Gary P. Latham
University of Toronto
No one exemplifies the scientist-practitioner model better than Gary P. Latham. For well over a quarter of a century, he has collaborated with Edwin A. Locke, a previous recipient of this award, to inductively develop their theory of goal setting and task performance. As a staff psychologist in industry, he used this theory to improve the working lives of employees ranging from relatively uneducated laborers in the rural United States to highly educated engineers and scientists working in urban areas.
Latham, working with his graduate students, has also made many original contributions to science and practice independently of his work with Locke. For example, he found that when people are given new complex tasks, it is preferable to set a specific high learning goal, as opposed to a performance-based goal. In the field of training, he extended goal setting theory to self-management by demonstrating how populations as diverse as young Native Americans and Muslim women over the age of 40 living in Turkey, can obtain meaningful employment.
Based on the premise that intentions predict behavior, he and his students developed the situational interview to predict job performance. This interview technique minimizes interviewer biases such as the “similar to me” error as well as bias against members of minority groups.
Finally, Latham has helped solve the “criterion problem”, by developing criteria measures that are sufficiently reliable to minimize a Type II error when assessing the validity of a predictor or the effectiveness of an intervention. His development of behavioral observation scales, based on a systematic job analysis, have been shown to correlate positively with hard criterion measures.
Latham’s research has been cited more than 4,000 times, just one indicator of his central impact in the field of psychological science.