McClelland, Spelke Win Inaugural NAS Mind Prize

Stanford cognitive psychologist James L. McClelland and Harvard psychologist Elizabeth Shilin Spelke are the inaugural recipients of the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences. They received their awards last month.

The NAS Prize in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, with its $200,000 award, will be given every two years for significant advances with important implications for formal and systematic theory in these fields. NAS members in these disciplines select the recipients.

This new prize was made possible through a $3.5 million gift last year by NAS member Richard C. Atkinson. “Because of the dedication of many brilliant researchers, the psychological and cognitive sciences have seen incredible advances in the past decades,” Atkinson, president emeritus of the University of California and professor emeritus of cognitive science and psychology at the University of California, San Diego, said at the time his endowment was announced. “This award is intended to recognize and support scientists in improving our understanding of how the mind works.”

James L McClelland
James L. McClelland

McClelland, the Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences and director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Computation at Stanford University, was honored for his role in formulating computational models to demonstrate the spread of activation through brain networks.  His work has contributed to solving many puzzles in psychology and enhancing mechanical methods for perceiving patterns in language and visual sciences.

Elizabeth Spelke
Elizabeth S. Spelke

Spelke, the Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, was recognized for her outstanding work on the representation of numbers and of the physical and social world in the minds of infants, children, and adults. Spelke’s characterizations of the nature of representational systems form the basis for formal models of the initial state of infants’ minds and of the learning mechanisms that underlie the transition to adulthood.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and provides policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

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