David Uttal Wins American Psychological Association's Best Article Award

David Uttal Wins American Psychological Association's Best Article Award

David Uttal

The American Psychological Association awarded professor David Uttal the George A. Miller Award for the most distinguished publication in general psychology. His article "The Malleability of Spatial Skills: A Meta-Analysis of Training Studies" is the first all-encompassing analysis of how and how much training influences spatial thinking.

This comprehensive analysis of credible studies determined that training is effective for improving spatial skills. Improving spatial skills is important because children who do well at spatial tasks such as reading maps and assembling puzzles are likely to achieve highly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Uttal’s article “clearly warranted the selection as the most distinguished publication in general psychology for several reasons,” according to Janet A. Sigal, president of APA Division 1. She cites Uttal’s innovative and methodologically sound process for reviewing a large number of relevant studies and his ingenious approach to reconciling contrasting studies and their application implications. In addition, she praises the article for spanning numerous disciplines within psychology.

Uttal was the lead author of "The Malleability of Spatial Skills," which appeared in the Psychological Bulletin in March 2013. As part of their research, Uttal and his co-authors — Nathaniel Meadow, Elizabeth Tipton, Linda Hand, Alison Alden and Christopher Warren of Northwestern University and Nora Newcombe of Temple University — reviewed 217 research studies on educational interventions to improve spatial thinking.

“Our hope is that our findings on how to train spatial skills will ultimately lead to highly effective ways to improve STEM performance,” says Uttal.

At Northwestern, Uttal is a member of the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), which brings together scientists and educators from many institutions to pursue the goals of understanding spatial learning and using this knowledge to develop programs for transforming educational practice. The research for this study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to SILC.

Uttal is a professor in the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy and the Department of Psychology in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In his research, he is interested in studying mental representation, cognitive development, spatial cognition and early symbolization.

APA is the largest professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. The association’s primary goal is to advance psychological knowledge to benefit society. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/18/14