1997 William James Fellow Award
Richard J. Davidson
University of Wisconsin-Madison
In the great tradition of William James, Richard J. Davidson has had a powerful impact on a remarkably diverse range of subdisciplines within Psychology. Bringing conceptual clarity and methodological rigour to the study of emotion, Davidson has virtually single-handedly created a new hybrid area in the biobehavioral sciences, affective neuroscience. He has demonstrated, through his own research, its relevance to developmental psychology, clinical psychology, personality psychology, comparative psychology, and health psychology. His studies on how the brain implements emotion and emotion regulation and how these processes change in psychopathology creatively combine biological approaches with behavioral measures to provide a comprehensive assessment of the emotion domain that heretofore was simply unavailable. He has also applied new statistical rigour to biological measures that are used to make trait-like inferences.
Davidson is not simply a consumer of tools to answer questions about the brain mechanism underlying affects and its normal and abnormal variations but has been a pioneer in the development of these methods. He has made major contributions to the refinement of measures of brain electrical activity that are useful in the study of emotion. However, recognizing their limitations, Davidson has been a leader in the applications of neuroimaging methods to the study of the brain and emotion.
The remarkable range of his influence has secured a very significant place in psychology for the work of Richard Davidson. Davidson’s work has been a major force in reestablishing the importance of emotion for virtually all areas in the biobehavioral sciences, and the discipline of psychology has been irrevocably enhanced by his many distinguished contributions.