2013 APA Distinguished Scientific Award recipients

Psychological researchers recognized for major contributions to the field.

APA is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013 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 10 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 2013 APA convention in Honolulu 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.

2013 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Awards

Ian H. Gotlib, Stanford University

Ian H. Gotlib, Stanford UniversityCitation: For his groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of the etiology of major depressive disorder. Ian H. Gotlib’s elegantly systematic and integrative program of research helps to illuminate the roles of neural function and structure, endocrinological dysfunction, genetic polymorphisms and biases in information processing to trace the development of depression in children, adolescents and adults. His highly original work, using meticulously designed studies, has not only helped us gain a better understanding of depression but also laid the groundwork for the development of innovative interventions. An outstanding speaker, an exemplary teacher and mentor, and a creative scientist, he inspires countless students and colleagues.

Robert M. Sapolsky, Stanford University

Robert M. Sapolsky, Stanford UniversityCitation: For connecting behavior with the neurobiology of stress through pioneering studies on baboons in Kenya and rats in the laboratory, which has opened the way for understanding how the cumulative burden of stress over the life course can accelerate brain aging and predispose an organism to systemic disease. Robert M. Sapolsky’s work has also revealed the synergy among glucocorticoid hormones, excitatory amino acids in the brain and glucose availability in causing neuronal damage after stroke and seizures. A remarkably lucid and entertaining writer and speaker, in his essays and lectures Sapolsky reminds us of human foibles and illuminates how the social environment and individual personality influence physiology and brain function.

Linda B. Smith, Indiana University

Linda B. Smith, Indiana UniversityCitation: For groundbreaking and illuminating progress in identifying the developmental mechanisms underlying perception, action, language and categorization. Linda B. Smith has tenaciously pursued empirically rigorous and theoretically unified accounts of the origins of human thought. Unsatisfied with merely documenting age-related stages of development, she has systematically described the dynamic processes of learning and change. Her explorations into the interactions between language and thought, thought and action, and action and perception have provided an insightful, grounded and coherent account of the flexibility that distinguishes human behavior. She has served as a gifted teacher, inspiring mentor, indefatigable chair and international leader in psychology and cognitive science.

2013 Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology

J. Richard Hackman, Harvard University 
J. Richard Hackman, Harvard UniversityCitation: For outstanding contributions to organizational and social psychology. J. Richard Hackman’s field-defining research has profoundly shaped job and team design in organizations. In two distinct domains — human motivation (specifically, the design of motivating work) and the design of task-performing teams — he is the single most important scholar, and his theories are the platform on which work in both areas is built. Richard was that rare scientist able to apply rigorous methods to vital social problems, generating both original insight and a sound basis for informed action. His work design research showed countless organizations how to create more meaningful work for their employees, and his model of team effectiveness guides the design of teams from musical ensembles and cockpit crews to leadership teams.

(Hackman passed away Jan. 8, 2013, several months after being notified of his award.)

2013 Awards for Distinguished Early Career Scientific Contribution to Psychology

Applied Research

Andres De Los Reyes, University of Maryland

Andres De Los Reyes, University of MarylandCitation: For outstanding contributions to the understanding of clinical psychological assessment and intervention. Andres De Los Reyes has conducted pioneering theoretical and empirical research on discrepancies in multi-informant reports of child and adolescent behavior problems that has advanced understanding of the results of clinical assessment and intervention and opened up new lines of research in this area. His work is, for the first time, giving researchers and practitioners the ability to use inconsistencies in child and adolescent mental health assessments as key tools for understanding the etiology, classification and treatment of child and adolescent mental health.

Mo Wang, University of Florida

Mo Wang, University of FloridaCitation: For breakthrough discoveries in the fields of retirement, aging and older workers; stress and coping processes in occupational health; expatriate performance; and quantitative research methods. Mo Wang reconciled 25 years of inconsistent findings on retirement, identifying multiple retirement transition and adjustment patterns and establishing models to understand “bridge” employment. His research on temporal-based, within-person differences in how fluctuations in stressors are linked to types of maladaptive behavior is groundbreaking and has significantly influenced occupational health research. Integrating stress theories with expatriate management theories, Wang elucidated the role of organizational stressors and support in explaining expatriate performance. He develops novel quantitative methods to understand dynamic, complex individual and organizational phenomena.

De Los Reyes and Wang are each being recognized for their individual contributions. 

Behavioral/Cognitive Neuroscience

Adam R. Aron, University of California, San Diego

Adam R. Aron, University of California, San DiegoCitation: For his systematic and groundbreaking research into the cognitive neuroscience of executive functions. Adam R. Aron’s work has delineated the neural circuitry of inhibitory control underlying the stopping of inappropriate response tendencies. Using a broad set of converging methodologies, including neuroimaging, lesion studies, transcranial magnetic stimulation and in vivo electrophysiology in humans, he has made important discoveries regarding the psychological structure of inhibitory control, including the existence of both global and specific stopping modes. His work has enriched our understanding of how inhibitory control interacts with working memory and other executive functions and is an outstanding example of how neuroscientific methods can provide insights into complex psychological processes.

Individual Differences

Todd B. Kashdan, George Mason University

Todd B. Kashdan, George Mason UniversityCitation: For bold and insightful contributions to the study of individual differences across the spectrum of human experience. Todd B. Kashdan’s research has bridged the areas of emotional difficulties and psychological strengths to create new models of how ineffective emotion regulation strategies and deficits in positive experiences function to transform normative social nervousness into pathological social anxiety. He has challenged conventional wisdom, used dynamic and naturalistic research methods, and revealed how curiosity, meaning and purpose, and psychological flexibility are critical for a well-lived life.

Kristopher J. Preacher, Vanderbilt University

Kristopher J. Preacher, Vanderbilt UniversityCitation: For advancing the development and effective application of quantitative methods for the analysis of data in psychological research. Kristopher J. Preacher has contributed extensively to methods for the study of mediation effects, to fundamental issues in model evaluation and selection, and to the improvement of statistical analyses in applied research. He recognizes the importance of methods being accessible, and to achieve that end he provides a valuable array of online tutorials and original utilities. He is highly effective at connecting methodologists and applied researchers, thereby contributing widely and deeply to both the advancement of quantitative methods and their effective use in applied research.

Kashdan and Preacher are each being recognized for their individual contributions. 

Perception, Motor Performance

Matthew R. Longo, University of London, Birkbeck

Matthew R. Longo, University of London, BirkbeckCitation: For a wide-ranging and elegant set of experimental investigations into the sensorimotor bases of cognition, focusing particularly on the mind’s representation of the body. Matthew R. Longo’s rigorous experimental designs and careful use of implicit measures have advanced understanding of topics including motor imitation in children, agency and body ownership, representation of peripersonal space and tactile perception. His intelligent application of several cognitive neuroscience methods has clarified the mechanisms underlying sensorimotor representation as well as its phenomenology. His inquiring mind, outstanding efficiency and agreeable nature have made him a popular colleague and favored collaborator.

Social Psychology

Naomi I. Eisenberger, University of California, Los Angeles

Naomi I. Eisenberger, University of California, Los AngelesCitation: For outstanding contributions to the understanding of the neural bases of social pain and social connection. Naomi I. Eisenberger’s innovative program of research has brought together neural, experiential, genetic and physiological measures to better define the role that social ties play in individuals’ emotional and physical well-being. Her discovery that the neural bases of social pain overlap with the neural bases of physical pain is a landmark finding in social neuroscience and demonstrates that the pain of social rejection is more than metaphorical. Her unique approach to identifying and tackling important questions continues to yield powerful insights into our inherently social nature.

Jon K. Maner, Florida State University

Jon K. Maner, Florida State UniversityCitation: For innovative, wide-ranging research on fundamental motives that sit at the intersection of social, personality and evolutionary psychology and have broad implications for social cognition and behavior. Jon K. Maner has rigorously applied the logic of evolutionary biology to deduce and test nuanced hypotheses using a variety of creative experimental methods. His work is notable for its conceptual and empirical breadth, revealing important insights into the functional underpinnings of many social psychological phenomena pertaining to close relationships, affiliation, social hierarchy, self-protection and prejudice. His research has moved the field substantially forward in its understanding of the linkages among motivation, cognition and behavior.

Eisenberger and Maner are each being recognized for their individual contributions.