2016 Winner: Achievement against the Odds Award
Dr. Professor Houcan Zhang, Beijing Normal University, China
The Achievement against the Odds Award honors a researcher or team of researchers who succeeded in conducting research under extremely difficult circumstances. Professor Zhang’s outstanding career exemplifies achievement against the odds, both personally and professionally. She has profoundly shaped the course of psychology and psychological testing in China, persevering through many decades when there was little support or active opposition to the science and practice of psychology. Imprisoned for several years during the Cultural Revolution and subjected to coercive “reeducation,” she survived to become a mother to the rebirth of psychology as a science and profession in the People’s Republic of China. She modernized cognitive psychology and psychometrics in her country, becoming an expert in testing, measurement, and statistics. She took the lead to ensure the recovery of quantitative and psychometric methods following the Cultural Revolution, training many psychologists and editing a classic textbook on Psychological and Educational Statistics widely used by scholars and practitioners across the country. Her teaching and publications also were instrumental in bringing advanced theories and methods of cognitive psychological science into China. In 1987, Professor Zhang received the first grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China on Chinese character cognition and reading comprehension. She investigated unique cognitive processes of the Chinese language, laying a foundation for later neural studies of Chinese language processing. Dr. Zhang also translated important tests, including standardized tests of intelligence such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and Raven Progressive Matrices. In addition, she led the standardization of the National College Entrance Exam for China and developed or adapted many other assessment tools. Beyond her many distinguished academic accomplishments; Professor Zhang has played a central leadership role in psychological societies in China for decades. While she was building and leading psychology in China, Dr. Zhang also published numerous scholarly articles, introduced Chinese psychology to the rest of the world and played an influential role in international psychology. Her extraordinary professional service and leadership included 20 years of service to IUPsyS as Vice President, representative of China, and a member of the Executive Committee. Revered in China, Professor Zhang has overcome many challenges to inspire multiple generations of students and scholars in China and become an ambassador of Chinese psychology to the world.