A Lifetime of Learning: APS Honors Yale Psychologists

May 11, 2013

Allan Wagner, James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology, Emeritus. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE YALE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY.

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) recently named Allan Wagner, the James Rowland Angel Professor Emeritus of Psychology, and Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the former chair of the department, recipients of lifetime achievement awards.

Professor Wagner received the William James Fellow Award, which celebrates “significant intellectual contributions to the basic science of psychology.” Wagner’s research focused on associative learning, which he described as the “the process whereby one event reminds one of another.” Exploring the mechanisms behind associative learning, he contributed to the development of Pavlovian conditioning models such as the Rescorla-Wagner model (co-authored with Robert Rescorla of the University of Pennsylvania).

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema served as chair of the Psychology Department and Director of the Yale Depression and Cognition Program. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE YALE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY.

Later models worked to clarify characteristics of learning that previous studies had not fully described. For example, they addressed how subsequent appearances of a stimulus are not processed and responded to as effectively when that stimulus is already in active memory.

“Today’s problems are suggested by yesterday’s solutions,” Professor Wagner said. His work on the fundamentals of associative learning has influenced areas of study as varied as the development of causal judgments in humans and the neurobiology of eyeblink conditioning in rabbits.

APS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE APS.

Professor Nolen-Hoeksema, who passed away January 2, received the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. The award acknowledges “outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research,” and is awarded to members whose “research addresses a critical problem in society.”

Professor Nolen-Hoeksema’s research focused on mental health and included work on mood regulation. She facilitated the understanding of gender differences in depression and worked to direct her findings into active efforts to intervene in the development of mental illness.