Prestigious award for eminent psychologist

Wednesday 3 October 2007

A University of St Andrews psychologist has received a prestigious award from the world’s oldest scholarly association dedicated to anthropology.

Professor Whiten (left) and Professor Alan Bilsborough

Professor Andrew Whiten, Wardlaw Professor of Psychology, has been awarded the 2007 Rivers Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. The Rivers Medal is awarded annually ‘for a recent body of work which makes, as a whole, a significant contribution to social, physical or cultural anthropology or archaeology’.

Professor Whiten, who has worked at the University for over 30 years, has pioneered new approaches to the comparative and evolutionary study of the origins of culture, revealing the complex traditions of wild chimpanzees and other primates, and the minds that make this possible, through novel behavioural experiments. Recent studies have extended to direct comparisons of human and non-human social learning and to parallels between biological and cultural evolution.

Professor Whiten, an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy, holds a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship entitled ‘Living Links to Human Evolution: Comparative Studies of Culture’, part of which supports the setting up of University of St Andrews’ new ‘Living Links to Human Evolution’ Centre for the study of primates in Edinburgh Zoo, due to open later this year.

Describing Professor Whiten’s research record as ‘extraordinarily distinguished’, Professor Alan Bilsborough, President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland said, “Professor Whiten has made fundamental contributions in an area of research that bridges the two disciplines of biological and social anthropology more effectively than just about any other. It is therefore especially fitting that his achievements should be recognised by our Institute, which throughout its century-and-a-half history has been similarly encompassing in its range”.

Professor Whiten said he felt very honoured to receive the medal – “I take particular pleasure from the fact that the award helps cement links between two sister disciplines, anthropology and psychology, that have fascinated me for most of my working life”.

The Rivers Medal honours W H Rivers, pioneering anthropologist and member of the Torres Straits expedition in 1898. Previous, recent recipients of the Medal are Professor Paul Sillitoe FBA, Professor Clive Gamble FBA and Professor Christopher Stringer FRS. The Medal was first awarded in 1924. Among the distinguished early recipients are Bronislaw Malinowski, Edward Evans-Pritchard, Raymond Firth, Meyer Fortes, Louis Leakey, Edmund Leach and Colin Renfrew.



Image of Professor Andrew Whiten receiving 2007 Rivers Memorial Medal from Professor Alan Bilsborough, President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland available on request.

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer on 01334 462530 or email [email protected]

Ref:  riversaward 031007

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