2011 APA Distinguished Scientific Award recipients

Both senior and early career researchers are recognized for major contributions to psychological science.

The American Psychological Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2011 APA Distinguished Scientific Awards. 

These 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 2011 APA Convention in Washington, D.C. 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.

2011 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards


Barry J. EverittBarry J. Everitt
University of Cambridge

For distinguished theoretical and empirical contributions to basic research in experimental psychology and neuroscience. Barry J. Everitt’s original and elegant research has greatly added to the understanding of monoaminergic and glutamatergic regulation of cortico-striatal-limbic function and its involvement in psychological processes and pathological states, notably addiction. His stellar contributions have included the development of animal models of addiction and groundbreaking studies on learning and memory processes. He has combined sophisticated behavioral approaches with molecular, cellular, anatomical, and psychopharmacological approaches in rodents. His energy and enthusiasm for research, creativity, and outstanding productivity have advanced our knowledge of brain function and inspired several generations of behavioral neuroscientists.


Trevor W. RobbinsTrevor W. Robbins
University of Cambridge

For distinguished theoretical and empirical contributions to basic research in experimental psychology and neuroscience. Trevor W. Robbins has made innovative and landmark contributions to understanding monoaminergic and glutamatergic regulation of cortico-striatal-limbic function and its involvement in psychological processes and pathological states such as addiction, depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. His pioneering accomplishments have included the development of methodologies for parallel sophisticated behavioral assessments in humans, rodents, and monkeys combined with psychopharmacological and imaging studies across species. His vigor and dedication to research, exemplary leadership, scholarship, and stellar productivity have advanced our knowledge of brain function and inspired several generations of cognitive neuroscientists.

Barry J. Everitt and Trevor W. Robbins are joint recipients of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.  While both individuals have extensive individual research programs, it is for their collaborative work that they are being honored.


Carol S. DweckCarol S. Dweck
Stanford University

For her insightful research and incisive theorizing concerning perceptions and interpretations of success and failure across many domains of human endeavor, but especially in the realm of academic achievement. Drawing on a series of innovative and elegant experimental paradigms, Carol S. Dweck has cast a theoretical net progressing from initial studies of learned helplessness to studies of the larger self-theories of ability, the activity goals individuals select, and the differential consequences associated with helpless versus mastery-oriented responses to difficult problems. Her widely cited work has produced, in addition, clever and effective strategies for promoting more functional incremental theories, learning goals, and persistence in students facing apparent failure.


Daniel M. WegnerDaniel M. Wegner
Harvard University

For seminal contributions that span psychology’s breadth—from cognitive to social to personality to clinical—and that reach beyond its borders to philosophy and neuroscience. Daniel M. Wegner’s studies on transactive memory, action identification, ironic processes, and apparent mental causation all bear his characteristic mark: a beautiful idea brought to life by an elegant experiment. He has spent his scientific career identifying new and important problems and then offering solutions that sparkle with originality and insight. He has seen doors where others saw walls, opened them to reveal new rooms, and illuminated their dark corners.



2011 Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology

Alan E. KazdinAlan E. Kazdin
Yale University

For outstanding and pathbreaking contributions to the understanding of the development, assessment, and treatment of psychopathology. Alan E. Kazdin’s theoretically innovative, methodologically rigorous, and scientifically informed research has significantly advanced knowledge of child and adolescent psychopathologies such as depression and conduct problems. His writings on research strategies and methods have set a high standard for rigor in the field. His work and his ideas have had an enormous impact on the science, practice, and teaching of psychology, and his research has strengthened assessment and treatment of children and adolescents in scientific and clinical settings. His passion, energy, wisdom, and wit have inspired countless colleagues and students over the years, and his work will no doubt continue to do so for many generations to come.


2011 Awards for Distinguished Early Career Scientific Contribution to Psychology

Applied Research

Adam M. GrantAdam M. Grant
University of Pennsylvania

For extensive, elegant, and programmatic research on the power of relational job design in enhancing employee motivation, productivity, and satisfaction; for creative and rigorous studies documenting the profound and surprising effects of connecting employees to their impact on others; for highlighting prosocial motivation, not only extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, as a key force behind employee behavior; and for demonstrating by example the feasibility and benefits of conducting field experiments, yielding studies rich in internal validity, external validity, and practical impact. In addition to his accomplishments, Adam M. Grant is known for his generosity as a scholar, teacher, and colleague.


Behavioral/Cognitive Neuroscience

Cindy LustigCindy Lustig
University of Michigan

Cindy Lustig has made groundbreaking contributions to the study of attention and memory. She has contributed to our understanding of the role of interference in implicit memory and of the neural underpinnings of age differences in cognition as well as to a developing literature on effective interventions to boost cognitive functioning. Her methods include a genetic approach to understanding variability in cognitive functioning in old age as well as the use of animal models. Her work has been widely cited and hailed for its innovative methods and findings.


Individual Differences

Wendy JohnsonWendy Johnson
University of Edinburgh

For innovative research explicating the nature, origin, and consequences of individual differences in intelligence and personality. With methodological rigor and theoretical incisiveness, Wendy Johnson has addressed some of the most vexing questions in the psychology of individual differences. She has shown how genetic and environmental factors jointly influence many important life outcomes, explicated the structure of cognitive abilities, and demonstrated how cognitive ability and personality contribute to gender differences in academic achievement. Her consummate mastery of research methodology, genetics, personality theory, and human abilities has enabled her to advance an integrative program of research that is having a fundamental impact on the field.


Perception, Motor Performance

David MelcherDavid Melcher
University of Trento, Italy

For his elegant and groundbreaking work on one of the most important problems in perceptual psychology, the transfer of perceptual representations across eye movements. David Melcher’s innovative experiments used perceptual aftereffects to show how remapping of visual locations underlies the creation of the percept of a clear and stable world. His work on the accumulation of memory contributed importantly to the understanding of natural perceptual representations and their neural underpinnings. His elegant reviews of transsaccadic perception communicated to a broad audience the remarkable capacity of the brain to create seamless perceptual representations despite the disruptions produced by eye movements.


Social Psychology

Nicholas EpleyNicholas Epley
University of Chicago

For brilliant empirical and theoretical contributions to social cognition in general and for creative insights into how people understand the minds of others in particular. Nicholas Epley’s empirical work demonstrates how basic mechanisms of social cognition can lead to interpersonal conflict and misunderstanding. His theoretical work expands social cognition beyond its traditional focus on human beings as targets of judgment, showing how basic mechanisms explain people’s understanding of minds of all kinds, from pets to gadgets to gods. His work shows how social psychology, at its best, increases understanding of everyday life and inspires others to understand more.