Five psychology researchers were among the 84 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences in April. The honor recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. "It's good for our tribe to have psychologists elected," says one of this year's new psychologist members, Susan Fiske, PhD, of Princeton University.
The five are:
- Richard Aslin, PhD, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. Aslin is well known for his work on "statistical learning," or how some learning — particularly during infancy — occurs with no instruction. Aslin, who also directs the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, demonstrated with colleagues in 1996 that children as young as 8 months are remarkable learners — able to pick out statistically predictable syllables from phrases in just two minutes. In his lab today, he uses eye tracking and brain imaging techniques to study how young children comprehend the world, such as how they recognize words and organize complex visual scenes.
- Susan Fiske, PhD, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. Fiske studies how social relationships influence stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. She has shown that emotions are better predictors of intolerance than negative stereotypes alone. One of her major contributions to psychology is the "stereotype content model," which she and colleagues developed in 1999 to explain how our perceptions of others' warmth and competence evoke such emotions as disgust, pity, pride and envy. In more recent studies, her lab has used neuroimaging to reveal how specific prejudices activate distinct neural networks. Fiske was a recipient of APA's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 2010.
- David Heeger, PhD, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University. Heeger's research spans neuroscience, psychology and engineering to include work in computational neuroscience, psychophysics and computer graphics. He is recognized for developing computational theories of brain function. In his computational neuroimaging lab, Heeger and colleagues use fMRI to test those theories and to quantitatively investigate the relationship between brain activity and behavior, cognition and perception. More recently, some of his studies have focused on understanding autism.
- Joseph LeDoux, PhD, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University and director of NYU's Emotional Brain Institute. His research focuses on memory and emotion, particularly how the brain learns and stores information about danger. Using Pavlovian aversive conditioning in rats, LeDoux and colleagues have mapped the neural pathways, circuits and molecules that underlie the formation of memories about threats. His work has helped inform therapeutic approaches for treatment of anxiety disorders, and his books and music continue to improve the public's understanding of science.
- Daniel Schacter, PhD, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. His behavioral and neuroimaging research focuses on the relationship between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how people use memory to imagine possible future events and the effects of aging on memory. Schacter, who was awarded APA's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 2012, is the author of the book "The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).
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