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The Career Contribution Award
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Award Description

Past Recipients

Past Citations

The Career Contribution Award honors a scholar who has made major theoretical and/or empirical contributions to social psychology and/or personality psychology or to bridging these areas. Recipients are recognized for distinguished scholarly contributions across long and productive careers.

One or two SPSP Career Contribution Awards may be given each year.

The recipient receives a $1000 honorarium.



2013  C. Daniel Batson , James Sidanius
2012  Samuel Gaertner, Phillip Shaver 
2011  Thomas Pettigrew, Harry Triandis





C. Daniel Batson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, received his Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University as well as a Ph.D. in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Batson spent his entire career at the University of Kansas, and after retirement from Kansas in 2008 now holds a position in the psychology department at the University of Tennessee. Professor Batson’s interests focus on topics that bridge concerns in psychology and religion, including altruism, empathy, compassion, and the social psychology of religion.

Professor Batson has published four books and more than 150 scholarly articles and chapters. He is perhaps best known as a leading proponent for the existence of pure or selfless altruism. Although acknowledging that people sometimes help others for selfish reasons, Batson maintains that some instances of prosocial behavior reflect pure altruism in which people help out of a genuine concern for others and with no benefits for themselves. The long-standing egoism-altruism debate between Batson and Robert Cialdini ranks among the most influential and generative exchanges in social psychology. Professor Batson also co-authored with John Darley a frequently-cited study of bystander intervention in which seminary students were less likely to help a confederate in distress when they were in a hurry, even when they were on their way to deliver a talk on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Batson's contributions to the psychology of religion include his extension of Gordon Allport’s distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientations to include a form of religiosity that he calls quest. Quest involves the degree to which a person’s religion involves an ongoing, open-ended investigation of existential questions, and Professor Batson’s work shows that this orientation relates to religious behavior differently than other forms of religiosity. He has also written extensively about religious experiences and proposed an influential four-stage model of religious experience with Patricia Schoenrade and Larry Ventis. For his contributions to understanding the social and psychological aspects of religious experience, Batson received the William James Award from Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (APA Division 36).

Jim Sidanius is Professor of Psychology and African American Studies at Harvard University. Professor Sidanius received his Ph.D. at the University of Stockholm, Sweden in 1977. The title of his Dissertation was, "Cognitive functioning and socio-political ideology: studies in political psychology.” Prior to joining the faculty at Harvard in 2006, he taught at several universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Stockholm, the University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, Princeton University, and University of California at Los Angeles.

Professor Sidanius has authored over 150 scientific papers, and his most important theoretical contribution to date is the development of social dominance theory, summarized in his book (in collaboration with Felicia Pratto), Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression (1999). Social dominance theory notably explains the acceptance of group-based social hierarchy by both the dominant and oppressed groups. Long before others were convinced, Jim Sidanius understood the inevitability and the significance of hierarchy in structuring society, social relations and psychological functioning. He pioneered the study of the widely shared cultural ideologies (i.e., legitimizing myths) that provide the moral and intellectual justification for group—based hierarchies. Research in his lab also demonstrated that beliefs about group-based social dominance represent a measurable individual difference dimension (Social Dominance Orientation) that relates to a variety of social attitudes including racism, sexism, homophobia, and is related to and independent of political-economic conservatism. In addition to his ground-breaking work on the interface between political ideology and cognitive functioning, his studies have contributed to the understanding of group conflict, institutional discrimination and the evolutionary psychology of intergroup prejudice.

Among his other most significant publications are Racialized Politics: Values Ideology and Prejudice in American Public Opinion (2000) and The Diversity Challenge: Social Identity and Intergroup Relations on the College Campus (2010). Professor Sidanius was the recipient of the 2006 Harold Lasswell Award for "Distinguished Scientific Contribution in the Field of Political Psychology” awarded by the International Society of Political Psychology, and in 2007 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


For more than a third of a century, Samuel Gaertner has been a major contributor to social psychology’s study of how to reduce intergroup prejudice, discrimination and conflict. Such widely used concepts as "aversive racism” and "common ingroup identity” derive directly from his extensive laboratory and field research. And, together with Jack Dovidio, Sam formed one of the most notable and productive mentor-student teams in the discipline’s history. Sam received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1964 and his Ph.D. from the City University of New York in 1970 where he worked with Stanley Milgram. As Professor of Psychology at the University of Delaware, he has served social psychology in multiple editorial roles. He has been a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and Group Processes and Intergroup Relations as well as the current co-editor of Social Issues and Policy Review. Not surprisingly, Sam’s important contributions have received repeated recognition – including the prestigious Kurt Lewin Memorial Award and twice (with Dovidio) the Allport Intergroup Relations Prize.

Professor Phillip Shaver is social psychology’s leading figure in research relating attachment theory to romantic love, couple communication, relationship loss, and grieving. Drawing on his initial insight that infant attachment theory should apply throughout life, Phil went on to demonstrate this point empirically and develop it theoretically. His brilliant and generative insight launched a major area of study within social psychology. In addition, his impactful contributions to the field of emotions include individuals’ and cultures’ cognitive representations of emotions and how conceptions of everyday emotions vary across cultures. Phil received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1970 and has held faculty positions at Columbia, New York University, the University of Denver, SUNY Buffalo, and University of California, Davis, where he is currently Distinguished Professor of Psychology. Phil is the author of numerous research articles and books that have influenced the development of theory and research on both relationships and emotions, including a 2007 book (with Mario Mikulincer) on adult attachment. In addition, Phil has given tirelessly to the field through his many editorial responsibilities and leadership positions.


Professor Thomas Pettigrew is the author of several hundred research articles and books that have influenced the development of theory and stimulated laboratory and field research on topics spanning social comparison and relative deprivation to race relations throughout the world. He was an early and powerful force in social psychology’s focus on prejudice, intergroup relations, and intergroup contact. For more than 50 years, Thomas Pettigrew has been at the forefront of research on racial prejudice and intergroup relations, for which he has received numerous awards, including the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues’s Kurt Lewin Award and its Gordon Allport Award (twice). His work is distinguished by its emphasis on how racism and prejudice can be reduced through intergroup contact and changing social norms. He has conducted research in Europe, South Africa, and Australia, and his work has had worldwide impact on the growing field of intergroup relations. Not content to remain only in the academy, he has prepared materials for National Educational Television and other media outlets on race relations, and he has served as an expert witness in key desegregation cases. Thomas Pettigrew’s inspirational career is a model for those who would influence not only social psychology, but also the world it describes for the better.

Working tirelessly and enthusiastically, Professor Harry Triandis pioneered the psychological study of culture. Long before others were convinced, he understood that culture matters for all aspects of behavior and demonstrated that it could be systematically analyzed using psychological tasks in the laboratory and the field. Among his most significant contributions is the theory that individualism and collectivism are distinct culturally derived frameworks that provide implicit and far-reaching scripts for behavior. Always seeking to foster cross-cultural appreciation and understanding, Harry Triandis has traveled the world presenting at international conferences, collaborating with scholars from around the globe, and training young scientists. Concerned with the practical application of his theorizing, he designed methods for cross-cultural training that reduce the shock among those encountering each others' culture for the first time, and edited the international volume of the Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. For his persistent efforts in internationalizing psychology, Harry Triandis has received numerous awards, including an honorary degree from the University of Athens, Greece, the American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Psychology,the Lifetime Contribution Award from the Academy of Intercultural Research in 2004, and was named an honorary fellow of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology.


Nomination Instructions

Each year nominations are made by a SPSP Career Contribution Award Nomination Panel.

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