Spearman Medal is retired

British Psychological Society response to concerns over the award.

The Spearman Medal was instituted by the BPS in 1962 and the first medal was awarded in 1965 to Anne Treisman. Since that time, 47 Medallists have been honoured.

Recently, a number of concerns have been raised, including a letter from Dr Vaughan Bell to The Psychologist (September 2020), regarding Spearman’s links with the Eugenics movement and whether renaming the Medal would be appropriate. The Research Board was therefore asked to consider whether to rename or retire the Medal.

The Research Board agreed that, whilst recognising the exceptional contributions of Spearman to Psychology, we must also be mindful of the complex legacy associated with the Spearman Medal and ensure that our awards represent the best of what the Society wishes to promote: equality, diversity and inclusion. As a result, it decided to retire the Medal with immediate effect, and we will be launching a new early career award for exceptional contributions to psychological knowledge in due course.

Professor Daryl O’Connor
Chair, Research Board

Editor's note: It remains important to honour previous winners of the Spearman Medal, so BPS Archivist Claire Jackson has put together this piece, with links to many articles from them.

The Spearman Medal was inaugurated in 1965.

This early-career (postdoctoral) annual award of the Research Board was given in recognition of outstanding published work in psychology representing a significant body of research output in terms of theoretical contributions made, originality (including innovation in methods or techniques), and impact of the findings.

Charles Myers (1873-1946) and Charles Spearman (1863-1945) died within a short space of time of each other and a joint appeal to raise money in their names was launched in 1947.

By 1962 the British Psychological Society accepted a recommendation from the Committee on the use of the Myers and Spearman Memorial Funds that the Council should institute a medal to be known as ‘The Spearman Medal of the British Psychological Society’, and a lectureship to be known as ‘The C.S. Myers Lecture of the British Psychological Society’.

Fattorini and Sons were commissioned to design a Spearman medal in 1963 and the first medal was awarded in 1965 to Anne Treisman. A Committee, chaired by the President met annually to recommend recipients of the Myers lecture and Spearman medal.

The newly created Scientific Affairs Board took over the responsibility of organising the annual Myers Lecture and for awarding the Spearman Medal in early 1975. From that point on Spearman medal winners were invited to present a lecture and this was initially given at the Annual London conference held in December. After this ceased in 2001 the award and lecture was presented at the Annual Conference. The final lectures were given by the 2017 winners at the 2018 Annual Conference.

The Research Board (successor of the Scientific Affairs Board) debated in 2001 whether Spearman funds should be used for a studentship however by 2004 the medal was awarded to a candidate within eight years of completing a PhD who had produced original and innovative work that has contributed significantly to the discipline.

1965 Anne Treisman
1966 [no award]
1967 Alan Cowey
1968 [no award]
1969 Peter B. Warr
1970 Kevin J. Connolly
1971 [no award]
1972 [no award]
1973 Susan Iverson
1974 Philip N. Johnson-Laird
1975 David J. Wood Nurturing Nature
1976 Edmund T. Rolls  Investigations into the neurophysiological and pharmacological basis of motivation and reinforcement
1977 [no award]
1978 Howard Giles The Social Dynamics of Speech: An Issue in Search of a Discipline
1979 [no award]
1980 Gregory V. Jones Mechanisms of Recall
1981 Trevor W. Robbins Stereotypes: Addictions or Fragmented Actions
1982 Andrew W. Ellis Syndromes Slips and Structures
1983 [no award]
1984 Geoffrey Beattie The Threads of Discourse and the Web of Interpersonal involvement
1985 Charles Hulme Interactions Between Theories in Cognitive and Developmental Psychology
1986 Glyn W. Humphreys Objects Words Brains Computers: Framing the Correspondence Problem in Object and Word Recognition Bulletin 40 p207-201
1987 Miles Hewstone
1988 Stephen B. Dunnett Neural Transplants: A Novel Technique for the Study of Brain Function
1989 Susan E. Gathercole Working Memory and Language Development: How Close is the Link
1990 Simon Baron-Cohen The Theory of Mind Hypnosis of Autism: History and Prospects of the Idea
1991 Jane Oakhill How Do We Understand Anaphors? Bulletin 1993 Vol 6 page 204
1992 Usha Goswami Orthographic Analogies and Reading Development
1993 Peter W. Halligan Drawing Attention to Neglect 
1994 Jon Driver
1995 Michael Oaksford 
1996 Nick Chater Simplicity and the Mind page 
1997 Neil Macrae Self-Regulatory Processes in Person Perception
1998 Francesca Happé Understanding assets and deficits in autism - Why success is more 
1999 Simon Killcross The amygdala, emotion and learning 
2000 Kate Nation Reading & Language in Children: Exposing hidden deficits 
2001 Gregory R. Maio Values Trust and Meaning 
2002 Thalia Eley Something Borrowed Something Blue 
2003 [no award]
2004 Jolanda Jetten Living on the edge: loyalty to the group and intragroup position 
2005 Padraic Monaghan Left and right brain - Insights from neural networks
2006 Sarah-Jayne Blakemore The Social Brain of a Teenager and Richard Crisp Recognising complexity in intergroup relations
2007 Christopher Chambers A stimulating take on attention 
2008 Tom Manly How bad can it be? How good can it get? Symptom modulation and rehabilitation following brain injury
2009 Matt Field Attentional bias in drug abuse: Psychological mechanisms and clinical implications
2010 Emily Holmes Mental imagery and emotion: An experimental psychopathology view
2011 Essi Viding Different pathways to conduct problems: The role of callous-unemotional traits
2012 Angelica Ronald Seventy years since Kanner’s account, what do we think causes autism in 2013?
2013 Jonathan Roiser Why does neuroscience research matter for mental health?
2014 Roi Cohen Kadosh Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation to Enhance Learning and Cognition
2015 Iroise Dumontheil What is special about the manipulation of social information?
2016  Michael Banissy Sharing the experiences  of others Understanding mechanisms of vicarious perception in mirror-touch synaesthesia
2017  Claire Haworth From Observational to Dynamic Genetics 
Rachael Jack Discovering Facial Expression Communication Across Cultures
2018  Aidan Horner
2019  Stephen Fleming
2020  Richard Cook

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