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A Lifetime of Teamwork


by Barbara Ruland, Communications Specialist

Eduardo Salas Receives APA Award

SIOP Fellow and past president Eduardo Salas is the first industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist to receive the American Psychological Association’s highest honor—the Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.

Salas, the Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Chair and Professor of Psychology at Rice University, accepted the award August 6 at the APA annual conference in Denver.

He joins an illustrious group of 26 psychologists, including B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura, whose life work has touched all areas of society. 1994 recipient Kenneth B. Clark provided expert testimony in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Social psychologist Shelley E. Taylor, who studies the health impact of socioemotional resources, received the award in 2010. Daniel Kahneman, 2007 recipient, was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in behavioral economics.

APA President Susan McDaniel honored Salas because his life’s work addresses a foundational element in the changing world of work.

“I chose Dr. Salas for his contributions resulting from 3 decades of studying the elements of effective team functioning,” McDaniel said, according to the Rice University website. “This comes at a time when collaboration and teamwork are the foundation of the corporate world, healthcare, aeronautics, science, and the arts.”

Salas knew from an early age that he wanted to be a scientist.  When he was in the 11th grade in Peru, his father gave him a copy of  Psicologia Industrial, a translation of the text by Norm R. F. Maier, and that set the young man’s course. 

Salas studied psychology as an undergraduate at Florida International University, then got his MS in Industrial Psychology at the University of Central Florida, and his PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Old Dominion University.

While at Old Dominion University, he had a seminar with Albert Glickman on groups, teams, and crews and became interested in the topic. He collaborated with Glickman on a couple projects, and that led to his first job after grad school.  Salas was hired by the US Navy to set up a team performance laboratory. 

He stayed with the Navy 15 years before joining the faculty at University of Central Florida, where the scope of his studies expanded to include healthcare and other industries. Salas moved to Rice University last year.

In addition to the APA award, Eduardo Salas has received SHRM’s Losey Award, SIOP’s Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and has been a co-recipient of the M. Scott Myers Award on four occasions.

The awards are gratifying, but what really moves Salas is the ability to help people.

“Being able to translate our science into practice that can have a positive impact on people’s lives in organizations is what’s important,” he said, citing his work with healthcare teams.

During his acceptance speech at the APA conference, Salas thanked his father for setting him on his path, and his wife and family for their support. He also thanked the professional community.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues and students,” he said, “because they challenge me and make me better.”

Salas has been a member of SIOP since 2003 and has served as the editor of the Professional Practice and Organizational Frontiers Series. He was president of SIOP in 2010-2011.  Read more about Dr. Salas’ history and philosophy in his presidential address at the 26th Annual SIOP Conference.