2001 William James Fellow Award

Claude Steele

Stanford University

Through dazzling theoretical analyses and eloquent experimental work, Claude Steele has revolutionized the way social scientists think about prejudice and stereotypes. The human mind organizes knowledge about the world and its inhabitants in terms of the self. Self-evaluation and coping with self-image threat are, therefore, two fundamental operations performed continuously by the human mind. Professor Steele’s theories of interest in these processes led to a general theory of self-affirmation, in which he articulated an underlying and surprisingly powerful motivation by individuals to think and act in ways that make it possible for them to view themselves as rational, honest, and worthwhile beings. Professor Steele then expanded this theory to address how such groups as African America in all academic domains and women in quantitative domains can influence intellectual performance and academic identities. Dissatisfied with knowledge for knowledge’s sake, Professor Steele has also developed intervention programs to ameliorate the effects of stereotypes in our schools.

In addition to his extraordinary research accomplishments, Professor Steele’s record of undergraduate teaching and graduate student mentoring is exceptional, and he has earned a reputation for being both a generous colleague and an extraordinary visionary.

Claude Steele’s theoretical analyses and experimental work have revolutionized the way social scientists think about prejudice and stereotypes. His expansion of this work to address how group stereotypes can impair performance has underscored the importance of subtle social factors in intellectual performance and academic identities. This brilliant research exemplifies the very best of problem-based theoretical work.