Sian Beilock earns honor from Association for Psychological Science

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

Sian Beilock, associate professor in psychology, is one of six scholars to receive the 2011 Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science.

The awards recognize the significant impact of a scholar’s work on the study of psychological science.

“The award recognizes the creativity and innovative work of promising scientists who represent the bright future ahead for psychological science,” the association wrote in announcing the honors. “It places these recipients among the brightest minds in our field.”

Beilock was recognized for her analysis of skilled performance in stressful situations. She has studied the chronic stress, for example, that a female mathematics major might feel as a result of her awareness of the negative stereotype that “women’s math abilities are inferior to men’s.” She also has looked at acute stressors that students may experience when taking a high-stakes college admissions test. Much of this work is described in her new book, Choke: What The Secrets of The Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.

Using converging methodologies ranging from behavioral performance measures, to physiological measures of stress, to neuroimaging techniques, Beilock has explored why poor performance occurs in stressful academic situations. Her work also has led to interventions to alleviate unwanted performance decrements. Her work also has applications in employment and other situations outside the classroom where people feel stress.

The award is named for Spence, the first elected president of APS, whose career was “characterized both by its empirical rigor and its innovative theoretical approach.” The honors will be conferred in May at the APS’ 23nd annual convention in Washington, D.C.