September 18, 2013 – When you
pass by a stranger in need of help, do you stop to lend a hand? Maybe
not... A landmark 1973 study found that seminary
students in a hurry were less likely to help someone in distress,
even when they were on their way to deliver a talk on the Parable of
the Good Samaritan.
A co-author of that study
and several other distinguished researchers are the recipients of the
2013 annual awards from the Society for Personality and Social
Psychology (SPSP). The contributions of these scientists to
personality and social psychology include furthering our
understanding of how personality shapes health and well-being across
adulthood, why it's so hard to evaluate ourselves, and the virtues
that divide political ideologies.
The Society's highest awards –
the Jack Block, Donald T. Campbell, and Distinguished Scholar awards
– go to Robert R.
("Jeff”) McCrae, retired from
the National Institute of Aging, Timothy
D. Wilson of the
University of Virginia, and Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University,
respectively. The Career Contribution awards, which honor scholars
whose research has led the field in new directions,
are C. Daniel Batson
of the University of Kansas and James
Sidanius of Harvard University.
Good Samaritan, Social
Batson co-authored with John
Darley the 1973 study on the "bystander effect” – revealing
processes that influence how and when we help people. His work looks
at a variety of topics
that bridge psychology and religion, including altruism, empathy, and
compassion. Batson is
leading proponent for the existence of pure or selfless altruism, in
which people help out of a genuine concern for the welfare of others.
work explains the acceptance of group-based social hierarchy – such
as believing that men are superior to women or that Whites are
superior to people of color – by both the dominant and oppressed
groups. Long before others were convinced, Sidanius analyzed the
inevitability and the significance of hierarchy in structuring
society, social relations, and psychological functioning –
pioneering the study of the widely shared cultural ideologies that
provide the justification for group-based hierarchies.
McCrae's work on personality in
aging adults led to a resurgence of personality psychology in the
1980s and the establishment of the Big Five model of personality
traits that persists today. His work has shown how individual
differences in personality traits effect everything from health to
coping. McCrae has established new ways of measuring personality
traits and has looked at the effects of personality cross-culturally.
Recently, he has written provocative papers on the future of
personality psychology for the 21st
century, including exploring the molecular genetics of personality
Wilson's research examines why
it is so hard for people to accurately evaluate themselves. He has
shed light into the ways in which people are mistaken about
themselves, whether wrong about the causes of their past actions or
about their present attitudes. His book Stranger
to Ourselves explored
the challenges of self-insight. An Elected Fellow in the American
Association for the Advancement of Science and an Elected Member of
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wilson works to ensure
that public policy is informed by scientific fact.
Dweck's work has examined how
people’s mindsets shape their lives and determine their
achievement. In a series of well-known studies, Dweck demonstrated
how people with a "growth mindset,” who believe that certain
qualities, such as intelligence, can be developed make life choices
that lead to greater success than those with a "fixed mindset,”
who believe that basic abilities are unchangeable. This distinction
profoundly affects people’s motivation, psychological well-being,
and learning, and the ideas have been extended to apply to work in
diverse areas, such as education and intergroup relations.
Math and Science
Intervention, Political Ideologies, Hidden bias
An intervention aimed at parents
can boost children's interest in math and science, according the
study awarded this year's Robert B. Cialdini Award for excellence in
a published field study. Judith
Harackiewicz of the University of Wisconsin, with colleagues
Christopher Rozek, Chris Hulleman, and Janet Hyde, sent to parents of
high-school students information that emphasized the importance of
mathematics and science to college, career, and everyday life, and
that offered tips for parents to communicate this importance to their
children. Compared to a control group, children whose parents
received the information took nearly a full extra semester of math
and science. The paper,
parents to motivate adolescents in mathematics and science: An
experimental test of a utility-value intervention,”
was published in Psychological
Honorable Mention for the Cialdini Award goes
at the beginning makes ethics salient and decreases dishonest
self-reports in comparison to signing at the end,”
by Lisa L. Shu and colleagues in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
The recipient of the Media Book
Prize is Jonathan Haidt for The
Righteous Mind, which
takes a tour of how people bind themselves to political and religious
teams and the moral narratives that accompany them. Using a range of
arguments – anthropological, psychological, and evolutionary –
Haidt proposes that the U.S. political left and the right emphasize
different virtues and he suggests that we use that discovery to try
to get along.
The Methodological Innovation
Award goes to Anthony
G. Greenwald of the University of Washington, who in 1998 created the
Implicit Association Test
(IAT) – a widely-used method for measuring attitudes, stereotypes,
self-concepts, and self-esteem without relying on self-reporting.
Researchers have used the IAT in fields ranging from education and
health to forensics and marketing. Tens of thousands of people weekly
visit the Project
created by Greenwald and colleagues.
Recipients of the Carol and Ed
Diener Award in Personality Psychology and the Carol and Ed Diener
Award in Social Psychology are Andrew J. Elliot of the University of
Rochester and Nalini Ambady of Stanford, respectively.
Elliot studies achievement and social motivation, particularly in
educational contexts, and focuses on how approach and avoidance
temperaments, motives, and goals influence psychological functioning.
Ambady's work looks at
"thin slices” – showing that social, emotional, and perceptual
judgments made on the basis of brief behavioral observations can be
The remaining SPSP awards for
2013 are as follows:
The 2013 SPSP Award for Service
on Behalf of Personality and Social Psychology: Kay
Deaux of City University of New York and Hazel Rose Markus of
Stanford. A great mentor and supporter of diversity in the field,
Deaux's pioneering work looks at gender, identity, and immigration,
reflecting her deep
social consciousness. Markus
has worked to create the field of cultural psychology – shifting
it from the assumption that research findings in one culture
represent basic processes of human nature, to the idea of linking
different social and personality processes to gender, race, social
class, age, and culture.
SPSP Service Award for Distinguished Service to the Society: Wendi
Gardner of Northwestern University and George (Al) Goethals of the
University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies.
Through her roles with the
Society, Gardner has played a vital role in shaping the
organization's annual conferences and also has served as a
passionate advocate for graduate students. As Secretary-Treasurer
of SPSP (1995-1997), Goethals shepherded the Society through lean
financial times, helping it to establish a solid financial
The 2013 Theoretical Innovation
Prize: Kurt Gray, Liane
Young, and Adam Waytz for their 2012 Psychological
Perception is the Essence of Morality.” The paper proposes a
simplification in the way psychologists view moral judgment.
A ceremony at the 2014 annual
SPSP conference in Austin, TX (Feb. 13-15, 2014)
will honor all of this year's award recipients. Full citations are
SPSP promotes scientific
research that explores how people think, behave, and interact. The
Society is the largest organization of social and personality
psychologists in the world.
stories are bigger in Texas... Get
your next big story at the SPSP annual meeting in Austin,
TX, Feb. 13-15, 2014!
Lisa M.P. Munoz
SPSP Public Information Officer