2011 William James Fellow Award
Daniel M. Wegner
Some psychological scientists generate theories that others test; some generate tests that others admire. Wegner does both. Daniel Wegner has spent his scientific career identifying new and important problems and then offering solutions that sparkle with originality and insight. His contributions span the breadth of psychology—from cognitive to social to personality to clinical—and reach beyond its borders to philosophy and neuroscience as well.
Wegner’s research on transactive memory has shown how we use each other’s memories to create information networks. His research on action identification has elucidated the basic principles by which we come to understand and misunderstand the meaning of our own behaviors. His research on ironic processes has revealed and explained the paradoxical consequences of thought suppression. And his research on apparent mental causation has shown why we mistakenly believe that we are the authors of our own actions. Although his contributions are remarkably diverse, each bears his characteristic mark: a beautiful idea brought to life by an elegant experiment.
William James wrote, “Experience molds us every hour, and makes of our minds a mirror.” It feels like something to have a mind, and through his rigorous and pioneering research, Dan Wegner has helped us understand what it feels like and why. He has seen doors where others saw walls, opened them to reveal new rooms, and illuminated their dark corners.