The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is honoring two professors in the psychology department for their contributions to science. Mahzarin Rustum Banaji, the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, was awarded the Atkinson Prize in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and professor of psychology Leah Somerville received the Troland Research Award.
Banaji is recognized for her work in the field of implicit social cognition. Following the establishment of the concept, Banaji and collaborators continued the research to look at the neural underpinnings of implicit bias, examine the origin of bias among young children, and use machine learning approaches to identify algorithmic bias in large language and image collections.
“Amanda Gorman, in her inauguration poem almost exactly a year ago said that we are witness to a country that is not broken but simply unfinished. As an experimental psychologist I would say that part of what keeps us ‘unfinished’ is that we do not know ourselves, because we cannot easily gain access to our minds as it is hidden from conscious awareness,” Banaji said about her work.
Awarded biennially, the Atkinson is presented with a $100,000 cash prize. Banaji hopes it will help move “the basic work in new directions,” while also allowing her to “double down on education about what the mind sciences are revealing.”
Somerville, who leads the Affective Neuroscience & Development Laboratory, was awarded the $75,000 annual prize to support her pioneering research on how brain and psychological development are intertwined during adolescence. The laboratory uses a combination of behavioral, neuroscientific, and psychophysiological techniques to understand how the brain develops during adolescence and how that brain development relates to typical changes in motivation, decision making, emotion, and risk for psychiatric illness.