His work is pure genius with a real-world application. 

2010 Awards for Distinguished Early Career Scientific Contribution to Psychology

Animal Learning and Behavior/Comparative

Stanley B. FlorescoStanley B. Floresco
University of British Columbia

For outstanding and innovative research on neural mechanisms linking brain activity to critical cognitive functions including risk-based decision making, cognitive flexibility, working memory, and other aspects of executive function. Through the use of multidisciplinary approaches involving electrophysiological recording and selective manipulation of neurotransmitter function, Stanley B. Floresco has provided new insights into the essential interplay between brain and behavior. His novel findings form an empirical base for understanding how neural pathology may underlie aspects of psychotic behavior and as such validate neuropsychopharmacological approaches to mental ill health.

Cognition/Human Learning

Mara Mather Mara Mather
University of Southern California

For her innovative research elucidating the interaction of emotion, cognition, and aging. Mara Mather’s work reflects an analytic grasp of complex theoretical issues and empirical findings, deep scholarship, insightful and integrative ideas, creative methodology, and lucid prose. She has made novel contributions to our understanding of the reciprocal relations among emotion, memory, and choice and has proposed a new and incisive framework for understanding how arousal influences feature binding in working memory. Her research on how age-related differences in socioemotional goals, emotion regulation, and cognitive control affect attention and memory creates promising new directions for cognitive/affective psychology and neuroscience.


For 2010, two awards are made in this area.

Simona GhettiSimona Ghetti
University of California, Davis

For outstanding and insightful contributions to the understanding of the development of memory and metamemory in childhood. Using elegant and inventive experimental methods and designs, Simona Ghetti has provided new insight into the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying typical and atypical memory development. Her work has highlighted the role of metamemory in identifying and rejecting false memories and has shed light on the mechanisms underlying the development of the subjective experience of remembering. These contributions combine theoretical innovation, psychological insight, and methodological rigor and variety.


Larissa K. SamuelsonLarissa K. Samuelson
University of Iowa

For her innovative theoretical and empirical work on the processes that give rise to change over development in young children’s word learning. Larissa K. Samuelson’s work, which encompasses change in the moment and change over time, has revealed how short-term word learning experiences in the laboratory produce longer term biases that affect how children learn words in the real world. This work provides a beautiful example of how developmental change emerges out of cyclical organism–environment interactions that occur over short and long time scales. Her integrated computational, empirical, and theoretical approaches to understanding change serve as a model for the study of development.


Peter J. GianarosPeter J. Gianaros
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

For his original and novel work conceptualizing and quantifying stress-related cardiovascular and autonomic function, relating stress patterns to biomarkers of risk for cardiovascular disease, and characterizing the brain systems that regulate and are affected by peripheral stress physiology. Building on animal models of chronic stress, in his work with humans Peter J. Gianaros has demonstrated the influence of perceived stress and low socioeconomic status on brain morphology. His work is at the frontier of the integration of health psychology and neuroscience, and his methods are pioneering in their approach to questions at multiple levels of analysis. His commitment and energy have benefited his wide range of collaborations.


For 2010, two awards are made in this area.

Benjamin L. HankinBenjamin L. Hankin
University of Denver

For his theoretically creative, methodologically innovative, timely, and programmatic work on the development of depression. A leader of a new generation of researchers advancing knowledge on the etiology, ontogeny, classification, developmental trajectories, and patterning of depression over the life span, especially in youth, Benjamin L. Hankin has shaped the way scholars study the development of depression through his pivotal research. His work has catalyzed psychopathologists and crystallized the fact that depression is a developmental phenomenon. Hankin is an influential and productive scholar of his generation, and his theoretical work has had staying power. A shining light in psychopathology, he will make even greater contributions in the future.


Matthew K. NockMatthew K. Nock
Harvard University

For deepening our understanding of suicide and self-injury in the broader context of human dysfunction. Matthew K. Nock’s findings have overturned accepted notions about antecedents of suicide and have revealed critical functions served by nonsuicidal self-injury, underscoring the relevance of basic psychological principles. His methods show remarkable range, combining epidemiology, rigorous laboratory experiments, measurement of implicit cognitions, and real-time, real-world biological and psychological assessments. He has produced gold-standard methods of prediction and a rich and growing explanatory model answering the basic question of why people hurt themselves. A master teacher and dedicated mentor, he inspires others to excellence in clinical science.