The American Psychological Association Has Awarded Paul Wink the Henry A. Murray Award

January 2, 2014

Wellesley's Class of 1949 Professor of Ethics and Professor of Psychology Paul Wink has won the Henry A. Murray Award from the American Psychological Association (APA), one of the most prestigious prizes given by the national organization. The APA called Wink “one of the strongest and most respected voices in personality and developmental psychology for interdisciplinary, person-centered, longitudinal studies of individual human lives.”

The American Psychological Association is the world’s largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology, with more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students as its members. The organization seeks to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives. One of the means by which the APA accomplishes these goals is by honoring extraordinary professionals. The organization established the annual Henry A. Murray Award in 1978, in order to encourage those working in the demanding and difficult tradition pioneered by the eponymous professor, a pioneering personality psychologist. The Murray tradition is characterized by various components, according to the APA website:

  • Receptiveness to the value of bringing together a variety of disciplines, theoretical viewpoints, and research techniques

  • Conceptual tools that lend themselves to the integration of the tough and tender in personality research

  • A theoretical outlook that recognizes intrapsychic structure and the thematic of phenotypic diversity

  • Interest in imagination and in biography, literature, and myth as psychological data

  • Interest in the biological, social, and cultural contexts of personality

  • A style of intellectual leadership that has contributed to outstanding work that exhibits several of these characteristics

Awardees receive a financial prize and are invited to offer an address at the annual APA conference in August.

“The award validates almost 25 years of my research spanning studies of narcissism, religion and spirituality, generativity, and wisdom,” said Wink. “It is also validation of my research methodology that combines the use of statistics with an immersion in the lives of individual people.”

Wink has wide-ranging areas of academic inquiry. Early in his career, he conducted ground-breaking research on the development of narcissism across the human lifespan, leading to an emphasis on the role of culture and history in shaping women’s lives. Together with Professor Jonathan Cheek and Wellesley students, he co-developed the Maladaptive Narcissism Scale, frequently used by psychologists and individuals for evaluation. More recently, Wink has turned his attention to the subject of religion and spirituality, publishing studies such as In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief and Practice (2007) with Michelle Dillon (University of New Hampshire).

In his address to the APA this August, “I will emphasize the importance for personality psychologists of studying individual lives and having their quantitative studies be guided by qualitative analyses of the person,” Wink said. “Academic psychology has a long tradition of going astray by forgetting the importance of using individual lives as a litmus test for the validity of hypotheses and theories. I will also emphasize the importance of socio-cultural context for understanding of behavior and action. Lives are embedded in history and culture and therefore they cannot be fully understood or explained by ignoring this fact. Unlike the natural sciences, the aim of psychology is not to come up with universal truths but rather offer explanations that are bound by socio-historical context.”