2018 - Daphna Oyserman
The father of social psychology, Kurt Lewin, outlined two important maxims for the field: (1) “there is nothing so practical as a good theory” and (2) “research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.” Social psychologists often repeat these maxims as things we should aspire to – to formulate good theories that may be useful in the real world, but few of us actually attain both components of that aspiration. Daphna Oyserman is a clear exception. She has spent the past three decades conducting research in laboratory and field settings to develop good theories – of identity-based motivation and culture as situated cognition – theories that have not only advanced our understanding of social psychological processes, but have also been incredibly useful for improving outcomes for people across the globe. Her research served as a foundation for interventions in public schools in Detroit, Chicago, and other locations in the United States, as well as internationally in Singapore and the United Kingdom. Her work has also been used to develop interventions to reduce aspiration-attainment gaps in health, planning and savings, as well as to understand consumer behavior. Oyserman is the epitome of a Lewinian psychologist who works diligently to advance social psychological theory, but also ensures that those theories are useful for society; for these reasons she is deserving of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s 2018 Applications of Personality and Social Psychology Award.
2017 - Christina Maslach
Few 20th-century, research-based psychological constructs have become so widely recognized that dictionaries date their etymology to around the time when they were coined in a professional publication. “Burnout” is one such construct. Christina Maslach, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, began her groundbreaking work on emotional exhaustion from long, intense, and stressful occupational efforts in the early 1970s. Not only did Dr. Maslach introduce the construct, she has persisted in further research about burnout and in making those who are in a position to use her findings aware of the implications of her work, from which have sprung wellness and stress-reduction programs, mindfulness exercises, and many more efforts to better the lives of employees worldwide. As the nomination letter for Dr. Maslach noted, “the best applied science has the hallmarks of rigorous science: field-shaping, discovery-oriented work that is founded in theory and strong methods. At the same time, it shapes culture and practice outside of the laboratory, inspiring shifts in values, new perspectives upon a compelling social issue, and interventions of different kinds.” Dr. Maslach’s work on burnout has accomplished all of this in exemplary ways. Her outstanding contributions are recognized with the 2017 Application of Personality and Social Psychology Award.
2016 - Nilanjana Dasgupta
Dr. Nilanjana Dasgupta’s groundbreaking research examines unconscious or implicit bias with specific focus on the plasticity of implicit bias—i.e., the ways in which variations in social contexts cast imprints on the mind to influence the self-concept, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward others. Her basic and translational research has significantly advanced our understanding of how implicit bias contributes to important social problems. Equally importantly, her work offers evidence-based interventions that promise to address these problems. The benefits of her research findings have had widespread impact on legal scholars, lawyers and judges, K-12 teachers and students, educators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), businesses and entrepreneurs, and policy-makers at the state and federal level. As a testament to the basic and translational value of her work, Dr. Dasgupta recently gave an invited Distinguished Lecture at the National Science Foundation. In 2014, she received the Distinguished Academic Outreach Award in Research from UMass-Amherst. In 2012, she received the Hidden Bias Research Prize awarded by Level Playing Field Institute, a private foundation based in Silicon Valley, for an “outstanding research article on gender equity in the classroom.” In 2005 she received the Morton Deutsch Award from the International Society for Justice Research. Her research findings have been featured in leading journalistic outlets including The New York Times, Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, London Times, National Public Radio, PBS News Hour, BBC Radio, ABC News, Scientific American Mind, Slate.com, etc. Dr. Dasgupta’s research epitomizes the ideal of theoretically incisive basic research that she applies to a wide array of important social problems and contexts and disseminates to practitioners and policy makers nationwide.