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Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. Wins Dunnette Prize


by Barbara Ruland, SIOP Communications Specialist

Leader of Landmark Study on Individual Differences to Speak at 2018 SIOP Annual Conference

If Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. had been less persistent in his scientific curiosity, the famous Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart (MISTRA), which has yielded a rich harvest of information shaping scientific fields including psychology, medicine, and genetics, might never have come to be.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and the SIOP Foundation are pleased to announce that Dr. Bouchard, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, will receive the $50,000 Dunnette Prize at the opening plenary of the 33rd Annual SIOP Conference, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago on April 19 at 8:30 a.m.

Special Address at SIOP Conference

Dr. Bouchard will give an award winner's address, “Finding Out How Things Work,” following the conference opening plenary, at 10:30 a.m.

Bouchard was nominated for the prize by SIOP Fellow Jeff McHenry, principal of Rainier Leadership Solutions.

McHenry wrote, “Dr. Bouchard has been a role model for scientific openness. He has actively invited collaborators. Numerous researchers from a variety of disciplines, from healthcare to I-O psychology, have tapped into the data collected by Dr. Bouchard to study critical individual difference phenomena.”

The Dunnette Prize is given to honor living individuals whose work has significantly expanded knowledge of the causal significance of individual differences through advanced research, development, and/or application. It was created in memory of the late Marvin D. Dunnette, who devoted his career to studying the effects of individual differences on human behavior and performance. Learn more about Dr. Marvin D. Dunnette in his SIOP presidential memoir.

This will be the second time the award has been given. Frank Schmidt, Fethke Leadership Chair and Professor, Emeritus of the University of Iowa Department of Management and Organizations, was the inaugural recipient in 2015. Schmidt is a Fellow of SIOP, APA, and APS.

One of several prestigious scientists who endorsed the nomination, Schmidt observed that Bouchard’s work fits the prize criteria perfectly, continuing “His research in behavior genetics has revolutionized our understanding of the causes and consequences of human abilities, personality traits, attitudes, values, personal preferences, and many other behaviors that have real-world consequences.”

Colleague Matt McGue, who also endorsed Bouchard’s nomination, simply said his research “fundamentally and irrevocably changed the field of psychology.” McGue is the Regents Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota.

Bouchard has been interested in measuring human psychological individual differences to help explain and predict human behavior since he began his academic career. After serving in the United States Air Force, he earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at the University of California, Berkeley.

He published his first two papers in 1968 and soon afterward, Marvin Dunnette and John Campbell recruited him to the University of Minnesota, where he began studying the new field of behavioral genetics, along with individual differences in psychology.

Since 1968, Bouchard has published over 200 papers in collected works and peer-reviewed journals. Frank Schmidt pointed out that by August of 2017 Bouchard had a total citation count of 25,464 and an “unusually high” H Index of 70. The H Index means 70 of Bouchard’s publications have been cited at least 70 times each.

McGue noted that Bouchard has published in leading journals for psychology, human biology, genetics, psychiatry and neuroscience, as well as in two of the most prominent scientific journals, Science and Nature. Schmidt pointed out “It is very unusual for any psychological researcher to achieve publication in Science. Such acceptance signals research of extremely general impact and importance.

Bouchard has served as a reviewer for several publications, Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Psychology and Behavior Genetics, and Book Review Editor for Social Biology. He has held leadership positions in organizations that are as scientifically diverse as his publications, and has served on various advisory boards and grant review committees.

Bouchard is still actively pursuing research in his retirement, and the 20-year Minnesota Study of Twins Raised Apart is the thread running through his career. Nancy L. Segal is author of Born Together-Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study, a Professor of Psychology, and Director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State Fullerton. She characterized MISTRA as “groundbreaking, exciting and controversial.”

MISTRA established the importance of genetic influences on a wide range of individual difference variables, including intellectual abilities, psychomotor skill, personality, vocational interests, job satisfaction, religiousness, and political views.

Several of the Dunnette Prize endorsement letters noted the strong headwinds Bouchard faced in starting the study, but Segal painted the most vivid picture. She wrote, “When Bouchard began the MISTRA he did it at considerable academic risk, given that the prevailing theoretical winds blew mostly in an environmental direction.”

McGue wrote, “The Bouchard research team helped to establish a now generally accepted fact: genetic factors exert a pervasive influence on individual differences in virtually all behavioral domains (Bouchard, 2004).” McGue concluded it was no surprise that Roger Hock included “the integrative Science report from MISTRA (Bouchard et al., 1990)” in his text, Forty Studies That Changed Psychology.

Segal observed, “The fact that Bouchard recognized this potentially fruitful opportunity, and pursued it despite criticisms from some in the psychological community, is powerful testimony to his intellect, insight, and character.”

Robert Plomin, Professor at King’s College, London and Deputy Director of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Center there, wrote, “Tom Bouchard has been a leading light in the field of behavioral genetics for more than 40 years and was a beacon for me personally because of his persistence in doing research that he felt needed to be done regardless of how difficult it was to do it.”

Ian J. Deary, Professor of Differential Psychology and Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said, “Bouchard has been a source of sensible comment when others have ignored empirical findings. This takes courage as well as knowledge.”

Taken together, the endorsements written by Bouchard’s colleagues paint the picture of a man who combines scientific rigor and a dedication to the pursuit of scientific knowledge with collegiality and a true love of his work.

Segal credited him with helping to launch many careers and observed his gracious response to well-reasoned criticism. She wrote, “I was associated with that [MISTRA] study for nine of the twenty years it functioned and I was impressed every day by his skills as a great researcher, great teacher, and great thinker.”

Schmidt wrote that Bouchard created “the new research area of organizational behavior genetics in I-O psychology.”

“Because of his generosity and his eagerness to advance science,” McHenry wrote, “Dr. Bouchard’s impact on our understanding of individual differences extends far beyond his own publications.” He foresees that scholars may well be drawing on Bouchard’s work 100 years from today.

The Dunnette Prize was made possible by generous donations to the Dunnette Prize Fund at the SIOP Foundation, begun by a group of 59 charter donors. Read more about the Dunnette Prize Fund here. Visit the SIOP website to learn more about all the SIOP Foundation Awards. Follow this link if you wish to donate to the SIOP Foundation.

Press Credentials

Credentialed members of the press are invited to attend Dr. Thomas J. Bouchard Jr.’s Dunnette Prize Address on Thursday, April 19, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. The address is an invited presentation at the 33rd Annual SIOP Conference, held April 19-21 at the Sheraton Grand, Chicago. For press credentials, contact Barbara Ruland at 419-353-0032 or bruland@siop.org