Psychology Faculty Awarded Prestigious SIOP Dunnette Prize

School of Psychology Professors Ruth Kanfer and Phillip Ackerman have earned the prestigious Dunnette Prize from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP)

February 6, 2024

Ruth Kanfer and Phillip Ackerman, professors in the School of Psychology, have won the Dunnette Prize from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), for their transformative theorizing and research on how individual differences in abilities, skills and motivation combine to influence workplace learning and job performance. 

Kanfer and Ackerman, co-directors of Georgia Tech’s PARK Lab, will officially receive the honor at the SIOP Annual Conference April 17-20, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois, where they will also give invited addresses.

“As you can imagine, this is an immense pride for the School,” says Tansu Celikel, professor and chair of the School of Psychology. “Ruth and Phil's groundbreaking work has not only enriched our understanding of cognitive abilities, motivation, personality traits, and career interests, but has also revolutionized personnel selection practices and workforce aging strategies.”

“Their unwavering commitment to scientific rigor and innovation has propelled the field of I-O (industrial and organizational) psychology forward,” Celikel adds, “paving the way for more effective and enlightened organizational practices from a person-centered perspective. Beyond their intellectual prowess, they inspired generations of I-O psychologists, fostering a culture of intellectual curiosity and a relentless pursuit of knowledge.”

About the Prize

The Dunnette Prize was established to recognize scientists who have made “significant, lasting contributions to understanding human behavior by explaining the role played by individual differences” such as traits and motives. The award is named for Marvin Dunnette (1926-2007), an early leader in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. 

Kanfer worked with Dunnette early in her career, when both were at the University of Minnesota, “so this award is particularly meaningful to me,” she says. “The Dunnette Prize recognizes progress in a key area of applied psychology/behavioral science, namely understanding and predicting human differences (traits, motives, affect, behavior) that affect human work and well-being across the lifespan.” 

“It is the most prestigious prize that the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology gives in this area,” Kanfer shares, “and I am deeply honored to receive this award with my colleague, Phil Ackerman. The integrative, person-centric perspective we have developed with colleagues and our students since the late 1980s contributes to a new era of science in this field — an era that has critical importance for understanding and predicting human behavior in the context of digital adult education, lifelong learning, and workforce sustainability. Adopting a whole-person perspective, rather than just focusing just on abilities or personality, will permit greater precision in developing personalized training and selection practices.”

“It is exciting to receive the Dunnette Prize that recognizes the collaborative work that Ruth Kanfer, I, and our team have conducted over the years,” Ackerman says. “We want to also acknowledge the support we have received from various government and organizational sponsors for our research, without which we would not have been able to provide a comprehensive view of individuals throughout their work lifespans.” 

“We hope that our contributions integrating ability and non-ability constructs within a lifespan perspective will support further efforts to help people and organizations optimize opportunities and intellectual growth in the workplace,” Ackerman adds.

About Ruth Kanfer

Ruth Kanfer received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Arizona State University in 1981 and completed postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1984 and Georgia Tech in 1997. As founding director of Georgia Tech’s Work Science Center, and with courtesy appointments in the School of Public Policy and School of Architecture, Kanfer and her lab investigate the impact of motivational and age-related changes on adult learning, workforce motivation and development, work design, and career development.  

Kanfer is also part of the Georgia Tech research team involved in the National Science Foundation’s National AI Institute for Adult Learning in Online Education (AI-ALOE). As part of this $20 million dollar multidisciplinary initiative, she works on helping build AI  personalized learning systems based on cognitive and developmental theories of learning. 

Kanfer is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Management (AoM), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS), and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Other SIOP awards she has received include the William R. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award, the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and the Outstanding Publication of the Year in Organizational Behavior Award in 2004 and 2008. 

In 2021 Kanfer published Ageless Talent: Enhancing the Performance and Well-Being of Your Age-Diverse Workforce (Routledge).

About Phillip Ackerman

Phillip Ackerman received his Ph.D. in Quantitative/Measurement Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1984. 

Ackerman has served as the editor of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, and has edited or co-edited four books on individual differences.  He is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Psychonomic Society, the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society, the American Educational Research Association, and a Charter Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.  

Ackerman received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology (in the field of applied research/psychometrics) for his work on the determinants of individual differences in skill acquisition, and the Franklin V. Taylor Award for “Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Applied Experimental/Engineering Psychology.”

Ackerman’s research spans several related research areas of differential, educational, cognitive, applied experimental, and industrial and organizational psychology. His recent research with Professor Ruth Kanfer and their lab students addresses the ability, motivation, personality, interest, and self-concept determinants of skilled performance and training success. Ackerman also studies the development and expression of intellectual competence in adulthood.

Ackerman’s current research projects focus on age differences and gender differences in the breadth and depth of adult knowledge, on the taxonomic nature of perceptual speed abilities and their role in the development of skilled performance, and on physiological correlates of cognitive effort and fatigue. 

For More Information Contact

Writer: Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences

Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston