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Prize for Jan De Houwer


The 2021 Oswald Külpe Prize of the Institute of Psychology goes to Professor Jan De Houwer from Ghent University.

Oswald Külpe Award winner 2021 Jan De Houwer (left) with JMU Professor Wilfried Kunde.
Oswald Külpe Award winner 2021 Jan De Houwer (left) with JMU Professor Wilfried Kunde. (Image: Institut für Psychologie / Universität Würzburg)

Professor Jan De Houwer, born in 1968, has been awarded the Oswald Külpe Prize 2021 by the Institute of Psychology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU), Germany. Professor Wilfried Kunde, Managing Director of the Institute, presented the prize, which is endowed with 4,000 euros, at an online ceremony in Würzburg on 19 November 2021.

Jan De Houwer is a professor of psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. He received the Külpe Prize for his outstanding research achievements in the experimental investigation of higher mental processes. He thus follows in the tradition of Oswald Külpe, who founded the "school of thinking psychology" at JMU.

High-ranking publications and prizes

Professor Roland Deutsch held the laudatory speech. He emphasised that Jan De Houwer's research has been published in "remarkably large numbers in the best journals" in the field.

The great influence of this work is reflected in numerous prizes and exceptionally frequent citations by other scientists. For example, the Belgian psychologist received the Psychonomic Society's Mid-Career Award 2020. He has also been repeatedly funded in the prestigeous Methusalem Programme of the Flemish government.

Analysis of associative learning processes

According to Roland Deutsch, Jan De Houwer's work on learning processes is an outstanding example for his achievements in researching higher mental processes. His theoretical arguments and experimental research results make clear: Learning processes, long described as passive and based on simple linking processes, are influenced by abstract thinking, reasoning processes, goals and conscious memory.

The laureate was able to demonstrate, for example, that learning effects previously thought to be based on highly practised associations can be altered or produced by mere verbal instructions or logical inferences and without further practice.

Facts about the Oswald Külpe Prize

Oswald Külpe (1862-1915) founded the Würzburg Psychological Institute in 1896 and went down in scientific history as the father of the "Würzburg School of Thinking Psychology". At the beginning of the 20th century, the representatives of this research direction were the first to experimentally investigate higher mental processes such as thinking, willing and judging.

In memory of him, the Institute has been awarding the Oswald Külpe Prize, endowed with 3,000 euros, every two years since 2005. The prize was established by Fritz Strack, Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Würzburg, who donated it to the Sparkasse Foundation of the City of Würzburg.

Previous prizewinners

The previous Oswald Külpe Prize winners are Asher Koriat (University of Haifa, 2005), Richard E. Nisbett (University of Michigan, 2007), Michael Tomasello (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig, 2009), Wolfgang Prinz (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, 2011), Anke Ehlers (University of Oxford, 2013), Norbert Schwarz (University of Michigan, 2015), Jan Born (University of Tübingen, 2017), Paul van den Broek (University of Leiden, 2019).

Editor's note: In this news published on 19.11.2021, there was initially talk of the prize being endowed with 4,000 euros. This was incorrect, the endowment is 3,000 euros. This information was corrected online on 20.12.2021.

By Robert Emmerich