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The Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize
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Award Description

Past Recipients

Past Citations

• Nominations Closed

The Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize recognizes an article or book chapter judged to provide the most innovative theoretical contribution to social/personality psychology within a given year. In October 2013, the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology were pleased to announce that henceforth the Society's annual Theoretical Innovation Prize will be known as the Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize. Dan Wegner, who passed away in 2013, was recognized with the field's most prestigious awards for his highly original scholarship and novel theoretical perspective. The dedication of this award to the memory of Dan Wegner is made possible by a generous donation from Worth Publishers.


Any kind of innovative theoretical contribution can be considered for the prize, including presentations of new theories, new theory-based integrations of disparate areas of inquiry, and significant extensions of existing theories to new areas of inquiry.  Theoretical contributions are eligible for the prize regardless of the format of their presentation, whether in stand-along theoretical papers, within conceptually based literature reviews, or in some other written format that highlights conceptual innovation.

The prize recognizes theoretical articles that are especially likely to generate the discovery of new hypotheses, new phenomena, or new ways of thinking about the discipline of social/personality psychology. Theoretical contributions may be judged innovative and generative even before they have accumulated substantial empirical support. Therefore, an article may be judged worthy for the prize even if it runs the risk of empirical invalidation in the future. The emphasis of the prize is on a contribution's conceptual innovation and potential to motivate new research and further conceptual investigation, rather than on its current level of empirical support.

Eligible articles are those published as papers in peer-reviewed journals or as book chapters during the previous calendar year. Books and unpublished manuscripts are not eligible.

Eligible articles may be nominated by their authors or by other members of SPSP. The Nomination Panel may also consider additional eligible papers even if not nominated by their authors or other individuals.

The Award Nomination Panel has the option of not awarding a prize annually.
The recipient receives a $500 honorarium. However, beginning with the 2014 Prize, recipients will receive a $700 honorarium.



  • Kurt Gray, Liane Young and Adam Waytz for their 2012Psychological Inquiry article entitled "Mind Perception is the Essence of Morality.”

  • Tessa West & David Kenny for their 2011 Psychological Review article entitled "The Truth and Bias Model of Judgment” (Vol. 118, pp. 357–378)
  • Landau, M. J., Meier, B. P., & Keefer, L. A. (2010, September 6). A Metaphor-Enriched Social Cognition. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0020970
  • Morewedge, C. K. (2009). When dreaming is believing: The (motivated) interpretation of dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 249-264.
  • Pronin, E. & Jacobs, E. (2008). Thought speed, mood, and the experience of mental motion. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 461-485.
  • Epley, N., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2007). On seeing human: A three-factor theory of anthropomorphism. Psychological Review, 114, 864-886.
  • Honorable Mention: Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., DeWall, N., & Zhang, L. (2007). How emotion shapes behavior: Feedback, anticipation, and reflection, rather than direct causation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 167-203.
  • Dijksterhuis, A. & Nordgren, L. F. (2006) A theory of unconscious thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 95-109.
  • Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641-666.
  • Conrey, F. R., Sherman, J. W., Gawronski, B., Hugenberg, K., & Groom, C. (2005). Separating multiple processes in implicit social cognition: The Quad Model of implicit task performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 469-487.
  • Honorable Mention: Hart, J., Shaver, P., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2005). Attachment, self-esteem, worldviews, and terror management: Evidence for a tripartite security system. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 999-1013.
  • Honorable Mention: Leary, M. R. (2005). Why does social exclusion hurt? The relationship between social and physical pain. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 202-223.
  • Smith, E. R., & Semin, G. (2004). Socially situated cognition: Cognition in its social context. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 53-117.
  • Honorable Mention: Dickerson, S. S., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 355-391.
  • Simonton, D. K. (2003). Scientific creativity as constrained stochastic behavior: The integration of product, person, and process perspectives. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 475-494.
  • Honorable Mention: Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 339-375.
  • Jost, J. T., & Hunyady, O. (2002). The psychology of system justification and the palliative function of ideology. European Review of Social Psychology, 13, 111-153.
  • Niedenthal, P. M., Barsalou, L. W., Winkielman, P., Krauth-Gruber, S., & Ric, F. (unpublished). Embodiment in attitudes, social perception, and emotion.
  • Strack, F., & Deutsch, R. (2004). Reflective and impulsive determinants of social behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, 220-247.
  • Blanton, H., & Christie, C. (2003). Deviance regulation: A theory of action and identity. Review of General Psychology, 7, 115-149.
  • Fleeson, W. (2001). Toward a structure- and process-integrated view of personality: Traits as density distributions of states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 1011-1027.
  • Kwan, V. S. Y., John, O. P., Kenny, D. A., Bond, M. H., & Robins, R. W. (2004). Reconceptualizing individual differences in self-enhancement bias: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Review, 111, 94-110.



The 2013 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize is awarded to Kurt Gray, Liane Young and Adam Waytz for their 2012 Psychological Inquiry article entitled "Mind Perception is the Essence of Morality.” Pablo Picasso famously attempted to capture the simple essence of a bull with a mere dozen drawn lines. In their provocative and innovative article, Gray, Young, and Waytz suggest that, like Picasso’s bull, the psychology of moral judgment, too, has a simple essence. This essence, they propose, is mind perception, specifically the perception of two minds that, together, constitute a moral dyad—an intentional agent paired with a suffering patient. They argue that this cognitive template of the moral dyad underlies a wide range of apparently distinct moralities and moral judgments, thereby lending an integrative, simplifying parsimony to otherwise conceptually scattered phenomena. In support of their position, they note that two of the central dimensions of mind perception (seeing actors as having agency and experiences) correspond to two moral types (agents and patients); they suggest that all moral transgressions are understood as agency plus suffering; they generate and test novel hypotheses that people cognitively infer complete moral dyads of intentional agents and suffering patients, and typecast others as moral agents or moral patients; they provide their own empirical evidence and draw on sound evidence reported by others to build their arguments; and they posit a range of additional, interesting hypotheses.

Beyond challenging existing theories of moral judgment, this paper also stimulates the reader to contemplate critical questions relevant to all of scientific inquiry: What is the value of theoretical parsimony? When is there too much and when is there not enough parsimony? If Picasso’s essence of bull is too often perceived as not the dangerous and savage gladiator of the fighting ring but rather as the overfed and pampered antelope of the petting zoo, has the artist simplified too much in the spirit of parsimony? If the proposed essence of moral judgment turns out to struggle at times to conceptually capture the rich diversity of moral judgment across domains, ideologies, or cultures, has the theoretician simplified too much in the spirit of parsimony? And by what criteria do we decide?

By virtue, then, of its attempted reach, engaging writing, marshaling of evidence, and willingness to provoke, Gray, Young, and Waytz’s article is likely to stimulate exciting new lines of inquiry in social and personality psychology and encourage broader conversations about what defines useful theory. For these reasons, Gray, Young, and Waytz are highly deserving winners of the 2013 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize.


The 2012 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize has been awarded to Tessa V. West and David A. Kenny for their innovative 2011 Psychological Review article entitled "The Truth and Bias Model of Judgment.” (Vol. 118, pp. 357–378).Despite broad interest in the processes of accuracy and bias in psychology, there is no single framework to define and measure them. Rather, theoretical models have been developed to address accuracy and bias within particular domains. As a result, the meaning of accuracy and bias, and the methodological approaches used to examine them, vary considerably. In their innovative article, West and Kenny propose the truth and bias (T & B) model, a single, integrative framework for the study of accuracy and bias across domains within psychology. The T & B model specifies that judgments are pulled by two forces, truth and bias. Countering the intuition that accuracy and bias are negatively related, they highlight the insights that truth and bias may be positively, negatively, or not at all related, and that psychological mechanisms may operate on truth and bias independently: Some mechanisms can lead perceivers to be both accurate and biased, others can lead to more accuracy and less bias, and yet others to more bias and less accuracy. Importantly, West and Kenny articulate how the parameters of their model can be translated into empirical methods that researchers can employ to develop and refine hypotheses of accuracy and bias as they operate across a range of domains. West and Kenny illustrate the broad applicability of their model by demonstrating how it sheds light on theoretical issues in the domain of close dyadic relationships. By virtue of its scope and conceptual sophistication, West and Kenny’s article has the potential to stimulate exciting new lines of inquiry in social and personality psychology, as well as in neighboring disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. For these reasons, West and Kenny are highly deserving winners of the 2012 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize.


The 2011 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize is awarded to Mark J. Landau, Brian P. Meier and Lucas A. Keefer for their innovative 2010 Psychological Bulletin article entitled "A Metaphor-Enriched Social Cognition.” Psychologists strive to make sense of how people make sense. Dominant approaches to this task have adopted the straightforward view that people interpret and evaluate new experiences by drawing on personal knowledge they have acquired through past experiences. Of course, human cognition resides in individual minds, but Landau, Meier and Keefer identify and articulate an emerging new trend in social and personality psychology, one that considers how people come to understand the social world through the conceptual metaphors that surround them. Despite the long tradition and growing interest in metaphor-based cognition, no group has yet provided the formal integration of relevant research that has been needed for the field to "move forward” (metaphorically speaking). Landau and colleagues provide this through their review of the many ways that conceptual metaphors have been shown to shape human understandings. Their analysis examines metaphoric influences on such diverse concepts as divinity, morality, and power and considers the ways metaphors might influence reactions to social policies pertaining to such varied topics as seatbelt use and illegal immigration. By articulating ways in which metaphor has, itself, acted as a metaphor that has guided psychological research, these investigators have provided the field with new understanding of how culture and history can shape the way we think and react to the worlds in which we live.

Nominations Closed

Nominations have closed for the Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize. This award will be presented at the annual convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, which will take place in Long Beach, California, February 26-28, 2015.



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