2017 James McKeen Cattell Fellow
Susan T. Fiske
Susan Fiske is one of the most influential social psychologists of all time. Employing methods ranging from neuroimaging to representative sample surveys, she has devoted her career to investigating how stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are encouraged or discouraged by social relationships. Her stereotype content model, which holds that we judge other social groups on levels of warmth and competence (e.g. disabled people are perceived as warm and incompetent, while close allies are considered the exact opposite), has helped explain a variety of prejudices — including the dehumanization of homeless people, Schadenfreude toward the enviable rich, and paternalistic pity and prescriptive prejudices toward the elderly. Her ambivalent sexism research illuminates not only hostile prejudices about gender, but benevolent biases (e.g. that idea that women need men’s protection) that may appear subjectively positive but actually impede equality And her power-as-control theory highlights how powerful people often unwittingly stereotype individuals with less authority or influence.
Fiske’s work has also had real world impact. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 1989 landmark decision on gender bias cited her expert testimony in discrimination cases. In 1998, she also testified before President Clinton’s Race Initiative Advisory Board, and in 2001-03, she co-authored a National Academy of Science, National Research Council report on Methods for Measuring Discrimination. She is a shining example of scientists who apply their research to battling critical societal problems.