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The Distinguished Scholar Award
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Award Description

Past Recipients

Past Citations

The Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes the broad scope and potentially integrative nature of scholarship in personality and social psychology. It honors a scholar who has made distinctively valuable research contributions across his or her career in areas that expand the core of social and personality research and/or integrates different topics in the discipline in significant ways. The award was established to recognize the breadth of personality and social psychology and ensure that SPSP recognizes distinguished scholarly contributions beyond the prototypic topic areas.

The recipient receives a $1000 honorarium. The Distinguished Scholar Award recipient gives an address (with the Block Award and the Campbell Award recipients) at a special plenary session during the SPSP convention. 




2013 Carol Dweck

2012 James Pennebaker




Dr. Carol S. Dweck, who is currently the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, epitomizes the qualities that characterize a Distinguished Scholar. This award honors a scholar who has made distinctively valuable research contributions across his or her career in areas that expand the core of social and personality research and/or integrates different topics in the discipline in significant ways. Dr. Dweck’s distinctively creative work has examined, across different age groups and in different domains, how people’s self-conceptions (or mindsets) structure their lives and determines their achievement. In a series of ground-breaking studies, Dr. Dweck demonstrated how people with a "growth mindset,” who believe that certain qualities (e.g., intelligence) can be developed through effort, good teaching, or persistence, make life choices that lead to greater success than those with a "fixed mindset,” who assume that basic abilities are unchangeable. This fundamental distinction in orientation profoundly affects people’s motivation, psychological well-being, and learning. These ideas have been extended to apply to work in diverse areas, such as in emotions and intergroup relations. Dr. Dweck’s scholarship is truly integrative: It bridges developmental, social and personality psychology and has critical implications for education. In addition, her creative insights have had enormous impact practically, as well theoretically. Interventions that change children’s mindsets from fixed to growth have produced dramatic, sustained improvements in academic performance. Dr. Dweck has offered original insights that have fundamentally changed the way the field – and the broader public – understand human development, motivation, social relations, and personality.


James ("Jamie”) Pennebaker is one of the most broadly influential psychological scientists in the world today. His wide-ranging research on self-disclosure, language use, symptom perception, and health has had an extraordinary impact on personality and social psychology, clinical and health psychology, cognitive science, life-span developmental studies, and even scholarship in the humanities. His initial work demonstrated how social factors influence the perception of physical symptoms, with implications for treatment-seeking and well-being. In a series of studies that have been replicated and expanded in scope, Pennebaker and his team famously showed that writing about personal trauma and other negative life experiences can have long-term positive effects on physical health and psychological well-being. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking experiments on self-disclosure and health opened up broader inquiries into the nature of language use in everyday life. Through computer text analysis programs and other methods, he also has examined the general question of how the words we use in talk and writing reflect our underlying feelings, thoughts, and personality, and how they influence the nature and meaning of social behavior. Pennebaker’s methods for analyzing language use have been applied to everything from personal conversations and diaries to the full corpus of Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. The findings and implications of this remarkable body of work have been published in many scientific papers and chapters, inspiring whole new areas of research, and they have reached the general public through Pennebaker’s highly successful popular books, such as The Secret Life of Pronouns.

Nomination Instructions

Each year nominations are made by a SPSP Distinguished Scholar Award Nomination Panel.




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