2012 William James Fellow Award


Ellen S. Berscheid

University of Minnesota


Elaine C. Hatfield

University of Hawaii at Manoa

In an extraordinarily fruitful collaboration that began almost 50 years ago, Ellen S. Berscheid and Elaine C. Hatfield have made pioneering contributions to research and theory in social psychology. Their revolutionary work has provided an illuminating and inspiring foundation for the science of interpersonal attraction and close relationships, now one of psychology’s most vibrant areas of inquiry.

When Berscheid and Hatfield began their groundbreaking studies, few psychologists had considered this topic worthy of study. Their research demonstrated the folly of this assumption, showing how rigorous experimentation and meticulous theorizing could shed light on this essential human experience. Widely admired also for the elegance and eloquence of their writing, their numerous contributions span many of the field’s core phenomena.

In one area of research, interpersonal attraction, Berscheid and Hatfield’s theorizing defined the field’s research priorities for more than three decades. Their studies of physical attractiveness and of passionate and companionate love galvanized attention, spawning thousands of studies and a well-deserved place in the lexicon of psychological science. Their contributions have immeasurably enriched our understanding of what it means to be close, of emotion and emotional contagion, and of the influence of relationships on human behavior and well-being.

Any one of these contributions would constitute a very productive career. That Berscheid and Hatfield began their work in an era whose climate actively discouraged their efforts testifies to their single-minded dedication to truth. In combination, these qualities identify Berscheid and Hatfield as scholars of exceptional importance and impact. It is no overstatement to say that as a result of their work, psychological science has been changed forever and for the better.