Indiana Daily Student

IU professor receives honor in psychology

Linda Smith, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was awarded the 2013 American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions, one of the highest honors for scientific achievement by psychologists.

Smith is one of three scientists in the nation receiving the annual award, and the third IU faculty member to be given the honor. Richard Shiffrin was the last IU faculty member to receive the award, in 2004. William Estes won the same honor in 1962.

The APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S, according to a press release. The award, introduced in 1956, recognizes senior scientists for distinguished theoretical or empirical contributions to basic research in psychology.

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences announced the award Wednesday, but Smith said she first heard the news in December.

“I had not known I was nominated, so it was a surprise,” Smith said. “I had already been announced as the Rumelhart Prize winner for 2013, so it was a bit of feeling that I was definitely having a good run.”

Smith is only the second woman to earn the Rumelhart Prize, a $100,000 award honoring research in human cognition. Whereas the Rumelhart Prize is strictly for cognitive science, the APA award is for research in psychology, Smith said.
Smith was also featured in an inaugural TED-style video talk for a new APA video series by major figures in the field, according to a press release.

Her book, “A Dynamical Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action,” has become an influential piece of literature for today’s generation of cognitive scientists, according to the release.

Robert Goldstone, also a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences nominated Smith for the award, he said.

“Dr. Smith is one of our local treasures at Indiana University,” Goldstone said. “Her research on the development of cognition has transformed both developmental and cognitive psychology.”

In their cognitive lab, Smith and her team of researchers have invented engaging tasks that allow toddlers to demonstrate what they know and how they know. The researchers also attach small cameras to the heads of toddler subjects, of ages 1 month to 2 years, in order to observe his or her visual
environment.

Smith’s findings indicate that a baby’s point of view changes dramatically with development, filtering what the baby learns, she said.

“All my work is trying to understand this process, the pathways in which development builds on itself, particularly with respect to those very human abilities related to language,” she said.

Other 2013 recipients of the award are Stanford professors Ian Gotlib and Robert Sapolsky. A formal announcement of the award will appear in the April 2013 issue of the American Psychologist and the May 2013 issue of the APA Monitor.

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences faculty and staff are thrilled to have Dr. Smith’s accomplishments recognized by the APA, Goldstone said.

“We’ve known for several decades now how important Dr. Smith’s research is,” Goldstone said. “It’s good to see other national and international groups recognizing this too.”

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