University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Associate Professor of Psychology Michael E. Sloane, Ph.D., has been named the winner of the 2009 Frederick W. Conner Prize in the History of Ideas.

 November 25, 2009

Michael Sloane. Download image.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Associate Professor of Psychology Michael Sloane, Ph.D has been named the winner of the 2009 Frederick W. Conner Prize in the History of Ideas.

Sloan will receive the award during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Wednesday, December 2 in the Mervyn Sterne Library Henley Room, 917 13 St. South. To attend, please contact Linda Piteo at 205-934-0513.

Sloane, who directs the UAB University Honors Program, will receive the award for his essay, "Re-Conceptualizing Kuhnian Paradigms." The essay examines the theories Thomas Kuhn, the renowned philosopher of science who proposed that the progression of scientific knowledge was "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions." Kuhn introduced the term "paradigm," in his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, one of the most-cited works in the later half of the 20th century.

"Kuhn's discussions of paradigms and paradigm shifts have been influential in all major fields of discourse," Sloane said.

In his paper, Sloane argues that the practice of scientific investigation, progress in science and even the paradigm shifts discussed by Kuhn best can be explained using the vocabulary and concepts of self-organizing systems and emergent properties.

"Just like in the honey bee colony where there is no leader orchestrating the work of individual bees, each bee makes a contribution based on what is found in the immediate local environment," said Sloane. "Even major changes in colony life such as the decision to divide the colony are understandable at the level of local interactions. Progress in science, even the major paradigm shifts discussed by Kuhn, can be similarly understood in terms of a leaderless system of contributors acting on local contexts."

The Conner Prize is presented annually to a UAB faculty member for an outstanding essay on the history of ideas. The prize is named for Frederick Conner, Ph.D., former dean of the School of Arts and Humanities.

Sloane has been a faculty member in the UAB Department of Psychology since 1982 and director of the University Honors Program since 2004. His areas of specialization are visual perception, cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience and philosophical psychology.

Sloane earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology and experimental psychology from University College Dublin in 1977 and 1980, respectively. He earned his doctorate from Northwestern University in 1983.

About the UAB University Honors Program

The UAB University Honors Program provides gifted students the opportunity to learn within a community of committed scholars. Courses are team-taught by faculty in a thematic leaning environment in the liberal-arts tradition. Lively discussion, challenging readings that require critical thinking and a learning approach that asks students to think about issues from multiple viewpoints is a hallmark of this nationally recognized program.

About the UAB Department of Psychology

The UAB Department of Psychology is recognized nationally for its significant contributions to cutting-edge research, scholarship and teaching. The department's undergraduate program is one of the largest majors on campus. The department also offers graduate programs in medical psychology, lifespan developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience.