The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Social Sciences) goes, in this twelfth edition, to Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor for outstanding sustained contributions which have laid the groundwork for multiple areas of social psychology, by investigating key questions related to social functioning in humans.
They are two of the most influential social psychologists working today, and their advancement of this field, furthermore, has led to wider repercussions for other disciplines including sociology, politics and legal studies.
Fiske and Taylor have made seminal contributions to the field of social cognition. Indeed, they put this area of investigation on the map with the landmark publication of their 1984 book of the same title, Social Cognition, offering amazing insights into how the social mind works and providing a much needed starting point for a burgeoning field. This book has become a modern classic, inspiring and energizing countless researchers for over three decades.
The groundbreaking model proposed by Fiske and Taylor in Social Cognition highlights the fact that people often make judgments about social life based on whatever happens to catch their attention at the time, rather than processing all available information systematically. They introduced the concept of “cognitive miser,” which proposed that people took shortcuts and used heuristics when dealing with otherwise overwhelming amounts of data. Their model also details the conditions under which more elaborative cognitive processes are applied and individuating information is used as a basis for decision.
Apart from this overarching synthesis, the laureates have made their own individual key contributions to the field. Taylor has been one of the main architects of illuminating how stress affects health, and how social factors can serve as a buffer in this respect. Similarly, Fiske made important theoretical advances in the field of social psychology, in particular, by developing the stereotype content model.