Most journalists who come to social psychology are trained in journalism and then come to learn our field by covering it over time. Maria Konnikova, by contrast, is an insider, obtaining her Ph.D. in social psychology studying with Walter Mischel at Columbia and then deciding to put her beautiful writing skills to work in journalism by explaining the depth of our field’s research to the broader world. The difference in approaches is obvious in the depth of understanding you obtain when reading Konnikova’s work compared to nearly all other journalists. Writing long-form articles for The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, and The Atlantic, among others, Konnikova has provided dissertation-level treatments on an astonishing range of topics. This includes how police officer’s appearance can affect violence, on the shortcomings of personality tests to predict behavior, on the influence of a person’s name on important life outcomes, why first-person shooter games are so addictive, and—obviously most important—why we sometimes make up the wrong lyrics to popular songs (mistakes called “Mondegreens,” as you’ve now just learned from her). Konnikova’s articles go beyond shallow presentations of our field’s catchiest findings to instead explore the deeper methodological procedures underlying our field’s findings, and the controversies they sometimes produce. Her articles are the intellectual equivalent of Psychological Bulletin or Psychological Review paper, except that you can’t stop reading them. Through carefully conducted interviews, Konnikova’s articles also reveal the human dynamics underlying progress in social psychology. Her biography of Walter Mischel should be required reading in any advanced social psychology seminar. For setting the standard of depth, accuracy, and insight in covering social psychological research, SPSP is delighted to award the 2019 Excellence in Science Journalism Award to Maria Konnikova.
James Ryersonis the 2018 winner of the Media Award for Excellence in Science Journalism. Mr. Ryerson is an editor of broad intellect who has worked for two decades at the intersection of science and journalism, translating psychological research in a way that informs, intrigues, and often delights. Since 2003, Mr. Ryerson has been an editor at The New York Times, first at the Sunday Magazine and now at the Sunday Review and Opinion Sections, specializing in editing pieces about the work of and by scientists. Ryerson is also responsible for the Gray Matter column that appears regularly in the Sunday Review section of the The New York Times. Gray Matter, as the name suggests, is designed to offer readers insight into some of the most intriguing questions about the human mind, many of which focus on social and personality psychology. James not only offers thought-provoking analyses of such topics in his own writing – he also creates a context and provides support for social and personality psychologists so that our science has the broadest possible public readership.
Ed Yong is the 2017 Media Excellence in Science Journalism award winner. Yong is a writer for The Atlantic and his writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Nature, the BBC, Wired, The New Scientist, Scientific American, the Guardian, Discover, Aeon, the Times, National Geographic, and more. Yong has been very successful at conveying to the public what we do, how hard it is to do what we do, and how important our findings are for the world. Notably, Yong has consistently covered both substantive and methodological issues in our field. In his work, he demonstrates the benefits and implications of social/personality psychology as a science, while avoiding the overgeneralizations that can sometimes be found in science journalism.
In addition, Yong has shown a great deal of respect for the scientific process, and particularly for the challenging task that we face as social/personality psychologists. Specifically, Yong has consistently portrayed our field as committed in self-correction and self-improvement, and given us a great deal of credit for our efforts to do so. Yong was one of the first to write about the replicability issues, and for the last four years he has emphasized all of the ways in which we have been leaders among the sciences in our efforts to improve our methods. In short, Yong has done more to increase social/personality psychology’s visibility in the national media than almost any other journalist. He shows an appreciation for the nuance and complexity of our research that is rare in journalism, and he conveys that to his readers in a way that, I believe, enhances our reputation as scientists. Science journalism that sensationalizes our findings does us a disservice because it makes us look less scientific to the public. Yong’s reporting treats our work like real science by digging deep into the methods and distinguishing between the actual results of a study and the hype that sometimes surrounds the findings.
Shankar Vedantam is the 2016 winner of the Media Award for Excellence in Science Journalism. Vedantam has a long, illustrious career focused on disseminating research on social and personality psychology. He currently is a science correspondent at National Public Radio, where he reports on the field’s work in the Hidden Brain podcast series (e.g., Peer pressure may not work the way we think it does). Prior to joining NPR, he was at the Washington Post where he wrote the popular Department of Human Behavior column (e.g., In face of tragedy, “whodunit” question often guides moral reasoning), and has occasionally penned pieces for Slate (e.g., Partisanship is the new racism). Vedantam often devotes his long- and short-form pieces to relaying one recent research article. Blissfully free of pithy soundbites, he delves into the studies’ aims, procedures, and results in refreshing detail, followed by suggestions for how readers and listeners might connect the findings to current events or their own personal cares and struggles. Vedantam’s commitment to behavioral science, prodigious reporting, and talent in bringing social and personality ideas to life make him the ideal candidate for the 2016 SPSP Media Award.
The 2015 Media Award for Excellence in Science Journalism goes to Ezra Klein. Klein’s rich and readable text, reach, and responsible reporting made him an ideal journalist to honor with this prize. Klein’s thought-provoking analysis of political events and current news incorporates social and personality psychology like few other journalists. Without resorting to blithely summarizing academic findings, Klein explores the far-ranging implications of social and personality findings as viewed through the lens of politics, race, class, and government. His representative and hugely influential vox.com articles include, “Unpopular Mandate” (2012) and “How Politics Makes Us Stupid,” (2014). Klein’s social media activities also promote SPSP findings to his three-quarters of a million followers, including top policy makers, advocates, and commentators. In connecting the field’s work to contemporary issues, Klein helps our science come alive.
The 2014 Media Achievement Award goes to Carol Tavris for her decades of work making scientific psychology interesting and accessible to the general public. The subtitle of one of her five books provides an apt description of her contributions: Using Psychological Science to Think Critically about Popular Psychology. Tavris has brought the best of our field to the attention of the public and has helped foster a healthy skepticism that the public sorely needs. In addition to her leading introductory psychology textbook and her four trade books (Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion; The Mismeasure of Woman; Psychobabble and Biobunk: Using Psychological Science to Think Critically About Popular Psychology; and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)), Tavris has written articles and reviews for The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, Harper’s, Discover, Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, and Psychology Today.
Claudia Hammond is the author of two excellent books (Emotional Rollercoster, Time Warped), she is a regular contributor to numerous top-flight newspapers and magazines (e.g., The Guardian, The Times, Psychologies), and she is probably best known for her work as presenter of All in the Mind and Mind Changers on BBC’s Radio 4, and Health Check on BBC’s World Service. She has won several awards and much acclaim for her coverage of humanitarian and science issues. Her books and radio programs vividly illustrate the relevance of personality and social psychology to contemporary issues. Several years ago, when asked about her aims (in an interview with Ian Florance in The Psychologist), she stated, "What I hope might happen in the future is that just as the field of economics is suddenly catching on to the decades of psychological research on decision-making, that other fields might start to do the same and to realize that there’s all this research out there which could be put into practice. Expert panels and commissions wouldn’t dream of not including an economist. I’d like to see a day when they all have a psychologist too.” The 2012 Media Achievement award recognizes her long-standing, high-quality work in bringing us closer to that day.
David Brooks has been selected to receive the 2011 Media Achievement Award in recognition of his sustained and distinguished record for disseminating knowledge in personality or social psychology to the general public through his insightful articles, columns, and books. David Brooks’ writings, which are read by an enormous audience, are well known for their thoughtfulness, depth and their ability to convey complexity with great clarity. By integrating research findings into his work, Brooks showcases the relevance of social and personality psychology to many of the issues that dominate current affairs. In doing so, his articles, columns, and books, continue to improve public understanding of research and enhance the field’s standing in the broader community.
2010 - Malcolm Gladwell
The Media Prize
2012 - Benjamin Le, Gary Lewandowski and Timothy Loving
Founded and administered by Benjamin Le, Gary Lewandowski, and Timothy Loving, Science of Relationships.com provides informative, engaging, and interesting coverage of important research on the topic of relationships. The general public voraciously consumes popular books and advice columns about relationships, but has had very little access to scientific perspectives on the topic. Science of Relationships.com fills that gap by featuring work published in the major journals of personality and social psychology, providing an important platform for researchers to speak directly to a general audience. This non-profit site haspublished several hundred articles about relationships and has a high level of Internet.
2011 - Jon Hanson and Michael McCann
Jon Hanson and Michael McCann have been selected to receive the 2011 Media Prize in recognition of their outstanding work in promoting personality and social psychology research to the general public via The Situationist blog. The Situationist blog provides a forum for a broad range of researchers in the social sciences to present and discuss empirical research that can inform widely held assumptions and intuitions. The blog provides a vehicle for the bloggers, many of whom are social and personality researchers, to broadcast their ideas well beyond academic audiences. By focusing on topics that are current and material that is accessible, the Situationist has become a widely read and trusted source of information about psychological research and highly effective means for promoting the significance of the science to the broader population.